Online courses are a great way to give your career a boost, but before you enroll in a class, make sure you have all the system requirements in terms of computer software and hardware. Most distance education schools have very detailed instructions regarding requirements for individual courses, and it is essential to ensure that your computer meets these requirements before you register. For further information regarding online classes, also visit the following article,Is an Online Degree Right for You ?
Technical requirements for online classes
To check what your system configurations are, click the Start button on your toolbar, select Control Panel and go to System, which will display your computers configurations. The most basic requirements for online education are of course a computer and an Internet connection. In some cases, you will also have access to your instructor by phone. Many online courses are fine with just these basic requirements, but the bulk of online education classes require some specific software for their classes to be successful. If you are still weighing your options of distance learning please read Campus Based vs. Online Education for additional information on taking online courses.
Online classes require an internet connection speed of at least 100 mbps, which is especially important in synchronous classes where participation is essential. A broadband, DSL or a cable internet connection is greatly recommended to optimize your online class experience.
Most courses require a computer with operating systems such as Windows 2000, Windows XP Service Pack 2, Windows Vista and Mac OS X or higher. The key factor in maximizing an online course is having enough computer memory. At a minimum 256MB of RAM is required, although 512MB or more is generally recommended. In addition, about 5GB of hard disk drive is also required. Many online courses require a computer with a dual-core processor or more.
Some other basic requirements of online classes include having an email account, which is required for the registration process. Any kind of email program is acceptable, including Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, Gmail, Eudora, Outlook Express and Microsoft Outlook, just as long as it can attach files. Virus protection is also highly advised, since you will be sharing files in the duration of the course. Several anti-virus protection software programs can be purchased online, including Symantec, MacAfee and AVG, the highly popular free virus protection system.
Most course work for online classes is conducted using Word or Excel, so Microsoft Office should be installed on your computer. Older word processing systems such as WordPerfect will be acceptable in some classes, so long as you are able to save files in the Rich Text Format (*.rtf). Microsoft PowerPoint is also used in many online classes. Some design-oriented classes will have requirements for scanners and printers and specific software such as Photoshop.
Additional requirements such as CD-R/W and DVD-R/W are also recommended for added functionality. Depending on the kind of class you are taking, you might also need a sound card, speakers and a video card. If you will be taking a synchronous online course, then a video camera and headset is highly recommended, especially if it is a Voice Over IP connection. A USB mass storage device is a good idea as well.
Many software requirements can be downloaded for free from the Internet, such as RealPlayer, Flash Player and Adobe Reader. Many learning programs offer a Readiness Test to check your computers configurations before you enroll, which is a great idea if you're unsure about your system. Often, online education schools offer the required software as free downloads from their own site.
Online courses do not require an in-depth knowledge of computers or the internet, but a comfortable working knowledge of navigating through the internet is suggested. Being familiar with how to use chat rooms and bulletin boards can be very helpful, although it is not a requirement. Participants on online courses must be comfortable with using email and know how to attach files as well as how to zip and unzip files.
A good idea is to check if your school offers technical support service if you have any computer issues in the duration of the course. Once you've covered all of these issues, you should have no problem in enrolling in an online class.