Laptop or Desktop? What’s the Best Rig for Taking College Classes Online?

Jaime Dalbke

Let’s assume that you’ve just decided to sign up for a college
course online
. You’ve researched schools, compared their offerings,
and picked the course you want.

So, your next step is to pay by credit card and fire up your first
lesson, right?

Maybe. Maybe not. Because before you start studying, this would be a
good time to review your computer setup to see whether it will support
your online work, or get in your way. The fact is, your course could
require you to log a lot more hours online than you have in the past.

So with that in mind, here are some questions to answer:

  • Is a laptop or desktop best? It depends on where
    you will be studying. Of course, a laptop lets you take your online college classes
    anywhere – in a vacant conference room at work, at the library, at a
    local coffee bar. A desktop anchors you in your home office, where
    family members could interrupt and disturb you.  So the real question
    is, which computer choice will work best with your studying routines?
  • Do you have the bandwidth you’ll need? If you’ll be
    studying from your home, I assume that you have the high-speed Internet
    access that you’ll need for studying online. If you will be using a
    laptop from several locations, however, will you have a harder time?
    (You don’t want to spend your lunch hours studying at a noisy coffee
    bar, just because it’s the only provider of free Wi-Fi near your
    office.) Weigh your options. This could be a good time to consider
    signing up for a mobile broadband plan for your laptop through AT&T,
    or other providers of mobile services.
  • How robust is your backup? You don’t want to invest
    in an online college course and lose important course-related files due
    to a hard drive crash or other disaster. If you have the discipline,
    back up your files regularly on an external hard drive. If you are less
    organized, consider signing up for an automated online backup service
  • Would some peripherals make your studying easier?
    Because you will be writing papers and reports, this might be a good
    time to consider adding an external mouse and keyboard to your laptop
    rig. And maybe it is time to buy a nice new flat screen monitor for your
    desktop, if that will be your primary workstation.

If you will be logging a lot more time in your home office, this
would also be a good time to review its ergonomic layout. Check out the
many excellent articles available at


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