What technology do I need to be an online student?


07th Apr 2017


Studying online spares students from many of the associated costs of campus study.

But while you’re saving on travel expenses, student accommodation rent and textbook costs, there are still a few essential (and nice-to-have) tools you’ll need as an online student.


The essentials

A laptop or computer

Not surprisingly, a laptop or computer is at the top of the ‘essentials’ list for an online student. Some shorter tasks like online discussions and viewing online lectures can be completed on the go using a tablet or mobile phone, but the lengthy process of assignment writing really requires a proper desktop device and physical keyboard. This doesn’t mean that you need to spend a lot of money though; almost all of the resources you’ll access on a University of Essex Online course are hosted on our virtual learning environment, so a standard machine that can access the internet should be fine for the demands of an online degree course.


A reliable internet connection

Studying online naturally requires students to have regular access to the internet, and a University of Essex Online course is no exception. Whether you’re watching lecturecasts, participating in discussions or attending live Q&A sessions, you need a connection you can count on. And although there are many public places that offer free Wi-Fi nowadays, you should also have your own contract for your property to ensure that you can always access your resources when you need to.


Writing software

All of the courses at University of Essex Online are assessed via written work. This means that an up-to-date version of a piece of writing software (e.g. Microsoft Word, Google Docs, Pages etc.) is a must-have for potential students. Using in-built functionality such as the spell-check function and formatting will also ensure your assignments are presented in an appropriate academic format to your tutors.  Not that confident with computers or software? Don’t worry; an Adviser from your dedicated Student Support team should be able to help you out with any questions you have.


A headset with a microphone

Online lecturecasts and tutor Q&A sessions are a quick and interactive way of developing your subject-specific knowledge. These sessions take place at regular intervals throughout your course, and can either be watched ‘live’ or at a later time that fits around your schedule. If you decide to take part in real-time, particularly if you have questions to ask, we advise students to use a headset and microphone to eliminate as much background noise as possible.


The ‘nice-to-have’s

An e-reader or tablet

Many of the resources provided by University of Essex Online can be downloaded and reviewed on the go, anytime, anywhere! An e-reader or tablet allows you to take advantage of your commute or lunch hour by giving you access to lectures and e-textbooks whenever you have a few minutes to spare.  There are many models available on the market these days, suitable for any budget.


A USB/ storage device or cloud storage

Losing an entire assignment due to a computer crash or software fault is an extremely frustrating experience, and can make it difficult to meet a deadline. Avoid this problem by regularly backing up your documents and notes onto a storage device or using a cloud storage solution (e.g. Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud). This has the added advantage of allowing you to work on the move by simply plugging into, or logging onto, another computer.


A printer

While many students prefer to write and edit their assignments entirely online, there are still a large number who prefer to proofread and makes notes on a physical document. If you’re one of these people, a printer is something you’ll definitely need. Public libraries often offer printing services but for reliability, convenience and cost a home printer is something worth investing in. Make sure you do your research though; replacement printer cartridges can often be costly!


Think you’re ready to take on the challenge of studying online? Download our prospectus to find out what courses we offer.