As an online college student, you’ll spend a substantial amount of time on your computer, posting answers to questions, participating in online discussion, emailing professors and other online activities. Before classes start, it’s important to ensure you have access to a reliable computer that meets the requirements of your online college degree program.
Whether you already own a computer or laptop or you’re in the market for a new one, here are some points to consider regarding your computer for online school:
Software: You’ll need basic word processing software, like Microsoft Office or an equivalent, for writing assignments. Google and OpenOffice.org both offer free word processing programs.
Especially since you’ll be on the Internet so frequently, protect your computer from viruses, worms and other nasty malware by installing anti-virus software. The most well-known program is Norton AntiVirus. AVG also offers free anti-virus software.
Your major or degree concentration may require additional software programs. For instance, a computer science or business information systems student will need specialized software. An arts student may need graphic design software like Adobe Creative Suite. Double check with your advisor what additional software programs you might need to purchase in addition to word processing and anti-virus programs.
Hardware: Some of the most important pieces of computer hardware to research are the memory and processor. We recommend at least one but ideally two gigabytes of RAM, short for Random Access Memory. The processor acts as the brain of your computer, and regulates how efficiently your computer will run. Most new computers have a minimum of a 1.25 gigahertz (GHz) processor. If you plan to connect your laptop to the Internet wirelessly, you’ll want a wireless internet card. Many new computers come with one pre-installed but you can also purchase one separately and install it yourself.
Accessories: USB flash drives have replaced the floppy disk or CD for storing word processing documents and other files. You can back up your most important school files with a USB flash drive or use it to transfer files onto another computer. You might want to use your local library’s computer to print a document off to proofread, for instance.
Internet Access: Having high speed Internet access will allow you to watch video (some online degree programs stream classes live) and browse the Internet without frustration. A DSL or Cable connection is recommended but a minimum 56k modem is generally required.
Desktop or Laptop? If you are shopping for a new computer you might be wondering whether to purchase a desktop or laptop. You can take laptops anywhere but they tend to be more expensive than a desktop. This decision will likely depend on your lifestyle and whether you envision studying in places other than your home.
Many computer and software manufacturers give concessions to college students on their products. If you are buying a new computer or just looking to purchase new software, be sure to ask the retailer about educational discounts and educational versions of software packages.