Not Tech-Savvy? Learning the Basics

Obviously if you want to go to college online you have to know how to use the internet, e-mail, and do research online. Granted you’ll get way better at this once you’ve been in class for a few months, but it’s good to get a head start and learn what you need to know before you begin.

I personally got lucky because the first class I took was an introduction to MS Office and most of the software that comes with it, including PowerPoint and Excel. I have to say, though, that the most useful things I learned came from getting the details figured out.

For example, I had no idea how to create a PowerPoint presentation, much less that you could add animated slide transitions and hyperlinks to anywhere in the document. I also had no idea that you could do so much stuff in MS Word, either, but these days I use a ton of the features for work, especially when I’m editing.

So what are some of the basics you should know about the web? Obviously I can’t go into everything in a single blog post, but I’ll certainly share what I found useful and fun… sometimes even at the same time!

First, learning to do research online.

Before I began college, I really had no clue about how to do research on the internet. I mean, I sort of knew, but since I’ve been, I tell people all the time: I can find anything online… and it’s the truth. There’s only been a single search out of the thousands (maybe even hundreds of thousands) that I’ve done that turned up a lack of information: a term I hear in a movie describing a psychological condition that, apparently, doesn’t really exist.

Other than that? Just tell me what you need. Divorce papers you can print for free? Information on demons or mythical creatures? How to use Photoshop to make a person look like a werewolf? The best and worst web sites of every year? It’s all out there.

But how do you enter search terms? It doesn’t seem like much, but knowing what terms to enter can speed up the process of finding what you really need to find exponentially. For example, if you’re looking for how to change the oil in your car, it helps to mention what kind of car you have in your query.

Then, of course, some searches are more in-depth. In college, you’re likely to be required to cite your sources and, if the source is only a web page, you’ll probably have to read through several pages of information before you find the right kind of source.

Next, learning to use your software.

This will vary from one online program to another, so depending on what you’re supposed to be using, you’ll need to gather information and training on how to utilize your software in the best way.

You can find tutorials for your specific version of any software all over the internet. If I want a certain effect in Photoshop or Paint Shop, I go find some tutorials to guide me through it. If it’s something I want to keep on hand and use again, I bookmark the tutorial and return to it whenever I want that effect.

You can find tutorials for free on YouTube and graphic designer blogs, which is awesome. With all of the screen capture software out there and the ability to share information so freely, online college can be almost like getting a degree in finding free information.

Even InDesign has tutorials all over the place. I’m sure that even if you’re learning to be a medical administrative assistant, you can find tutorials for the software you’re required to use for that, too.

The internet is the most powerful tool you can have at your disposal. Amazingly enough, not everyone has computers or knows how to use the internet… but if you’re serious about attending college online, these are two of the main things you will need to begin learning in order to succeed.