Online education has been gaining popularity for over two decades, but recent years have sent participation in online courses through the roof. One e- learning platform reported that its global enrollment in 2016 hovered around 21 million students. In 2021, that number rocketed to 92 million, thanks to factors like greater employee flexibility, more remote work opportunities, and, greater interest in improving career knowledge and skill amidst the Great Resignation.
Like so many other ambitious professionals today, you might be eager to enroll in online short courses in your field — but if you have never taken an online class before, you might not know what to expect. Most online courses will provide you with the platform for accessing course lectures and assignments, but you will need a few additional tech tools to ensure great success. Those tools include:
1. An Operative Computer
You don’t need the most cutting-edge device to complete your online studies, but to ensure efficient and consistent access to your course materials, you should have a computer that can run the most recent operating systems without crashing. These days, computers tend to function well for four to six years, though proper treatment, regular maintenance and appropriate repairs and updates might extend a device’s lifespan to as long as 10 years. If you are waiting more than a few seconds for any program to open or any webpage to load, you might need to perform maintenance on your computer; then again, if your device is older than five years, you should probably invest in an upgraded replacement before your online course begins.
2. A Reliable Internet Connection
The internet is a vital component of online education. It is through the internet that you receive course materials and assignments, and it is through the internet that you submit projects, complete exams and communicate with your professors and peers. If your home internet connection is faulty, you may want to identify solutions with your internet service provider before your course begins. It might be necessary for you to upgrade your internet services or invest in internet services through your mobile service provider to achieve greater stability in your connection.
3. Online Communication Tools
Most elearning platforms strive to be one-stop-shops for connecting students with their coursework, which means they often have built-in methods for maintaining conversations between professors and peers. However, there are often limitations to elearning platform communication services, so it can be beneficial to have other communication tools on hand to facilitate connections with teachers and fellow students. Fortunately, many communication platforms are available for free. At a minimum, you should have available a video conferencing tool, like Zoom or Skype, and you should spend time becoming comfortable with using it before your course begins.
4. Time Management Tools
Online education places much more responsibility on you, the student, to organize your studies. Because you are not required to attend a class in person on a strict schedule, you need to make time to watch lectures and complete assignments. Thus, you will likely find it useful to rely on a digital time management tool, which makes it easier to draft your daily, weekly and monthly schedules, share your calendars with personal and professional peers and otherwise keep yourself organized as you balance your courses with the rest of your life.
5. Document Management Tools
During your online courses, you will need to complete projects that require some kind of digital document service, like text documents, presentations, spreadsheets and the like. The most common document management tool is Microsoft Office, but before you purchase this suite of programs, you should see if your computer comes with any document management services built in. You might have iWork, a comparable program suite from Apple that includes Pages, Numbers, Keynote and other software. If you prefer a free option, you might look into Google Docs, which has limited features and storage.
6. Social Media
Though you might expect social media to be a distraction rather than an asset to online learning, the truth is that many students connect with one other through social media platforms. Facebook in particular makes it easy to form and join student groups, which can give you a sense of community as you complete your online studies. As long as you do not prioritize connecting with fellow students on social media over gaining knowledge and skill through your courses, you should find social media to be a useful tool.
In truth, not all of these tools are essential to surviving and thriving in an online course. In truth, you don’t need much more than an internet connection and a computer to succeed in an online class, as long as you are committed to learning new knowledge and skill — but software like communication, document management and time management tools can help.