In the last decade, there has been a rapid rise in the popularity of online education. In fact, some estimate that 50% of all college students will be enrolled in an online course at least once per year.
This increased demand has led to new advancements and changes within the world of computer technology and software development. There are now computers specifically designed with features that cater to distance learning and even laptops made specifically for lectures and presentations!
So what kind of device should you invest in? What are the bonus features? What should you leave out or be aware of?
This article will answer all of these questions and more to help you find the right computer for online courses.
Computer Requirements For Online Classes
While every online course is different, there are some key things that virtually all online classes require: Internet access—nearly all online courses require you to maintain an internet connection for the duration of the class.
- Wi-Fi – While it may be possible to use computer data services on your cell phone, many/most schools do not allow that and only offer Wi-Fi access.
- USB ports – These are typically needed to use a webcam, microphone, or other peripherals.
- Plenty of hard drive space – This is because online classes require you to download assignments and course materials which can be huge files.
- A fully updated antivirus program – Many universities recommend that students have an updated antivirus program on their devices.
- Driver compatibility – It is recommended that you have all of the most recent drivers for your computer and operating system in order to ensure proper operation.
- Extra memory / RAM – Many online classes require some serious number-crunching, and some computers may not be able to keep up with the demands of several open windows.
- Webcam – Nearly all online courses require a webcam or video capabilities in some capacity.
- Headsets – Online courses often require that students have a headset with a microphone to use for web conferencing, lectures, and other activities.
- Proper lighting – For some online courses, you will be required to have a desk lamp or overhead lighting.
- Comfortable seating – It is important to have a chair that provides enough support for hours of sitting and one that allows you to maintain an upright posture. This is why it’s ideal to have a proper chair with adjustable height armrests.
While many students can make do with subpar computer equipment, nearly every college student can benefit from having a quality laptop for use in lectures and discussions.
Laptop Vs. Desktop Computers For Online Classes
When you’re starting your search, the first thing that should come to mind is whether you need a laptop computer or a desktop one.
Generally speaking, laptops are better for taking notes and typing up presentations, while desktops allow for more storage and higher processing speeds.
While the increased mobility of a laptop is certainly nice and helpful for taking notes and writing papers, it also means that you won’t be able to store as many documents and media on your device. Depending on the online course, this storage concern may not be a big issue — but it’s something you should consider when looking at laptops vs. desktops for online courses.
When it comes to desktop computers, you should not discount the power of gaming computers. You’ll find them for sale along with regular desktops, but gamers also have their own line of computers made for high-speed performance and graphics. These are especially ideal if you’ll be watching videos or playing computer games outside of your online class requirements.
These requirements vary depending on the course or institution, but in most cases, you will be required to complete all of your work online and with one of these devices. There are some exceptions (especially when it comes to laptops) where students may be allowed to install their preferred software programs in addition to the ones that the school approved for use with the course.
Computer Accessories For Online Courses
Students need USB ports, external drive space, wireless capabilities, and updated antivirus software.
For students using laptops or desktops, you’ll also need to pack your charger(s), surge protector(s) and make sure to check the compatibility of your devices with your school’s network connection.
Most colleges require students to keep their devices updated with the latest drivers and software, so make sure you check your device manufacturer’s website for updates regularly. Most online courses rely heavily on sound (via webcams or headsets) and external peripherals that need to be plugged into the computer.
It is also important to make sure the screen brightness of your computer does not change when you move between different lighting conditions (i.e., outside vs. inside) throughout the day.
Having a quality monitor will help ensure that your visual experience will be more consistent and enjoyable, whether you are watching online lectures or working on multimedia projects for your course.
Depending on the subject of your online course, some courses may require that you have a certain brand or software of computer accessories to use while taking the class and completing requirements or homework.
Laptops are ideal for portability and ease of use, but not all online courses require you to have a laptop computer. So while laptops are better for taking notes, desktops allow for more storage space. Gaming computers are excellent if you’ll be watching videos or playing games outside of your class requirements.