I’m a “tweener”. That is, I was born between those who did not need computer skills and those who inherently had them or were exposed to computers as part of their public school education. Finding it necessary to update my skill set so as to stay employed in an ever evolving workplace, I decided to go back to school to learn CSS and related web design techniques. With little extra time and a demanding work schedule, returning to campus was simply not in the cards. I chose online study through the continuing education division of a local 4 year college.
Being a bit “long in the tooth” as it were, I was unaware of all the peripherals that would be required for online study. If you’re thinking about taking courses over the internet, consider how you’ll set up your “online dorm room”.
The first step I took was to decorate my den with the same things I had adorned my dorm room with 40 years ago. “Let’s see, the moose head will go above the fireplace, the keg tap in the corner, lava lamp over here…” Hang a bra on one of the moose’s antlers and we’re done.
After deciding that I liked being married and wanted to stay that way, I removed it all post-haste.
It was time to get down to business and figure out what tools and peripherals I would need, so I put my beer goggles on and got to work. Here are the tools I found to be extraordinarily helpful:
Wireless Modem/Internet card
Having the flexibility to study anywhere in my home was essential. Also, if you spend most of your time running from one task to another, having the ability to study in a coffee shop is quite a perk.
Adequate Internet Connection
While almost any internet connection will do, if you’ve still got dial-up then you’ve got a problem. Even the least expensive DSL or cable packages will do, so check with your provider and upgrade if you need to. My basic DSL package worked great.
Chat Programs like Skype
You can still get to know your professor or classmates via Skype, a now widely used and FREE program. Just download the software and you can get face time with anyone anywhere, so long as they have the Skype software installed too.
You can use Skype with just audio if you wish. To get the full experience though, you’ll need to attach a camera to your desktop. They are quite inexpensive for PCs. Cameras for macs are a bit more pricey. Shop around on e-bay as used ones are often posted
for sale at reasonable prices.
Open Office Software
Doing homework will require some kind of word processing software. While Microsoft Office is great, it’s also expensive. Expect to pay between $200-$400 US for your software. Open Office is a better alternative. It is an open source software that enables you to do everything Microsoft Word can do. And Open Office is FREE.
Whether you’re getting your teaching degree online or taking a one time course on how to handle hazmat materials, I suggest that you consult your course recommendations before compiling your list (and in the case of the hazmat course, please move far away from me).
By the way, all went well with my online final exam. My dog, cat, and I have decided to celebrate by having a frat party. We’ve invited a nearby sorority (that would be my wife) so it should be a blast. No need to worry as I’ll be the designated driver.
Maybe next semester we’ll hold our frat parties on Skype. Look for me. I’ll be the guy wearing beer goggles.
Richard Rossi is a guest blogger, published humor writer and children’s book illustrator from Greensboro, North Carolina. You can find him at his website, www.rossibook.com.