Distanced Learning Resources

A list of distanced learning resources curated by the CTL staff and student associates!

Setting Yourself Up for Success with Online Distance Learning

Thank you to CTL Student Associate Kalla Sy (Class of 2021) and CTL Director Dr. Catherine Sanger for composing this valuable information.

Much of this advice comes from the following sources:


When setting out on your college journey, you envisioned yourself learning in a classroom not in front of a computer screen. Whether you find yourself taking classes online for a short period or the whole semester, consider how you can set yourself up for success in this new learning environment. Here are seven strategies that can help you learn deeply and stay engaged when learning online. 


Keep a schedule. 

One of the challenges in online learning is that students sometimes feel less accountability to their studies, because they do not have face-to-face contact with their professors and classmates. Keeping a schedule can help you maintain momentum and discipline. Here are some specific approaches:

  • Set time blocks. Whether you’re attending your classes remotely or watching lecture recordings, make a daily schedule. Try dividing your day into smaller increments with specific activities devoted to each one. A schedule can help to keep you motivated and mentally focused. Moreover, research shows that we tend to get more work done if we work in small bursts at a time, rather than long periods of multi-tasking work.
      1. When participants multi-tasked, their performance on the main task “steeply declined over time”. However, when participants were asked to focus on one task at a time for shorter periods, their performance remained consistently strong. 
  • Establish a waking and sleeping routine. Setting a waking and sleeping routine can help to create stability in our lives, which is important given the unusual circumstances we’re experiencing with the COVID-19 pandemic. This will maintain the timing of our body clock and help us to fall asleep and wake up more easily. Research also shows that a consistent sleep schedule is associated with stronger academic performance.


Take planned breaks.


Studying from home can be stressful, so schedule breaks with activities that can help you improve your mental well-being. Taking a relaxing break and detaching from work allows one to recover from stress and decrease exhaustion, according to research. Taking breaks also has restorative benefits of improved focus. Research found that participants simply taking two brief breaks from a main task allowed them to stay focused during the entire experiment, whereas those who didn’t take breaks worsened in performance. Taking a break can be going for a walk outside, doing some jumping jacks, or calling a friend. 


Create a learning-conducive workspace.
  • Choose a (relatively) quiet space. Find a space in your home where there are minimal sound distractions (ie. television noises) for you to do your schoolwork. If you can, avoid working on your bed or another place where you typically relax, especially if you’re having to spend a lot of time in the house. 
  • Check the lighting. Make sure to choose a space that gets some natural light. Exposure to natural light can lead to better productivity, improved focus and reduced eye strain, research found.
    • Research (Source)
      • Workers who were exposed to more natural light reported “significantly less drowsiness and greater alertness”, as well as “significantly [fewer] eyestrain and headache complaints”.
  • Declutter. Keeping your space clean will allow you to focus on your task at any given moment. Research found that the more objects in a person’s visual field, the harder their brain has to work to filter them out, reducing its ability to focus.
    • Research (Source)
      • “When multiple stimuli are present simultaneously in the visual field, their representations [in a person’s brain] interact in a competitive, suppressive fashion.”


Check your Yale-NUS email frequently and set Canvas notifications. 

Many professors are using email to send over course materials, instructions for completing coursework, or video-conferencing invites. Check Canvas (Account > Notifications) to make sure announcements from your professors reach your email inbox.


Connect with professors and classmates. 


This way of learning is new to you and your peers, just as this way of teaching is new to many of your professors. Be in communication with your classmates so you can thrive together. Be in communication with your professors so they can help you thrive. Consider “visiting” your professor’s office hours by scheduling a meeting with them over Zoom. Set up an online study group to complement your class work and to connect with your classmates.    


Reach out to Yale-NUS services. 

Be patient with yourself as you adjust to learning remotely. Get in touch with your professors and faculty advisors, let them know if you are facing obstacles to success in your classes. Yale-NUS offers a range of resources that you can take advantage of even as you take your classes online.

  • Resources
    • Peer Tutoring – The Yale-NUS Peer Tutoring programme is designed to bring additional academic support to our students.
    • Writers’ CentreThe Yale-NUS Writers’ Centre offers regular individual writing consultations and group workshops to provide general feedback at any stage of the writing process, whether it be for your academic writing or your co-curricular writing endeavours.
    • Library Research Consultation – Yale-NUS librarians are available to meet with you for consultations to offer their expertise and provide research help.
    • Counselling Centre – The Yale-NUS Counselling Centre offers various forms of counselling and therapy to students seeking support in a confidential, non-judgmental atmosphere as part of a collaborative culture of care.


