So you’ve considered all your options and weighed up all the pros and cons. Online learning is an attractive option and you’ve decided to go that route.
Whilst learning online is the logical option for many people with different backgrounds, lifestyles, and career paths – it is important to consider all that you need to get set up for a successful learning journey.
Before jumping ahead – don’t be disheartened. You’re probably already halfway there to having everything you need for a successful online learning experience. Whilst different online courses have different requirements, the technical basics are fairly standard.
So, what exactly do you need to set yourself up for successful online learning? We’ve put together a rather comprehensive list below:
Reliable internet access
There are many options available but no matter which one you choose, this should be your first item to tick off.
Because you are doing your studying online, you’ll need to have constant access to the internet to keep up. Keep in mind, you will probably be streaming videos, uploading and downloading quite a bit: get a connection that will be able to handle all of that. Without it, completing your online program will become impossible.
This may seem obvious so the real question here is: desktop or laptop?
The choice between these really comes down to personal preference. Before you get all caught up in the aesthetics of it all, you should consider what you’ll actually be using it for. Consider things like the software requirements of the course you’ve signed up for, and what, if any, add on accessories you’ll need.
To learn more about the technical aspects, take a look at this article
You will need a good office suite. You can use options that come standard with Windows and Mac computers or download free open source alternatives like Open Office.
Contact your online school for a list of the software required for your course, recommended browsers and whether they have an online store that offers discounts. (Having this information will help you in your choice of computer.)
Many of the documents you receive from your teachers, classmates, or your school will be PDFs. So, the free version of Adobe Reader is well worth your investment.
There is one piece of software that you should not skimp on. Good security software will protect you from malware (viruses, trojans, worms, spyware, etc.), offer spam filtering, and have a firewall to protect you from hackers. Make sure you keep this updated regularly.
A few optional accessories
- You might not need a headset, flash drive or webcam to get through your coursework, but sometimes a small investment in these things can make a difference in how easy it is to complete the work and participate in online discussions.
- Noise-cancelling headphones and good microphone: these are basically essential in group discussions. You will need to hear and be heard. The headphones will also help you stay focussed if you do not have the luxury of dedicated workspace.
- Webcam: A good quality webcam is a great tool for video conferencing, whether you’re meeting with your teacher or participating with group project members. Most laptops and newer model desktops, come standard with a webcam.
- Flash Drive: Bigger may be better but a 32GB drive may suit you well if you aren’t dealing with many videos or pictures. And it can rescue you if you need to transfer a document when the Internet is down, or you accidentally locked yourself out of your email or cloud storage account. But the most important reason to have a flash drive is so you can store a backup of all your schoolwork, without needing the Internet. As a general rule, you’ll want to save every school assignment in at least two places: one online (such as OneDrive, DropBox, Google Docs, or even email), and one offline such as a flash drive. That way, if your computer breaks down or your laptop gets stolen, you can still recover your schoolwork.
So now that we have touched on your basic technical requirements for successful online learning, let’s have a look at some other things that need to be taken into consideration:
Before finally deciding on what type of computer you should get, you should always take into account what your workspace options are.
For example, will you have a dedicated space or will you need to adjust accordingly each day? Will you need to use your computer out and about?Having a desktop isn’t a convenient choice if you need to move your workspace every day or if there is specific case study work that will need to be done in different environments. And while laptops are very convenient, not all laptops have the processor capacity for certain software needs.It’s a good idea to have a set-apart study area where you can control the noise and any distractions. Make sure you have a sturdy, clear workstation to be able to keep all you work organised. A small supply of your more traditional study tools (pens, pencils, notebooks, paper, etc) is also a good idea to keep on hand. Keyboarding can be quicker sometimes, but if you are watching a video or your monitor is already occupied with something else, you may still need to handwrite your notes. You may also need to handwrite notes during phone conversations, video calls, video-conferencing, or live class lectures. Some video-conferencing software doesn’t allow you to use your screen for anything else during the call.
However you go about creating study space, make sure you can rely on at least one spot for regular (weekly or daily) study.
- Time organiser
Working online will mean that you are 100% in control of how you dedicate your time. And unless you are already a super organised person by nature, making sure that you spend enough time doing your online courses, becomes a full task on its own.Calendar apps on your phone or computer will help you plan out your day and assign sufficient time to each of your tasks.
Some people need a more visual representation. A printed time-table or wall calendar is a good option. Especially if it’s eye-catching and placed where you will see it immediately every time you go into your workspace.Whichever medium you choose to use, be sure to input your tasks and any assignment deadlines as soon as you receive them. Also, add in set study times leading up to any big tests.
- Energy Supplies
Most people don’t take into consideration that while online learning is more flexible than physically going to classes every day, it takes a lot more energy to keep yourself motivated.
The easiest solution is to turn to your obvious energy source: caffeine.
Coffee is generally the drink of choice for academics everywhere who need to clear the fog for early morning classes, or to keep the candle burning for some late-night learning. Technically, you can get artificial energy from any number of food sources like Ginseng, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, sugars, and Guarana, etc. So caffeinated drinks aren’t your only option. But they are the most popular one.
Always remember to keep well hydrated when drinking lots of caffeine.
Regular exercise will keep you invigorated and maintain your energy levels. Keeping a stock of brain food snacks can also provide that boost you need. Some good options are blueberries, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, nuts and oranges.
So to sum up, the technical items you’ll need are a reliable internet connection, a decent computer, a basic office suite, Adobe Reader, good security software. And there are a few accessories that will help if you want to expand your set up.
But technical things are not all you need for successful online learning.
A dedicated workspace, organisation and making healthy, stimulating choices will keep your mind geared to your successful learning journey.
Now that you are prepared and ready for online learning, head over to our online courses at https://assessmentcollege.com/.