Harnessing Technology for Your Course

Online Course TechnologyUntil quite recently, at least if you consider how long distance learning has been around in some form or another, education over a long distance was entirely empowered by none other than the postage stamp.  The exchange of ideas and learning between teacher and student were entirely underpinned by a functional system of delivering mail that was reliable, affordable and not prone to the unwelcome intervention of highwaymen on the road.

Alas for stamp collectors worldwide (but not for the value of their collections) the tried and tested method of passing whatever germs might be in one’s saliva onto a small piece of sticky paper and sending it physically through the post is on the wane.  But with the effective migration into the Internet era, it’s hard to imagine many people have stopped checking their Facebook pages or twitter feeds to notice. 

Yes, technology has, once again, lead to change and opened the door to entirely new possibilities and ways to study.  New pieces of kit are available cheaply for anyone looking to progress their studies.

Here’s a few of our favourite devices for distance learning that you might want to consider if you haven’t already:

Tablet Computers

Once the preserve of science fiction, it’s now possibly to physically hold a fully functional touch screen computer smaller than a text book.  Boasting touch screen interfaces to cut down further on size, these incredibly powerful devices offer a wealth of possibilities for a distance learner. From reading course materials and lessons on the go to watching documentaries and presentations online.  And when it’s time to get to work and submit an assignment, just plug in a keyboard and you have a machine as good as any typical desktop ever was.   

e-Readers

Devices such as Amazon’s Kindle and rival devices like the Kobo have redefined the way millions look at books.  The efficient storage and convenience allows people to carry entire libraries around in their pockets.  Many of the more advanced e-Readers boast features that practically turn them into tablet computers themselves. But at the lower end they still serve as an ideal, cheaper and space saving method of carrying around large amounts of reading material. 

USB Sticks – and other storage devices

Every year seems to bring another generation of these handy and useful devices.  Smaller than an adult’s finger, it’s almost scary just how much information can be held on these sticks.  The entire storage power of a top of the range computer from less than a decade ago can be conveniently kept in a piece of kit that fits snuggly onto anyone’s key ring. 

They’re cheap, universally accepted on nearly any computer and are ideal for use to create backups of your most important documents.  Indeed, we’d go so far as to say that every student should keep a backup of their work stored on a USB drive kept safe in case the worst should happen to their work computer.

Mobile Phones

Blurring the lines between phone and computer, the current generation of mobile phones are themselves not far removed from tablet computers being smaller and less powerful but no less capable.  While actually doing work on their tiny touch screen keyboards is a chore for anyone with fingers less nimble than a kleptomaniacal four year old with her eyes on the cookie jar, that’s no bar to allowing users to read their course materials on the bus or even talk to their tutor live.

Internet Dongles

Anyone remember the sounds modems used to make back in the days before widespread ADSL and cable internet?  We have to admit we’re struggling too ourselves but we do remember how back in the day you needed a solid phone line and a properly set up computer in order to get online.  Oh  yes, and we paid by the minute too.

Nowadays that’s not even a requirement.  Hitching a lift on the infrastructure of national mobile phone networks, it’s been possible to purchase small USB devices to plug into a computer to enable internet access anytime from anyplace; at least if it has a decent signal.  They’ll probably still charge you by the minute for the privilege though.  Some things, alas, never change… 

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