Be considerate and contribute to a productive learning environment. 

Disruption is tough on everyone. Kindness can go a long way. Be considerate as your professors and your classmates adjust to online distance learning. In addition to learning course material, this is an opportunity to learn patience, flexibility, and how to be productive even in challenging times. Here are some suggested Netiquette Guidelines:

  • Manage Noise and Distraction: Keep your microphone muted unless you are speaking. This will minimise noise and make it easier for everyone to hear. If you can, try to attend class from a quiet space. Be considerate about actions that might be distracting to other students (like eating a massive slice of pizza, or having a movie playing in the background). 
  • Be Present, Not Just in Attendance: Mute your cell phone and close other applications on your computer (this will also help with connectivity). You wouldn’t pass notes in a classroom – so don’t use the chat or WhatsApp to ‘pass notes’ digitally during the online class. It will undermine your focus, that of your peers, and is disrespectful to the class. Be ready to listen and engage with your peers. 
  • Be Attentive to Tone: Sometimes we are more hostile or cutting online than we would be in a face-to-face environment. It is ok to be critical or to get angry, and to voice those reactions. We certainly don’t want to encourage unwarranted tone policing or the marginalization or unpopular or underrepresented opinions.. At the same time, consider your tone and how you express yourself in ways that get your point across but also maintain health in the learning community. This applies to what you communicate verbally but also what you type in the chat or online discussion forums. This might mean waiting to express your disagreement after class, or to give people an opportunity to clarify what they meant before assuming the worst. The adage “criticize the idea, not the person” can often be a useful guide.  
  • Voice Questions and Concerns: If you have a question, ask it! Chances are, someone else has the same question. Voicing uncertainty or discomfort is not just an act of self-help, it is an act of intellectual generosity to your class. Similarly, if you have a concern or disagreement, share it either during class or after. 
  • Respect Privacy: Our academic model encourages open and penetrating discussion of what can sometimes be challenging materials. Additionally, we seek to cultivate an intellectual space in which, as stated in the Faculty Statement on the Freedom of Expression, “there are no questions that cannot be asked, no answers that cannot be discussed and debated.” This kind of intellectual exploration requires trust and privacy. Do not record your professor and peers without prior and explicit permission. This includes audio recording, video, transcription, and photography. Lectures and seminars that are delivered in-person, online, or as a pre-recorded videos should never be recorded or distributed beyond the course for which it was intended. Students are encouraged to reflect upon and share their own learning experiences and ideas in whatever form they wish. However, they should not share course content produced by their professors or their peers (e.g. a peer’s essay, comments made in class, posts to a Canvas discussion thread) without prior permission through any channels including social media. Just because we are operating online doesn’t mean that we should not expect some privacy in our interactions with each other. 

Important Notes: Violation of this policy is addressed in the student Code of Conduct and could result in disciplinary and/or legal consequences. As per Clause F2(a) of Policies Relating To Yale-NUS College Intellectual Property, copyright to an Authored Work shall be owned by the University Member who authored it. Authored Work could include syllabi, tests, examination scripts, study guides, lecture notes and teaching materials, including lectures recorded on audio and/or visual recordings.


Additional Resources:

How to Keep Learning During Disruption

How to Be Successful Learning Online:

 Free Online Courses on Maximizing Learning Online:

Attending Classes Online

Thank you to CTL Student Associate Kalla Sy (Class of 2021).

Much of this advice comes from the following sources:


