Steps For Student Success

PNW is here for you.

Refer to the following information for technology and other help.

Your classes may be 100% in-person, 100% remote, or a combination of the two.  Your instructors will be utilizing many different tools, including Brightspace, the PNW learning management system (LMS). Check out the Brightspace Student Resources designed to assist you.

Another great resource is the PNW Student Support Hub located in Brightspace. Once in Brightspace click on Help and then Student Support Hub.

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

Check out your schedule and course syllabi and understand there may be additional changes. Check your course syllabi for 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 Brightspace? 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?

If your instructor is using WebEx or ZOOM, Purdue-supported web-conferencing tools, 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 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 365 on 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?

Disability Access Center

The Disability Access Center empowers college-ready students with documented disabilities to participate fully in PNW by providing equal access and opportunity.

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 here for more information.

Tutoring & SI Sessions Online

All PNW students have access to academic support services, including tutoring, at no additional charge. Peer tutors are using Zoom to offer online tutoring by-appointment for specific courses.

Please visit here schedule and more information.

What are the Technology Requirements 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. Please note, Chromebooks are not compatible with all PNW software.

  • Processor: Quad Core x86-64 (6th Gen Intel or Higher, 3rd Gen AMD or Higher)
  • 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.

The Affordable Connectivity Program provides eligible households with up to a $30 discount off their monthly internet bill or a $75/month discount on Tribal lands. It also provides one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet purchased through a participating provider when the
eligible household contributes at least $10 but less than $50 toward the purchase.

If you’ve received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year, participate in a number of assistance programs (such as SNAP, Veteran’s Pension, Free/Reduced-Price School Lunch, or SSI), participate in Tribal specific programs (such as Tribal TANF or Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance), or meet other eligibility criteria for existing low-income internet programs, you may be eligible for this program!

Enroll in 2 steps

  1. Go to to submit an application or print a mail-in application.
  2. Contact your preferred participating provider to select an eligible plan and have the discount applied to your bill.

Video Conferencing

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.

Zoom is a web-conferencing tool used by PNW. Zoom can run within a web browser but also offers a local client, similar to WebEx.  Download the Zoom client.


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

This includes, but is not limited to:

Staying Connected to Other People

Student Life provides many activities for students throughout the semester. You can also check out the different Student Organizations that PNW has.

Most importantly, 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

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.

Technology Help

  • Technical issues can be resolved through the PNW Customer Service Center – email for help

Brightspace Assistance

  • Problems with your course can be resolved by first contacting your instructor by email or by phone. 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.
  • If you need Brightspace technical assistance, connect with the PNW Office of Instructional Technology – email for help and visit the Brightspace Student Resource website for guides and videos.

Counseling Center

  • PNW’s Counseling Center provides free and confidential mental health services to currently enrolled students. For the Fall 2020 semester, services will be provided via a HIPAA compliant telehealth platform.
  • We are following CDC recommendations. For more information about services, call (219) 989-2366. If this is an emergency, go to your nearest emergency room or call 911.

Dean of Students

  • PNW’s Dean of Students Office connects students with resources and opportunities to enhance the campus community. Our staff leaders and staff members are available to help you thrive.
  • You may also email the Dean of Students staff at any time at or visit the website to fill out a complaint or concern form.