Technology has made studying online a viable option for many adults, so find out what you need to get started. Most of your studies will involve the computer and the internet to access library resources, your study material and subject forums, contact with lecturers and other students, as well as accessing and using email.
Am I computer ready?
Depending on your course, you may be required to use specific programs, have specific skills or a higher level of competency. However, for most courses the basic computer skills you need include:
- Basic keyboarding skills and reasonable typing speed
- Basic word-processing, including use of tables, page numbering and spell-checking
- Accessing, navigating and download information from the internet
- Upload and manage documents and other files in different formats including word, PDF and images
- Control playback of audio and video recordings from disk or online source
- Send, receive and manage email
- Save to and retrieve information from USBs or external hard-drives
- Respond appropriately to common internet error messages and difficulties: pop-ups, need for plug-ins
What sort of computer do I need?
You don’t need to go out and purchase the top of the line laptop in order to study. However, an old computer may struggle to operate at a decent speed and handle the systems you need to operate. You’ll need access to a computer that is fairly new and has the capability for you to connect online, spend hours writing and researching for assignments, connecting to forums and watching online lectures.
Check whether your existing computer has:
- At least 4GB of RAM
- Windows 7 Home Premium or OSX 10.8 or greater
- Have at least one USB port and WiFi
Buying new and getting a student discount
If you’re buying a new computer or software, there are many places that offer student discounts, including the Microsoft and Apple websites. To take advantage of these discounts, wait until you accept your uni offer and can prove you’re a student. When shopping, it’s recommended to look for a computer with:
- 8GB RAM
- Have an i5 or greater/equivalent CPU
- Windows 8.1 or OSX 10.10
- Ethernet port and WiFi
- Strongly encouraged – an accidental damage protection warranty
- Strongly encouraged – an SSD hard drive for better system battery life
You don’t have to be a tech expert in order to study. But if you can build your understanding of basic terminology and complete simple tasks, it will reduce unnecessary stress when something goes wrong – and unfortunately, every student will experience something going wrong at an inopportune moment.
This means being able to deal with issues affecting your online access confidently or knowing how to get help. If you don’t know much about computers and technology, find a friend who can teach you or have a contact at a local computer store who can help.
The basic skills you need is to be able to:
- check and adjust computer settings
- download and install new software tools
- respond effectively to screen messages
- use online information sources to complete these tasks