Distance Learning Tips

With the start of the 2020 Spring Quarter, all classes have moved to distance learning for at least the first four weeks. We have collected some tips from our NPS alums to help you stay on track with your studies through this transition. Please remember that good communication will be your number one tool during this time. Reach out to your program officer or professors with questions or concerns you have. They are here to help overcome the challenges COVID-19 has brought.


1. Have a designated workspace.
Create as much of an office space as possible. A designated room or area with all the necessary equipment (computer, printer, supplies, reference material, etc.) will help foster an “I’m really working mindset” according to one alumnus. Also, make the space comfortable with proper lighting and sound.

2. Keep to a schedule. 
Establish both daily and weekly schedules and stick to them as much as possible. Find the time of day that works best for you to study within your family’s schedule. NPS professors are being encouraged to teach classes synchronously, so make the effort to attend at the appointed time. Classes should also be recorded for when life makes it impossible to attend.

3. Do not rush through your work.
Distractions will likely abound at home, and you may feel pulled away from course work. Make the best effort to stay focused and commit appropriate time to each class. Avoid multi-tasking as well- turn off notifications on your computer, silence your phone, and no binge-watching.

4. Take the time to ask questions and engage instructors.
Instructors should require dynamic interactivity in a distance learning course. A good course will require the student to interact with instructors and/or peers to collaborate and learn. Just because the course is offered over a computer doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to ask a question about the content. In fact, a good instructor will ensure students know questions are welcomed and encouraged, if not required. This is an important educational standard that should not be neglected.

5. Use alarms and calendars to ensure your benchmarks and course milestones are met.
Good organizational skills are key to being successful in distance learning courses. Once you get your syllabus or course plans, record all important dates on your calendar. In a traditional classroom setting, you’ll often receive verbal or visual reminders of an assignment’s upcoming due date. These may be less during distance learning, so it’s up to you to keep track.

6. Figure Out How You Learn Best
Not everyone learns the same way, so think about what types of information help you best grasp new concepts and employ relevant study strategies. If you’re a visual learner, for example, print out transcripts of the video lectures to review. Learn best by listening? Make sure to build time into your schedule to play and replay all audio- and video-based course content.

7. Actively participate.
Participate in the course’s online forum to help you better understand course materials and engage with fellow classmates. This might involve commenting on a classmate’s paper on a discussion board or posting a question about a project you’re working on. Read what other students and your professor are saying, and if you have a question, ask for clarification. Check-in often and speak up if you feel you’re falling behind.

8. Leverage your network.
Build relationships with other students by engaging in online discussion boards or creating a virtual study group. Your peers can be a valuable resource when preparing for exams or asking for feedback on assignments. 

9. Communicate clearly.
Refine your written communication skills. Humor does not always translate is online chats or email. Be straightforward with what you want to say.

10. Use available resources.
While the buildings are closed, many resources are still available by phone or email. The library, graduate writing center, and thesis processing office all have staff working during distance learning.

Dudley Knox Library: https://library.nps.edu/web/library/ask-a-librarian

Graduate Writing Center: writingcenter@nps.edu

Thesis Processing Office: thesisdraft@nps.edu