Online Student Experience

We’ll get through this together.

Things may feel out-of-control right now. You may be facing a lot of unknowns and disruptions. Try to be patient with yourself, your classmates, and your instructors during this time. Take care of your wellbeing first. Making a plan and adjusting your studying may help you feel even a little sense of control.

Your instructors have worked hard to make changes that will allow remote course completion. They will contact you about course-specific alterations. This webpage curates and prioritizes other resources to help you prepare to continue learning in an online environment. Check back to this webpage for future updates as we continue to respond to this unprecedented situation. New material will be indicated.

Your study habits may need to change. While more of your coursework and teamwork have to be online and remote, here are some strategies to keep in mind:

Starting this fall, your classes may be 100% in-person, 100% remote, or a combination between the two.  Your instructors will be utilizing many different tools, including Brightspace, the PNW learning management system (LMS). If your course is already in one of these Purdue-supported LMS, you may login as usual. Check out the Brightspace Student Resources designed to assist you.

Many course elements will be online (discussions, assignments, labs, activities, etc.), housed in your course learning management system (LMS). Watch your PNW email and announcements in your course LMS for updates from your instructor, and review your LMS early to be sure you can find what you need to complete the course successfully.

Check out your new syllabus and schedule…and understand there may be additional changes. Fall 2020 is an unprecedented situation because of COVID-19. We are all planning as much as possible, but some things may change as the situation evolves. Check your course syllabus for new information on the following:

How will you communicate in your online course with your instructor and with your classmates? What are your instructor’s expectations regarding course communication?

Are there any other tools being used outside of the learning management system (LMS)? If yes, check your access to these tools to ensure you can use them where you are located.

How will you complete and submit learning activities (e.g. assignments, quizzes) and how will that work receive feedback and/or be assessed? How have deadlines changed?

Asynchronous delivery (not “live”) is being encouraged as much as possible to provide stable content regardless of anyone’s Internet access and speed. Should your instructor decide to use WebEx, a Purdue-supported web-conferencing tool for some elements of the course, you will need to follow the link they provide in order to access each “meeting.” Some instructors may use other methods such as GoogleMeet, Skype, Zoom, etc., but will provide specific instructions to you. Test these methods early and let your instructor know immediately if you have problems.

As a Purdue Northwest student, you have free access to programs such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, by installing Office 365on your personal device.

With so many things changing in your courses, you might be reliving that first-week-of-class confusion at finals-week pace. Here are some things you might want to keep track of for each class:

Are in-person parts of the class changing?

  • What are the in-person parts of this course? (lecture, lab, etc)
  • Where can you find it or how do you access it? (live-stream, lecture capture, etc)
  • Is it at a specific time or can you watch it anytime?

Are assignments changing?

  • Are there new due dates?
  • Is how you’re submitting your assignments changing?
  • Are any quizzes or exams being offered virtually?

What should you do if you need help?

  • Is your course offering virtual office hours? When and on what platform?
  • Is there an online forum for asking questions?

One example of a way you could keep track:

Class 1 Class 2 Class 3
Important Dates Paper Due Friday
Changes No Lab, Live Lecture Discussion optional Recorded Lecture May do paper instead of a group project
Important Links Lecture Link, Office hours link Discussion link, Lecture Link Group paper folder

As the situation unfolds, you may have fewer social commitments, group meetings, or work hours. Setting a schedule for yourself can help provide structure and keep you motivated. If you don’t already keep a weekly or daily calendar, try something like the example below to organize your time. Include time for exercise and self-care.

One example of a way you could keep track:

