Paying for Course Materials
According to the National Association of College Stores, the average college student spent $484 on textbooks and other course materials during the 2017-18 academic year. This figure represents a significant decrease compared to the previous decade, but for many these expenses are still quite high. Online students face the added burden of purchasing the hardware and software components needed to take web-based courses. As a result, some colleges and universities with online programs provide their distance learners with laptops and other educational technology tools. Read more about the standard technical requirements for online courses as well as the top online schools that provide computer tech perks and materials to online students below.
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How Student Technology Policies Work
Technology perks at colleges and universities are not all created equal. Before making any decisions or signing on to take advantage of a seemingly appealing tech program, be sure to understand the differences and read the fine print. Here are a few common variations of rules and regulations students may find regarding laptop programs and other technology policies and perks offered by colleges:
- Obtaining the Computer
- At some schools, students must claim their laptop during their first academic year or semester. Those who do not forfeit their free or discounted device. Other institutions do not issue the laptop and other technology materials until the student has been enrolled for at least one semester.
- Software and Hardware Upgrades
- Most online colleges that offer laptops and tablets prohibit students from performing software and hardware upgrades on those devices; instead, students can take their device to the school’s technology center. Additionally, some schools forbid students from downloading music, movies, and games from the internet onto borrowed devices.
- Damages and Theft
- Students may purchase damage and theft protection for their issued device. However, some schools offer these protections at no charge. If insurance is unavailable, the school may charge the student for replacing the laptop if it is stolen or damaged beyond repair.
- Student Status
- Some schools issue laptops or other devices to all incoming undergraduates, including transfer students, while other institutions may be more selective. For example, students at some schools may receive technology materials only if they are enrolled full time and have fewer than 45 transfer credits. Additionally, some schools give the laptop or tablet device to students who graduate from that institution as a parting gift.
- Leaving School Early
- In some cases, students need to pay additional charges for leaving school before they complete a certain number of credits. These charges often match the institution’s replacement fee for damage or theft.
Accredited Online Schools with Laptop and Tech Perk Programs
The following colleges and universities with online programs, listed in alphabetical order, offer laptops, tablets, and other technological incentives for students. Each school is listed with details on the eligibility requirements, rules and regulations for their tech perk programs for online students.
Technology Used in Online Learning
Online colleges and universities deliver courses using a cloud-based platform known as a learning management system (LMS). The LMS may either be proprietary or open source. Proprietary LMS platforms, such as Docebo and Blackboard Learn, feature source code that is copyrighted. As a result, schools using proprietary LMS systems must pay licensing and subscription fees. Open-source LMS platforms, such as Moodle, use source code that is freely available and modifiable.
LMS platforms are comprehensive by design and are typically used for the following purposes:
- Creating customized course lessons formatted to feature text, images, graphs, and tables
- Streaming live or recorded videos and audio files, including course lectures
- Enrolling new students or developing self-enrollment programs
- Tracking student attendance
- Designing customized exams in different formats, such as multiple-choice or essay
- Facilitating conversations, feedback between faculty and students through email and discussion boards
LMS platforms can be accessed anytime,and course materials generated with LMS systems can also be reused for subsequent students. Students must use computers, tablets, and other devices that are compatible with the specific hardware and software requirements of their school’s LMS.
If using a personal computer rather than hardware provided by a college, here are a few tips to assure your technology is up to date and ready for online learning. Any computer made within the past 3 to 4 years should be adequate for online coursework. Additionally, computers used for eLearning typically need the following hardware and software components:
- A processor with a speed of at least 2 gigahertz
- A hard drive of 20 gigabytes or larger, including at least 500 megabytes (MB) of RAM
- The latest version of the device’s operating system, such as Windows 10 or Mac OS X 10.10
- The latest version of a word processor program, such as Microsoft Word 11 or 13
- A fully functioning sound card
- A monitor and video card with a resolution of at least 1,024 x 768
- Updated software applications, such as Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash
- Updated virus protection software
Online students generally need access to a laptop or desktop computer with the components listed above. While most cell phones can access proprietary and open-source LMS platforms, phones, tablets, and other mobile devices may have more limited LMS access and functionality.
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