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Five Back-To-School Updates Online Students Shouldn't Live Without

Sep 22, 2008 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

Starting a new semester at your online school?  Before you go back, take a moment to evaluate your technology.  Online students depend on computers, the Internet, and other technologies not just to write papers and create presentations, but also to attend classes, do research, and communicate with teachers and peers.  If your technology is out of date, it could be hampering rather than helping you.  Here are a few technological updates online students should give some serious consideration to.

A faster Internet connection

If you’re still on Dial-Up, going to class is going to be a major chore.  While you’re studying for your online degree programs, you’ll have to study and research papers online, download applications and software from your school, upload assignments, and participate in online discussions.  In short, you’ll be online a lot.  This year, make your life easier by looking into a high-speed option.  Depending on where you live, you have several options, including DSL and Cable Internet.

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If you’re working on a desktop, you’re pretty much stuck working in one spot.  It can be liberating to be able to work at your kitchen table, living room sofa, or even propped up on pillows in bed.  You can also take a laptop to café’s, libraries, parks, and restaurants—and if you have a wireless Internet card, you can access the Internet in many remote places as well.  A laptop can add even more flexibility to the online student’s life.  If you have trouble concentrating at home, you may find it’s better to go to a coffee shop or library to study, for example. 

An Mp3 player that will play video

If you still have an older iPod or Nano without video capability, consider upgrading.  Today’s iPod Touch and modern Nano versions will play video as well as audio.  This can be great for students who need to download and watch lectures and video presentations; you can simply download your lecture and watch it while you’re commuting to work or during your lunch break, saving you study time at home.

A better email client

Some online colleges give students a standard-issue email address for all class communications.  But if you don’t have a school email address and you’re still using Hotmail or Yahoo!, there are other options out there.  Consider Microsoft Outlook, for example.  It usually comes already installed in your computer.  It’s much easier to perform searches in this client than it is with Yahoo! or Hotmail; it has a calendar and To Do feature that will remind you of upcoming assignment deadlines and daily study tasks; and it has strong spam protection and phishing alerts. 

More RAM

Have you noticed your computer is sluggish lately?  It may be because you don’t have enough RAM.  When you run a program such as Microsoft Word or your Internet browser, your computer loads the program’s executable file into its RAM.  Larger, more complicated programs like Excel and PowerPoint use a lot of RAM, which is why your computer may feel slower when these programs are running.  If you’re running several programs at the same time—and most of us do this all the time—you’ll use up even more memory, slowing your computer to an even greater degree. 

You can speed up your computer by adding RAM.  You can buy RAM cards for most desktop computers and install them yourself.  With laptops, it’s also possible to install the RAM yourself, but it’s more difficult and you can easily damage your laptop if you make a mistake.  If you want to add RAM to your laptop, it’s probably best to take it to a computer store and have a technician help you.

The right technology can make online school a breeze, while outdated equipment can make learning a chore.  Take some time this year to evaluate your technology—and upgrade where you need to.  It may require some investment, but for online students it’s often worth it.


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