If you’re not a tech geek and you’re worried that you might not have the right equipment to take an online course, take heart, you probably don’t need as much as you think. While requirements will differ by college, the basic systems that you’ll need to take an online course usually aren’t that fancy and it won’t require anything that can’t easily be picked up on a trip to a local electronics store. If you’re trying to outfit your home office for online courses, these are the essentials any new online student should have.
A fairly new computer. Laptop or desktop, it doesn’t matter, so long as its from the past two or three years you shouldn’t have a problem. Older systems may work as well, but you will need to check with your school’s tech department beforehand to ensure that you won’t be making a late night trip out to buy a new computer. Any online school will list the specifications of its software, so check and make modifications to your computer or upgrade as necessary. You’ll need to pay attention to your processor, RAM and memory to make sure your computer will be able to keep up with your education.
The right operating system. PC users will need to make sure they have at least Windows XP in order to take online courses. Some colleges may prefer Vista or Windows 7, depending on the type of media and interactive programs they’ll have students using. For Mac users, OS X 10.4 or better is generally alright, though again, newer operating systems will help improve the performance of your online material.
Useful software. You will need a good office suite and a web browser in order to take most online courses. You can use options that come standard with Windows and Mac computers or download free open source alternatives like Open Office. Other software that may be required: Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash, Java, instant messangers, and anti-virus software. You should also ask your school for a list of software required for your courses, recommended browsers, and see if your school bookstore or online bookstore service offers any educational discounts before purchasing hardware or software.
Web browsers. The same goes for Web browsers. The latest version of Explorer or Safari will work well, but most online courses can also be viewed with Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, and other up-to-date browsers.
Reliable internet access. Because online education is completed, well, online, you’ll need to have constant access to the internet to keep up. Here, slow internet isn’t going to cut it. You’ll need to have a cable modem or a fast DSL connection in order to work with most online education programs. Without this, taking courses will be painful if not downright impossible, so if you need to make an upgrade or find another place to study, plan out your internet access ahead of time. If high speed internet simply isn’t in your budget, head to the local library or a coffee shop to take advantage of free wifi.
A few accessories. You might not need a headset, flash drive or a webcam to get through your coursework, but sometimes a small investment in these gadgets can make a big difference in how easy or enjoyable it is to complete coursework and participate in online discussions. Your school should be able to recommend some helpful accessories, but if they don’t, ask around to see what other students are using.
If you’re still curious about what some colleges may require, check out a few of these examples: