Although online learning is growing dramatically in popularity, it is important to make certain you have the essential technology for an online degree before signing up for your first course. As an online student, you will have a much different learning experience than traditional on-campus students by participating in an interactive virtual classroom. Therefore, benefits of online learning will provide you with added flexibility and convenience for accessing your coursework 24/7 from anywhere with a sufficient Internet connection. If you are considering enrolling in an online degree program to continue meeting your work or family obligations, read on to learn about the general technology requirements that are mandated by most online schools.
Computer System Requirements
Regardless of your university’s minimum system specs, sufficient technology and Internet access is critical for completing online classes. In most cases, online schools will require students to have a computer in good working condition with Windows 7 or Mac OS X 10.6 operating system and higher to guarantee that all course materials will be properly supported. Students must have an ISP account for Internet access through broadband LAN, cable, or DSL connection. While satellite or cellular 4G connections can also utilized for accessing coursework, it is typically suggested that online students do not rely solely on tablets, smartphones, or other mobile devices without having a Windows or Mac computer handy.
Essential Browsers, Software, Plug-Ins, Etc.
Since the majority of online coursework is completed through Blackboard or a similar educational website, students will need to download a supported browser, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Apple Safari. Online courses will also require students to possess a valid email account that is checked frequently to reply to all correspondence with faculty members and fellow students. For completing assignments in a timely and organized manner, it is highly recommended that online students purchase Microsoft Office software with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. Some online courses will also require additional software plug-ins to properly access course materials, so be sure to ask your university about the required versions of Java, Adobe Acrobat Reader, or Flash Player.
Technical Skills for Optimal Online Learning
In order to be a successful online learner, you will need to possess much more than just the required computer system or software. Many students overlook the fact that online degree programs create the need for additional computer skills that may not be necessary in the typical classroom. Since you will be in charge of directing your own learning, you must have strong self-discipline, problem solving, critical thinking, decision making, and written communication skills. For the best online learning experience, you should have the technical abilities to be comfortable communicating via email, navigating the World Wide Web, creating documents in office applications, uploading assignments to discussion boards, downloading saved files, sending email attachments, and using a webcam for live class sessions.
Once you make the decision that you have the technology for an online degree, the next step is to locate the online degree program that will fit your learning needs and properly boost your career in your chosen area of interest. When searching through the vast number of options available today, be on the lookout for online programs that feature full accreditation, strong faculty credentials, flexibility, student engagement, and experiential learning components.