Today one of my students asked if she really needed Micosoft Word in our online class. “Can’t I just text you the assignments?” The software and hardware requirements are listed in my course syllabus and also referenced in the catalog description prior to enrollment. College of DuPage does an excellent job providing students with an orientation before registering in an online course. In fact, our website clearly lists the technological requirements to participate in an online course (see below).
But, even in this age of smartphones, tablets and Bluetooth technology, there are students who will sign up for an online course without direct access to a computer or the proper software to be actively involved in the course. We do have several computer labs on our main campus and satellite campuses plus we have a Help Desk for students and faculty. I have made many phone calls to troubleshoot and try to resolve technical difficulties. Being able to describe a technological issue over the phone can be tricky, but more often than not it’s usually a few keystrokes or click of the mouse and the problem is quickly solved. Students might assume that if you teach online, you must also have earned a degree in Computer Science. Sometimes students pose technological questions that are beyond my purview. Although my first job after graduating from college was at IBM Corporation selling Personal System 2 units (PS2 was the third generation of the personal computer) and I started teaching online when HTML coding and monochrome monitors was the norm, it is important to have a background and more importantly, an interest in utilizing technology when teaching online.
Because courses are taken exclusively online, students will need to have access to certain hardware and software to complete their coursework.
- Computer: Students will need to have regular access to a computer in order to complete online courses, as most require students to log on multiple times a week for lectures, assignments and discussion. Students may use either a PC or a Mac, but computers will need to meet the minimum requirements to run Blackboard, web browsers, word processors, and any other software needed to complete the course.
- Internet Connection: Naturally, reliable, fast online connections are critical to the timely and ease of completion for online courses. COD courses work best with a broadband internet connection, which can be obtained through your local cable or DSL provider. Students can complete most coursework with a dial-up connection, but it is not recommended.
- Browser: COD online courses can be completed using just about any modern browser, provided it is the most current version. Students can access the latest version of these programs for free using these links: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, and Chrome.
- Additional Software: Many online courses will require students to have a few other programs (generally those with specific multimedia needs) to complete their work, including a word processor.
Students who do not have access to any of these requirements at home can take advantage of computers at local community libraries (you will likely need to sign up for a card if you do not already have one) or at COD itself where students can access Wi-Fi and a large number of computer labs.