Technology and Common Course Requirements

The College of General Studies and your instructors have dedicated much effort into bringing you online courses of the highest quality. Succeeding in a CGS Online course, however, also requires effort and self-discipline from students, just as in a face-to-face course. It also requires access to the technology you need, awareness of available resources for technical questions or problems, textbooks and other course materials, and familiarity with some of the common course requirements.

Technology Requirements and IT Resources

Computer Requirements / Web Browser

Your basic requirements are a computer with a web browser and a Pitt e-mail account, which gives you access to the online courses platform (Canvas) and to the University Web Portal ( See Computer Specs and Discounts for Students.

Student IT Perks

For the full list of IT Resources available to you, including free download of software and apps, visit Information Technology.

Pitt E-mail

Every University of Pittsburgh student receives a free e-mail account, and you will need this account to participate in online courses. Messages from your instructor and online course administrators will only be sent to your Pitt e-mail account and through Canvas. Learn more about Multifactor Authentication at Pitt (Duo).


The University of Pittsburgh has transitioned to the Canvas Learning Management System for Academic Year 2020-2021 and beyond. The Canvas @ Pitt Resources page contains various resources and detailed student guides that can help you get started with Canvas.

Pitt Portal

The University of Pittsburgh portal provides a single point of Web access to communication tools and University information that students, faculty, and staff use frequently. Continuing students can access their academic and financial records, along with course scheduling information through the portal. Students can enter Canvas through this portal.

Drop-In and Virtual Technical Support

Technology Problems and Device Set-Up

Pitt Information Technology offers 24/7 IT Support options, including Virtual Support via Zoom. Visit the Pitt IT Help Desk website and get the assistance you need when you need it, from setting up a new computer or tablet with Pitt resources, to trouble-shooting a thorny issue.

Canvas Support for Students

Live Canvas support is available 24/7/365 from the Help menu inside Canvas or through the Pitt IT Help Desk.

Textbooks and Other Course Materials

Consult your syllabus in Canvas to see what books or other materials you need to purchase and whether you have any materials on reserve at the library. The best place to find all your required books and course materials is the University Store on Fifth.

Common Course Requirements

Although each CGS Online course is different, there are some common elements:

My Course Homepage welcomes you and tells you what to do next.

Faculty Information lists your instructor's contact information and office hours for consultation.

Syllabus and a Course Summary contains course goals, requirements, expectations, grading, schedules, and policies within the Canvas course.

Modules are units used by CGS online instructors  to organize the content of their courses in logical and chronological order (by topic, week, or cluster). A typical module structure includes:

a) a module overview and objectives;
b) readings, lecture notes, videos, or powerpoint presentations;
c) assignments and activities, and
d) additional optional and required resources.


Assignments and Quizzes are Canvas tools used by instructors to create and administer various types of activities and assessments such as homework assignments, practice quizzes, exams, and more. You may be asked to submit class work to your instructor electronically via these assignment features in Canvas or in person at a required workshop. CGS online courses may also require tests proctored at the University's Testing Center.

Discussions are commonly used in web and hybrid courses as are other collaboration tools such as wikis, blogs, and journals. Students are often asked to address a question posed by the instructor and reply to classmates’ discussion board posts – instructions will make this clear. Discussions can be graded or ungraded and are used to foster engagement and a sense of community among students and their teacher.

Zoom or Canvas Conferences are video conferencing tools used for live synchronous meetings in web-based and hybrid classes.

My Grades allows you to keep track of your progress and grades in the class.  

Consult your course syllabus in Canvas for specific course requirements.