Are You (and Your Computer) Ready for Online College Courses?

Online college courses can seem like the optimal way to earn a degree without missing a beat while in the middle of a career or at a time when moving on campus isn’t convenient. However, online studies can quickly turn from a dream to a nightmare, if you are not prepared for the technical requirements of the task. Before you apply to an online school, it is important to assess whether your current technology is up to the challenge of online college courses.

The Essential Components
Obviously a computer is an essential component for beginning online college courses, but is one system sufficient for your needs? What happens if you experience a power outage or your computer hardware breaks down unexpectedly? Serious students will usually have a back-up plan in place long before the unexpected occurs – either by investing in a laptop or netbook, iPad or other device where they can access their coursework if their primary source suddenly becomes unavailable. If a student cannot afford a back-up device, Yahoo recommends placing a friend or family member with a computer on call in case of emergency.

The Basic Requirements
Each college provides their own list of requirements for online college courses somewhere on their website. However, Education Portal also lists a few of the basic technical needs common to nearly any online school, which include:

·       CPU with a minimum of 1GHz
·       Minimum RAM of 512 MB
·       Capacity in hard drive of at least 10 GB
·       DVD-ROM drive
·       Speakers and a sound card

In addition to these basics, school websites will usually requires students to have access to a Web browser, email and a standard word processor. Some may also want students to have access to video conferencing or special plug-ins to access streaming media or other special software programs.

Skills Needed for Success
Once students have all the hardware and software necessary for online college courses, they will be expected to know how to use all the equipment. Eastern Iowa Community Colleges lists some of the skills they require students to possess when they register for classes, including the ability to handle email, manage files, navigate the Internet and complete online forms. Colleges also want students to have some very basic troubleshooting ability, so students are not regularly emailing school support every time they run into a snag on their system.

Technical skills and the right equipment are the first step to successful completion of online college courses. With the ability to learn from any location, students with the right preparation can take full advantage of today’s higher education system.

Drew Hendricks
Drew Hendricks is a tech, social media and environmental addict. He's written for many major publishers such as National Geographic and Technorati.

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