Obviously, the number one necessary online learning tool is a computer. If you are working for an online degree, you’re going to need a computer to connect to the internet. It’s going to need to be reliable and get done what you need to do. So how do you know if you have the right computer or not?
If you’re reading this right now, chances are you’re already there– you need a machine that connects to the internet so that you can complete your education. Most online schools work out of your web browser, not a program you install, so as long as you can connect and read this webpage, you’re good to go.
The exception is for technological related classes that may require stronger computers. Visual design and digital artists are undoubtedly going to want to be able to use programs such as Photoshop and have their systems compatible with those needs. Before purchasing a computer, write down the minimum requirements of programs you expect to use and make sure your new machine has these needs. If you’re going into Game Design, you’re going to want a computer that can run games. But you probably already have one of those if you’re aiming for a Game Design Degree.
If you think you may need a new machine, consider these following options:
Laptops are portable computers, usually not very powerful (at least, not without getting expensive), but small and easy to carry around. If you do not plan to get a degree requiring the use of extensive software, or have a desktop computer to help take care of those classes, a laptop can be the ideal system. You can easily travel with your classes and are never far from school. Want a vacation, but are still taking Calculus III? No problem. Bring it with you and do math on the beach. Nice.
A Desktop Replacement
My personal favorite.
Desktop replacements are computers disguised as laptops– they’re more powerful and more capable of running a lot of multimedia programs, and some can even run high end computer games without struggling. You can still pack them up for travel, but taking it room to room is more of a hassle. If you tend to keep your computer in one place except when you go out of town, desktop replacements are perfect. The HP Pavilion DV6 is an example of a desktop replacement; most are, like this one, advertised as laptops, but once it gets over 10 pounds I tend to consider them out of lap territory.
My favorite thing about desktop replacements is they’re far less confusing than desktops. Everything you need is built right into the system, so you don’t have to struggle with external monitors or keyboards. Plug in and go.
A Desktop Computer
If you’re schooling from home to stay home and watch the kids or a decided homebody, then you’re probably wondering what’s up with the rest of us wanting to pack our bags so often. Online schools allow travel more easily than traditional ones, but that’s not the only reason to do it. If you’re only going to do your classes at home, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a desktop computer to do the job.
Netbooks are another consideration. They are basically itty, bitty laptops made mainly for web browsing and word processing. These systems were intended to be used alongside a more powerful system such as a desktop or desktop replacement, but those with a good desktop looking for a portable system at a much cheaper price than the traditional laptop will find themselves in good hands with a netbook.
Pick the computer system you’re most comfortable using and you’ll go far. Online schools are not particularly demanding on the computer front, but it’s good to know your options and their advantages if you have been considering a new machine. You’re going to one a comfortable to use system: remember, this is your most important online learning tool.