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Even if you are already familiar with computers, you may still need to do some preparation in order to be ready for your online class. If you need to improve your internet skills or have only used computers in public places like the library, there are both online courses and local programs that will help you learn the very basics of computing.

Once you have those skills under your belt, follow the three tips in this article so that you can focus on your studies, not computer problems, once your online program begins.

1. Make sure you have the hardware that you need

This typically means that you have a computer and a way to access the internet. Make sure that your computer has sufficient memory available to download any software that you’re going to need and can run those programs fast enough so that the program doesn’t crash on you while you’re in the middle of taking a test or communicating with your classmates. Also, check to be certain that you have a fast enough internet connection so that you can communicate in real time. If your connection isn’t fast enough, then you’re going to be behind in the conversation.

In addition to a computer and internet access, you will probably want a computer camera and a portable hard drive (‘flash’ or ‘thumb’ drive). Your program may require you to connect using a camera so that your professor and classmates can see you. If you have a newer monitor or laptop, then the camera is probably built into it. However, if you’re working with an older monitor with a desktop computer, then you might need to purchase a separate camera.

Also, having a flash drive to save your documents can be a lifesaver if your computer crashes or if your internet goes down. If you have everything saved to a flash drive, then you can use someone else’s computer, the library, or an internet cafe and still get your assignments submitted on time.  

2. Make sure that you have the software you need

To interact with your professors and classmates, you’ll need to use the same software program that they use. Don’t wait until the last minute. Because it is possible that you might encounter problems getting the program to run on your computer, give yourself enough of a head start to make sure that the program is running correctly before your class begins.

3. Practice before your class starts

The software for online programs does tend to be a little behind the times, and the user interface can seem odd to new users. Also, navigation is not always intuitive. Therefore, before your class starts practice a little to see how the program functions and ensure that you can use the program in the way that you need. Send an email to your professor. Post a greeting to the message board. Finally, access any online materials that the professor requires so that you know that they will be available to you when you need them.