Remember back-to-school shopping? Every August you’d go off to the store to buy pencils, pens, note paper, and a snazzy new notebook—everything you’d need for a successful year of school. Now you’re an adult and you probably don’t feel the need to purchase the coolest Trapper Keeper you can find. But if you’re an online student or you’re thinking about heading back to school, you’ll still need a few supplies.
The single most important piece of equipment you’ll need for online studying is a reliable computer. Before you start your online classes, make sure your computer meets system requirements for the school you are attending. For example, the University of Arizona Global Campus classes are designed to work on Mac OS X 10.2, Windows XP, or higher platforms. You’ll also need 256 Mb of RAM, a CD-ROM, 1 Gb of free disk space, Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Adobe Reader 8.0 or higher, email, a web browser, and an internet connection. Some classes may also require a microphone or webcam.
That may sound like a long list, but most computers purchased within the last few years will likely meet all of those requirements. Older computers may need to add or upgrade a few items. The important thing is to know what you’ll need in advance to avoid headaches later on. You can usually find a list of computer requirements on a school’s website or you can ask your Enrollment Services Advisor.
A laptop is probably the best option since it provides so much flexibility and mobility, but a desktop computer will work well, too. And speaking of mobility, many students love to use their phone or tablet to study. These devices are not essential, but they do allow students to read assignments and perform other tasks from just about anywhere. While phones and tablets are great for some school-related tasks, they aren’t ideal for writing papers. So even if you use a mobile device to study, you’ll probably still need a computer.
But it’s not just about the electronic gadgets. There’s some other basic equipment you’ll want to consider before you jump into online education. For example, you’ll need a chair. This one may sound silly since you likely already have chairs at your house, but you need to have at least one chair that is very comfortable and supports proper posture. As an online student, you’ll be spending a lot of time sitting in front of your computer. Get some good tips on how to set up your chair.
Alternately, you may consider a standing work station. According to the Mayo Clinic and numerous other sources, sitting for long periods of time is associated with many serious health concerns, including obesity, metabolic syndrome, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol levels. 1There are numerous options available for standing desks, from pricey pieces of furniture to inexpensive table-top extenders that turn any table into a standing desk.
If you are able to set up a designated study location in your house, take some steps to make it a relaxing, welcoming environment. Remove clutter and put up some pictures that calm and inspire you, such as photos of your family or shots of your favorite vacation spot. You could even add a dream board or some aspirational pictures to motivate you and remind you why you’re pursuing a degree in the first place.
You may actually need some of those good old-fashioned school supplies you used to purchase each August. It depends upon your personal learning style. You should be able to do all of your coursework directly on your computer, but some online students still feel more comfortable taking notes longhand. If this method works best for you, then go for it. Just be sure to add some pens and notebooks to your back-to-school shopping list.
From high-tech to low-tech, you have many options to help with your online education. Explore your options, figure out what fits your style, and gear up for success.
1Levine, J.A., M.D., Ph.D. (2015, September 04). What are the risks of sitting too much? Retrieved October 06, 2016, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/sitting/faq-20058005