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Recommended Hardware for Online College

Taking up an online course can often be frustrating for those who are not comfortable with computers. One way to minimize maddening technological quirks is to ensure that your system meets the recommended specifications.

Before you sign up for a course, here are a few questions to ask yourself.

How Comfortable Do I Need To Be With Technology Before Signing Up?
You don't have to be a technological guru to handle an online course. But yes, you would require basic computer skills. Hardware and software breakdowns can occur unexpectedly; you should be technologically sound enough to mend matters by following instructions from the technical service centre that most colleges offer. Another informative article that may prepare a future students going back college is Returning to School After Being in the Workforce. Not only should you have the hardware for an online school, there are also several other factors to take into consideration such as financial aid.

Do I Need A Special Computer Or Tools To Take An Online Course?
Depending on your program, you may have to update your computer. Some programs require you to install particular types of software, while at other times they can even dictate your choice of operating system.
For instance, if you're going to deal with a lot of graphic designing and editing, it's better to invest in a Mac than a PC. Find out what exactly your course requirements are.

What Are The Minimum Technical Requirements?
Some of the most common requirements include:

  • Access to a PC or Mac system that can run the web browsers recommended by your program
  • An active email account with reliable email software
  • Broadband Internet connection
  • A printer
  • Sound card and speakers (depends on your course)
  • Plug-ins to access streaming media

What If My Computer Does Not Meet The Minimum Specifications?
It's always a great idea to configure your system/upgrade your computer so that it meets the minimum specifications. You can contact your tech support department for details on how this can be done.
Sometimes, even if your system does not meet the minimum specifications, you may be able to view most of the data and lectures. However, you might face problems with using streaming media or while viewing images.
To make the most of your course, save time and minimize frustration, it is strongly recommended that you upgrade your system.

What Software Would I Need Before Enrolling For An Online Class?

Typical software programs include:

  • A word processing program
    This would take care of your text editing needs, allow you to format papers and create various documents such as letters, fax cover pages, etc. It is essential if you need to write papers for your online class. Many programs also include a dictionary, a spellchecker, a thesaurus, different fonts and clip art. The most popular program is Microsoft Word. Alternatively, you could also use the Open Office.
  • An internet browser
    Most browsers come with a toolbar that allows you to place bookmarks, review history and change viewing options. A popular browser also ensures that you're seeing pages the way they were meant to be seen. Popular browsers are Internet Explorer, Mozilla and Firefox.
  • An email client
    Email is essential for online students as you'll need to contact your instructors and peers. An email client enables you to send and receive messages and attachments. Choose a program that allows you to receive the volume of mail you expect. Popular email clients: Microsoft Outlook, Gmail and Yahoo Mail.
  • A document reader
    Depending on your course, you may also want to download Adobe Acrobat Reader.
  • A media player
    Many schools incorporate video and audio clips as well as images that cannot be viewed without a media player. Recommended freeware media players are Windows Media Player and Quicktime.

Do I Have To Invest In New Hardware?
Up-to-date hardware will ensure that you stay abreast of numerous upgrades and changes. It will also ensure that you can run the latest software applications and programs with minimum hassle. The most essential requirements include RAM, Hard Drives, Operating System and Processor. Video cards and sound cards are also essential if your curriculum includes multimedia elements. Also visit What Online Schools Have a Good Reputation?to help further determine what online college would be a good fit.

What RAM Would I Need?
Opting for a minimum of 512 mega bytes or 1 gigabyte RAM will help your computer operate efficiently and load programs faster, saving you time and effort.

How Large Should My Hard Drive Be?
Hard drives store all the information on your computer once it's turned off. As an online degree student, you will be required to store quite a lot of information. The currently preferred minimum capacity for hard drives is 160 gigabytes.

Which Operating System Should I Use?
The 'best' operating system is often a personal choice and would depend mostly on what you want to do. If you're likely to use a lot of video and graphics, Mac OS X is a great choice. Windows XP and Windows 2000 are also highly popular systems.

How Do I Protect My Computer From Potential Virus Attacks?
A virus attack can wipe away hours of hard work, notes and research. A good anti-virus program like Norton AntiVirus or Adaware can protect your PC.

Is My System Ready To Take On An Online Course?
The following steps can help ensure that your system is ready to launch you into an online course.

  1. Read through the technical specifications listed by the school.
  2. Perform a tune up before installing the school's software or the recommended software; this will reduce the probability of technical difficulties.
  3. Make sure that your computer exceeds rather than just meets the required specifications. RAM quantity and processor speed can make a great difference to your online experience, so don't try to cut costs when investing on them.
  4. Before installation, run a system maintenance tool alongside the antivirus software.
  5. Fix any existing errors and de-fragment your hard drive before running new software.
  6. Sometimes, you may also have to disable anti-virus programs and enable pop-ups to run your course materials efficiently.

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