As online degree programs are becoming more and more common, many people are drawn to the convenience and opportunity that they offer. Often, online degrees are extremely cost effective, and allow students to further their career goals while maintaining their current living arrangements. However, the world of computers is intimidating. It is common for some people to be unsure about their computer’s capability to successfully complete a program. While the majority of personal computers are likely up to the task, there are a few items to keep in mind when assessing the suitability of a computer for online coursework.
PC or Mac?
While this question has been around for a very long time, there is no definitive answer when considering a computer for online coursework. Both platforms have their advantages when dealing with online study. Many online courses require a substantial amount of written work for credit. While both platforms can serve word processing functions equally well, it is sometimes easier for a professor to work with submissions that have been created using Microsoft Word. With the advent of OS X versions of Microsoft products, this PC advantage in the online degree environment has been effectively eliminated. Truly, so long as the computer being used has the appropriate software for the task, either a PC or a Mac is sufficient.
Laptop, Tablet or Desktop?
With modern technology advancing at the current rate, both laptop computers and desktop arrangements offer sufficient computing power and utility for online study. Tablets, while portable and convenient, often run into difficulties with both their operating system and their inability to facilitate effective typing. These issues can be overcome with a peripheral keyboard, but due to incompatibilities with most course delivery platforms, tablets are not recommended as a stand-alone option for online coursework.
While not necessarily a component of a person’s computer, an adequate internet connection is vital for online coursework. Since a great deal of the course material is likely supplied via streaming video, dial up internet connections can make life difficult. Also, the tendency of dial up connections to drop at inconvenient times can make tests and quizzes an issue. A stable DSL quality connection or higher speed broadband connection is a good idea when beginning online courses.
A good printer is extremely important for people who prefer paper copies of course materials for reading, highlighting and note taking. Also, a headset and microphone combination is required for some classes where presentations and discussions take place over the web. It is also a good idea to have some sort of data storage device for backing up course submissions and other important files, which can save a great deal of headaches should the user endure a hardware failure.
Users have a great deal of latitude when it comes to choosing a computer to use for online schooling. It is important to consider the type of degree being pursued, and to ensure that all appropriate software is purchased and installed. Most programs offer a checklist of specifications that can help users further assess a computer’s suitability.