  1. Talk to your professors beforehand. Share with your professors any challenges you may be facing at home that you think might impact your learning. It helps to have your professors aware of your situation. Also, your professors may have tips on how you can best engage in their classes.
  2. Dress up. Make time to shower and get dressed to physically prepare yourself for class, as if you were on campus. Change out of your pajamas because research suggests that what you’re wearing can affect your focus on a task. 
    • Research (Source)
      • “Physically wearing a lab coat, or professional wear, increased selective attention compared to not wearing a lab coat.” 
  3. Put your phone on silent. Phone notifications can distract us. Research found that even awareness of a notification can hurt people’s performance on an attention-demanding task. Put your phone on silent (not vibrate!) or “Do Not Disturb” mode as you virtually attend your seminars or do schoolwork. If the temptation to check your phone will be too great, leave it on the other side of the room before class starts. 
    • Research (Source)
      • “[The researchers] found that cellular phone notifications alone significantly disrupted performance on an attention-demanding task, even when participants did not directly interact with a mobile device during the task.
  4. Clear your physical surroundings. Are there any items you should clear so that they aren’t visible on screen? Remember that your professors and classmates can see you. Keep in mind how you present yourself on screen, background items included.
  5. Close unnecessary apps/windows. Close unnecessary applications and browser windows open on your computer that can distract us from focusing on our tasks. Set the Zoom application to Full Screen to minimize distraction from other applications. Consider installing applications or browser extensions that can temporarily block certain websites or apps for the times that you’re “in class”.
  6. Develop a plan for note-taking. Even if you normally take notes by typing, it might be nice to use your computer screen for viewing the course and use pen and paper for note-taking. Use the first few weeks to experiment with different methods and find the technique that suits you best. Check out this free online course on “Academic Listening and Note-Taking:” https://www.coursera.org/learn/note-taking#instructors 
  7. Practice good Zoom Netiquette. Your professors’ expectations for how you participate may be different online (Raise Hand function, submitting questions via Chat, etc.). Understand their expectations. If you don’t know, it’s best to ask. Additionally, sometimes we are more impatient and more aggressive when we operate online, but an online class is still an academic space of community and inquiry, not a fiery Facebook thread. See above advice regarding “Be considerate and contribute to a productive learning environment.” 


Preparing for Online Exams

Thank you to CTL Student Associate Kalla Sy (Class of 2021).

Much of this advice comes from the following sources:


There is a lot of advice out there about removing sources of temptation to cheat, getting yourself ‘in the zone’ by dressing/ preparing as if you were taking the exam in a classroom with peers, alerting your housemates/neighbours to be quiet, doing what you can to enhance your wifi/connectivity (e.g. turning off all non-essential devices/ using ethernet vs. wifi if an option. 

Before Your Exam
  1. Study. Review your class notes and course materials to prepare for your exam. Refer to the class syllabus to ensure you don’t miss out on any topic.
  2. Read your test guidelines. Read all the information your professor provides about your exam, such as when it is, what time the test begins, how much time you have to complete the exam, among others. 
  3. Set noise guidelines with others. Share your exam schedule with the people you live with and communicate with them to set noise guidelines as you prepare for and, later, take your exam.
  4. Check your computer. Double-check that your device is working before your testing date to avoid technical difficulties during the exam. If your device needs maintenance or repair, don’t delay in getting it fixed (as long as it is safe to do so). 
  5. Find a good test-taking spot. Choose a spot that has good Internet connection and no (or very minimal) distractions to ensure your exam goes smoothly.
  6. Recruit study buddies and accountability partners. It might be harder to maintain your focus if you are preparing for an exam from home, without having your peers with you as study partners. Wherever you are, try to recruit some study partners and accountability partners. This could be family members in your home, or you could tell a friend you would like their support. Tell them your big deadlines, and ask them to check in with you on your progress. Set up online study sessions. There are also a number of accountability apps you could explore.   
During Your Exam
  1. Turn off your smartphone. Turn off your smartphone and keep it out of sight to fully focus on your exam. However, if you will be using your smartphone to keep track of the time, consider disconnecting your smartphone from your WiFi connection and moving it away from arm’s reach to avoid the temptation to cheat.
  2. Charge your device. Ensure your device has enough battery life to last you throughout the entire exam duration. If not, charge your device as you take your exam.
  3. Keep an eye on the time. Check the time every now and then as you take your exam to keep track of how much time you have left. It might help to set an alarm for 15-30 minutes before the time of submission.
  4. Check your work before you click “submit”. Ensure that each question has been answered. Review your answers and check for any spelling or grammar mistakes.
  5. Remove temptation. Exams can be stressful, and sometimes we make bad decisions under stress. Cheating is a bad decision. If you think you will be tempted to ask a friend for help, turn off your phone. If you think you might be tempted to consult your textbook (for a closed-book exam), put it in another room. If you will be tempted to check forbidden websites, block sites that are not allowed. Academic integrity still applies when taking exams online. Do not put your honour or your academic standing in jeopardy. And if you are feeling very stressed and considering making a bad decision, remember: you are not in this alone. Talk to your professor, your Assistant Dean, or make an appointment with the Counseling Centre.    

Student COVID Guidelines for Sem 1

Please refer to the “Student COVID Guidelines for Sem 1” document from the DOS.

If you have suggestions or strategies to share, please direct them to learning@yale-nus.edu.sg.