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What You’ll Need for Online College

One of the most attractive reasons for attending an online college or university is the streamlined and simplified nature of study. You won’t need many supplies to get started with an online degree program. Here’s a quick look at what you’ll need to get started:


Desktop or laptop computer

Obviously a computer is a must for an online degree program, but whether you select a desktop or laptop is usually a matter of personal preference. Many students enrolled in an online degree program prefer the flexibility of a laptop, allowing them to get out of the house to work in internet cafes occasionally and also to stay on track when traveling. Computer system requirements for most online degree programs are usually quite basic -- if your computer was purchased within the last three years you’re probably good to go, but do check with your degree program. Keep in mind, though, that some specialized programs in digital photography, web development, graphic design, video editing, and other digital or design-related fields may have more robust technical requirements.


High speed internet access

It’s a must. If service is pricey in your area, first check with your home internet service provider about student discounts. Public libraries also offer free Internet access to residents of the counties in which they are located. You may need to provide proof of residency in the county to apply for a library card in order to take advantage of this service.


DVD player

Some courses distribute training and curricula on DVD, so you may need a DVD player. You may choose to purchase a computer that includes a DVD player to keep everything you need for online college in one place.


External hard drive or computer backup service

You know that 15-page paper required for your final grade? You certainly don’t want to lose it if your hard drive crashes when you’ve just finished writing page 12. It happens, and you can avoid it. With an online degree program, it’s critical that you have an external hard drive to backup your data, preferably at the end of each day. Many of these devices can be set up to automatically backup in the middle of the night, when you’re asleep, so as not to interfere with any of your work. Online backup services are also available for small monthly fees. This article by PC Magazine evaluates several online backup options. These services can also be set up to backup your data as often as you like -- daily, weekly, monthly, etc.



Online courses require books for many classes, just like their on campus counterparts. Many online texts can be purchased as e-books, but some may need to be purchased in the traditional format, depending on your school. Textbooks that have an expired U.S. copyright can often be found for free online. A popular and respected resource for free, expired-copyright books online is Project Gutenberg, offering more than 33,000 e-books.

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