Schedule Activity Course Tasks Personal/Self-Care
8:00am Shower, Breakfast
9:00am Call in for remote lecture
10:00am Read chapter 5
11:00am Break-call a friend
12:00pm Lunch
1:00pm Review Discussion Boards Read chapter 6
2:00pm Recap lecture with classmate
  • Personal-natured communications. If you run into any issues, communicate early and often with your instructor. This is especially important if you are ill and cannot make course deadlines. Any personal-type questions or concerns must be emailed to your instructor. Include your course title in your email subject line.
  • General course communications. Some courses may have a discussion board dedicated to course-related questions. These discussion boards are a great way to ask or find answers to questions you (or your peers) may have. Check if your course(s) have these types of discussion boards – if not, email your instructor.
  • In online communications (text, email, discussion board posts), tone does not always come across well. Always seek clarification and potential solutions when misunderstandings, disagreements, or problems occur. Do not focus on placing blame. Here are few tips:
    • Seek assignment feedback and strive to understand its constructive value, even if the feedback seems critical.
    • When you are asked to give feedback, do it in a constructive, professional manner.
    • Avoid any statement or action (e.g., verbal statements, emails, online discussions) that might be interpreted as discriminatory, harassing, insensitive, offensive, or disrespectful against any other student, staff, or faculty member.
  • Online discussions can grow and develop in a matter of minutes or hours, unlike face-to-face discussions during a specific class period. Participating once a week may not be enough for you to get the most out of the conversations. The following tips will help you to make the most of online discussions:
    • Answer the question prompt, but be clear and concise. Use the readings or your personal experiences to back your answers and points-of-view. Drive the conversation forward in a number of different ways:
    • Provide concrete examples, perhaps from your own experience.
    • Describe possible consequences or implications.
    • Challenge something posted in the discussion – perhaps by playing “devil’s advocate.”
    • Pose a clarifying question.
    • Suggest a different perspective or interpretation.
    • Pull in related information from other sources – books, articles, websites, other courses, etc.
    • Make discussion posts CRISP: considerate, reflective, interactive, succinct, and pertinent or purposefully.
    • Revisit the discussion boards often– some people take 10 minutes a day to login and review the discussion boards, others set aside a chunk of time multiple days of the week. Either way, participating in the discussions through the week can help increase your learning on a topic by answering questions posed to you, engaging with others’ discussions, and seeking clarity from other discussion posts.
  • Stick to your instructor’s schedule as much as you can. Staying on a schedule will help you have a feeling of normalcy and prevent you from falling way behind.
  • Find out how to ask questions. Is there a chat feature? Is there a discussion forum?
  • Close distracting tabs and apps. Humans are not as good at multitasking as they think!
  • Continue to take notes as you would if you were there in person.

Your routines may have to adjust during this time. Look for ways to adapt your usual habits or form new ones.

For example:

  • If you usually study in a coffee shop or library, ask yourself what kind of environment helps you study. See if you can recreate that at home. Maybe it’s studying in a chair, rather than on your bed or couch, or moving to a new spot when you change tasks. If you feel you need background noise, consider a white noise app.
  • If you always study in groups, try a virtual or even phone-based study session with your group.
  • If you thrive on tight timelines, but now have a more open schedule, think about how working with others or setting up a schedule can recreate that for you. When that gets hard, see if you can even do fifteen minutes at a time.
  • Continue to take noteswhile watching all course videos, as if they were live lectures. When reading course materials, annotate what you are learning. Here’s a great article on Best Tips on How to Annotate an Article. The same tips can apply when reading your course textbook.

Remote collaboration will look a little different, but it is definitely possible.

  • Try not to procrastinate. That group project may be out-of-sight, out-of-mind if you aren’t seeing each other regularly. Resist the urge to put it off. Make small progress and stay in touch.
  • Determine if the communication is via email, video chat, phone, etc.
  • Meet regularly, especially if you usually touch base during class or lab. Consider a quick text on your group chat about progress every couple of days. Ideally, have real conversations over video any week you’re working together.
  • Set a purpose for meetings and use a shared notes doc. Meetings might feel different when using video, even if your team was really good at working informally in the past. Try to set the purpose of your meeting in advance. Take notes in a shared doc so you can all contribute and follow along.
  • Keep videos open when you can. As long as you can see whatever you need to collaborate, aim to keep the video visible on your computer screen. It’ll help you see the expressions of your teammates and stay connected to each other.
  • Check on each other and ask for backup: If someone has been absent from your group meetings or chat, ask them directly if they’re still able to participate in the project. If you aren’t getting responses within a day or two, let your instructor know. Know it isn’t being petty, it’s your team’s responsibility.
  • Establish roles for group members in the assignment (e.g., someone is the editor, project manager, or researcher of a certain part of the assignment).
  • Be accountable for your portion of the assignment and communicate with your members.

