Online Student Experience

What Is a Distance/Remote/Online Learning Course?

Courses that are considered “distance learning,” “remote learning,” or “online,” have the majority, or all, of the learning for a class available in a digital environment. This type of course supports learning in a digital-age structure with communication and interaction taking place over the Internet.

What Should I Expect from a Distance Learning Course?

Instructors will provide details regarding your classwork and expectations. Content modules with lectures, PowerPoint, videos, quizzes/tests, and interactive discussions, assignments, and projects may be available in the online learning environment.

While your online course will be available to you at all times, your instructor will still expect you to complete tasks within specific deadlines as identified in their syllabus.

How do I Successfully Take a Distance Learning Course?

Treat an online course like a “real” course.

When taking a course remotely, it is easy to put things off, and “work on this later.”  Though a remote course often gives you flexibility on when to do work, you cannot put it off forever.  You must still “show up,” even if it is in the middle of the night, in order to get something out of the course.

Create a “home classroom.”

Designate a quiet space in your home as your home classroom, and only use it as such.  Organize your equipment needs, lighting, paperwork, etc. so that it is within easy reach.  Making your area functional will remove many excuses you may come up with to delay your learning.

Set Goals

Decide how many assignments you want to complete each day/week, and stick to that.  Just because you can put off an assignment until later, doesn’t mean that you should.  Unexpected events may prevent you from getting to it later.


Ask questions in your class forum.  Partner up “virtually” with a classmate and study using Google Meet. Attend virtual office meetings just to check in.  Involvement will make it easier to feel connect to the class, and easier to “want” to do the work.

Take care of yourself!

Stay positive!  Take breaks when needed to clear your mind and get adequate rest.  Knowing your limits will prevent fatigue which can negatively impact your life and education!  If you are struggling, reach out to your instructor or your adviser – they are there to help!

What Are the Technology Requirements for a Distance Learning Course?

Technology needs will vary depending on the types of classes you take.  Your instructor may request that you download/install software for homework or practice.  Some software may require more powerful computers than others.  Instructors will inform students of hardware/software needs.  If you need assistance purchasing, setting up, or using technology, contact the CSC at or 219-989-2888.

Computer Hardware Specifications

Information Services recommends the following minimum specifications for new computer purchases.

  • Processor: Intel Core i5
  • Memory: 16GB or more of RAM
  • Storage: 256 GB (or larger) SSD hard drive
  • Display: 13” or larger display with 1920 x 1080 pixels or higher resolution.
  • Wired Internet: Ethernet port or USB Ethernet adapter
  • Wireless Internet: 802.11ac Wireless Card

If you need to purchase a new computer, you can receive major discounts due to your affiliation with PNW!  Many computer vendors, including Apple, Dell, and HP offer discounts to PNW students, faculty, staff.

Internet/Cellular Phone Access

If you need internet or mobile phone access at home, there are discounts available to you as a PNW student.

Several cellular phone providers and wired broadband companies are offering free or discounted data packages to K-12 and College students due to the COVID-19 outbreak.  For more information on these options:


There are many tools available to you to meet virtually with your instructor or classmates.  Your class may rely on one or more of these tools to share class content.

Purdue University has a site-wide license for Cisco WebEx to provide video-conferencing capabilities.  WebEx allows individuals from around the world to connect to one meeting, with audio and video, share their screens, and collaborate.

WebEx can be used through a browser, but works more efficiently with a client installed on your computer. The first time you attempt to host or join a WebEx meeting, you will be asked to install this client. It is safe and recommended to do so.

Get Assistance Using Cisco WebEx

Zoom is another web-conferencing tool used by universities and business around the world.

While Zoom is free, the free version does come with limitations. If three or more people join the meeting, the meeting will be limited to no more than 40 minutes. (Note: As of March 17, 2020, Zoom has removed the 40-minute limitation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  All versions of Zoom, paid or licensed, will no longer have a time limit on minutes.)

Paid versions are available, and IS can help you facilitate that purchase. Licenses cost $150/year.

Sign Up for a Free Account 

Zoom can run within a web browser but also offers a local client, similar to WebEx.  Download the Zoom client.

Google Meet is the business version of Google Hangouts, a video conferencing and collaboration tool. All PNW users have access to Google Meet due to use of the Google Suite for student e-mail.

  • Visit the Google Meet website and sign in using your You will then be asked to authenticate via BoilerKey.
  • No local client is needed to host or join a meeting; the meeting will take place inside of the web browser.

Get Google Meet Assistance 


Many software titles are available to you free of charge or at a major discount through the IT at Purdue community software hub.

Note: Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, some software titles are now being made available for free to students.  This includes, but is not limited to:

SPSS Standard 26

Adobe Creative Cloud (Available through May 31, 2020)

Additional Resources