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What technology do I need to take an online class?

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Q:

I’ve been thinking about enrolling in an online school, but my computer is getting sort of old. What technology will I need to buy in order to enroll in an online school?

Best,
Veronica

A:

Veronica,

Good call. It’s always a smart idea to think about your computer set up before enrolling in an online class. A lot of today’s online classes require that students view streaming videos and other multimedia, so having the right equipment is essential. If you already know what school you are going to “attend,” then you can ask the office for their specific requirements. Otherwise, there are some basic computer components that pretty much everyone needs to have.

First, check your computer’s hardware (the actual, physical pieces of your computer). You may want to take a look at our hardware recommendations to make sure that your system will be capable of running the programs necessary.

Next, make sure you have basic software (the programs that run on your computer) installed on your machine. Our software suggestions article lists the essential software programs and also gives some ideas about where to find freeware alternatives (programs that do the same thing but can be downloaded at no cost).

Obviously, you’ll need to have a reliable internet connection. Having a DSL or cable line installed is usually the best bet since dial-up services tend to have very slow download speeds. If you aren’t able to have a connection at home, check out our list of places to find a connection.

Finally, be sure that your computer is free of spyware and viruses that could cause crashes and other problems.

Best of luck with your distance learning.

-Jamie Littlefield
Distance Learning Guide

Have a question? Email distancelearn@aboutguide.com. If your question is selected, it will be featured in our Ask the Guide section.
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