What Kind of Computer/Software Will I Need to Take Online Classes?

In order to take an online class, you’ll need a computer and an Internet connection. If you currently don’t know much about computers, don’t worry. It’s easy to pick out a great PC and download all the software you need to take an online class. Many online colleges have administrators who are responsible for guiding you through this process, and you can use the following tips to get started with your online class.

Laptop or Desktop?

The most important purchase you’ll make for your online education is your computer. This all boils down to the amount you’re willing to spend. A laptop is usually the best way to go because it’s portable. You’ll pay slightly more for a laptop than an otherwise equal desktop, but with the laptop, you can take your schoolwork with you wherever you go, making use of time that would otherwise be wasted.

If you’re short on cash, a desktop is reliable enough to ensure that you can get your coursework done, even if it is slightly inconvenient to be tied to a single location. For some people though, having a desktop helps to cut down on distractions.

PC or Mac?

Once you’ve determined whether you want a laptop or desktop, you’ll need to choose between a PC and a Mac. In general, PCs are less expensive, but Macs are better for certain professions, most notably design. If you’re pursuing an education in art, graphic design, movie editing, or a related area, it usually pays to shell out the extra money for a Mac. Otherwise, a PC is powerful enough to take most online classes and you can be sure the programs are compatible. Read more about the differences here.

No matter what type of computer you purchase, check with the school where you’re enrolled to find out system requirements. In most cases, you’ll need only a very basic set-up to pursue an online education.


In most cases, your computer will come with almost everything you need to take a class. The one peripheral you may want to pick up is a headset. This will allow you not just to hear your professor and other students (most computers have built-in speakers), but it also allows you to speak in return. Many online schools hold classes and meetings using only text communication, but being able to speak with your classmates can be invaluable, especially if you don’t type very fast. Even if you don’t intend to use a headset to talk to others, having one means that you can do work in public locations without distracting others.

Another peripheral you should consider is a webcam. Webcams can take your online experience to the next level, allowing you to have closer connections to other students and your teacher. Most online colleges don’t require webcams, but it’s a good option if you can afford it.


In most cases, the computer you purchase will come with most of the software you need to take an online class. What you don’t already have, your school should provide.

You will, however, need some form of word processing in order to write and turn in papers and do other forms of homework. You can order programs like Microsoft Word to come with your computer, but if you’re short on cash, look into their inexpensive counterparts. Programs such as Open Office are free and give the the ability to complete your assignments.

Your Internet Connection

Once you have a computer and the right software, you’ll need an Internet connection. Check with your school for requirements, but don’t worry too much about needing a connection that costs a ton of money. You probably won’t be able to take an online class with a dial-up connection, but even the least expensive cable or DSL Internet packages should work well enough for you to take an online class.

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