What accommodations are available?

  • If you are a student registered with the Disability Access Center (DAC), your Access Plan has been shared with your instructors. Stay in touch with DAC staff and your instructors to ensure accommodations are in place within the course’s online environment. The DAC is not able to administer and proctor exams online but will continue to support your instructors and you.
  • Engage with your instructors prior to taking an exam/quiz in this new environment to assure there is clear understanding of accommodations and how they will be delivered in the online environment. Recognize that, for some instructors, providing accommodations online is all new. Proactive discussion can lead to the best experience for both your instructors and you.
  • The DAC is available to consult with instructors about how to facilitate some of the more unique exam accommodations (ex. auditory format of an exam, use of assistive technology, etc.).
  • If you feel as though you are not receiving your accommodations, please contact your access consultant or email

What if I need tutoring or the writing center?

Writing Center

The Writing Center will be available for online tutoring.

  • Online appointments may be reserved via the appointment website:  (Morning, afternoons and evening appointments are available.)
  • Students may upload their papers for the tutors to view and can video chat, voice chat, and/or type in the chat box with the tutor.
  • Please visit for more information.

Tutoring & SI Sessions Online

How to join us:

  • Use the Chrome browser
  • Click on the link for Group Tutoring or SI Sessions above
  • View the calendar in ‘Month’ mode (upper right-had corner)
  • Click on the link for the day, course and session you would like to join
  • If you are joining through the conferencing feature, click on the link that says ‘Join Hangouts Meet’. If you have a camera and/or microphone, it will sync.  If you don’t, you can use the ‘chat’ feature.
  • Click ‘Join now’
  • If you are calling in, dial the phone # and, when prompted, enter the PIN under ‘Join by phone’.

Have questions or need help logging in? Contact Student Academic Support Email: or call (219) 989-3227

What are the technology requirement for Distance Learning Courses?

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.

Loaner Laptops

The PNW Library may be able to provide students with loaner laptop devices.  Please contact the library for more information.

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.  Visit PNW.EDU/ZOOM for more information.

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 (No longer available for free for students on personal devices.  Discounts may be available.)

Staying connected to other people

Please remember, this will pass.

If COVID has disrupted your travel plans, ended a lab experiment you were excited about, or for any reason feels like it came at the worst possible time, remember: this is temporary. You’ll find your way when it settles down. You’ll get back on track, and things will get back to normal. We don’t know when, but it will happen.

Most important, if you run into any issues while learning remotely, contact your instructor ASAP. Everyone is adjusting to the new format of remote learning – communicating early and often is vital to your completion of the course.

Additional Resources

PNW Updates on COVID 19

Schedule an Appointment with Academic Advisor

Your academic advisor is here to help in any way they can, feel free to schedule a virtual appointment with them to discuss any issues or even register for the Summer or Fall semester.

Technology Help

Technical issues can be resolved through the PNW Customer Service Center.  Please email Daniel Bruhn at or email

Problems with your course can be resolved by first contacting your instructor by email or by phone if your instructor has shared contact info. If you need additional assistance with academic issues, please contact the department chair for the department that offers your course. The Dean of Students office can also help you find the right person to contact.

You may also refer to the Brightspace Student Resource website for guides and videos to function in the system.

Counseling Center
Counseling center staff will be working remotely with reduced hours until further notice. Students are asked not to come in person to counseling offices, but staff will be available for 15-minute phone consultations to assess and refer students to resources.

We anticipate being able to offer full counseling services via video and phone soon: please watch your email for updated information as those services become available.

Phone lines at 219-989-2366 will be open Monday to Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Non-emergency consultations will be offered Monday to Thursday, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Dean of Students
The office in Hammond (SULB 313) remains open with reduced hours, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. The office in Westville remains open with reduced hours from Monday to Wednesday, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Staff will be available during these hours to answer calls or in-person questions and schedule appointments, but Dean of Students appointments will be conducted by phone or video only.

Phones will be answered from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday. Call 989-5230 for Westville and 989-4141 for Hammond or if you need immediate assistance. In an emergency, call campus police at 2220.

You may also email Dean of Students staff at any time at  or visit the website to fill out a complaint or concern form.