Learn Online On Your Budget

Posted by
Jeff Black On Apr 5 , 2017


The tuition fee in traditional universities is skyrocketing, and student debt is at unprecedented levels. Nearly 50% of students claim that brick-and-mortar colleges are unaffordable and not really helpful when looking for jobs. One of my pet peeves is a myth that online learning is a cheaper alternative to traditional degree programs. You don’t have to pay for boarding or lodging, but you still have to pay for books, invest in good quality hardware and software, and tuition fees.

Explore the tech costs of online learning

Estimate what you will need and what it will cost before you enroll. Instructors usually announce the course requirements online.

Technology related expenses usually fall within these three basic categories

1. Hardware

You have to buy a laptop or computer for yourself. It is not easy to use public access computers. You may have trouble installing plug-ins, downloading and updating software, and accessing course-related materials may be obstructed. As most online courses are designed especially for either Windows or Mac system, using public computers may not be efficient.

2. Software

You may have to purchase specific software to complete assignments. Basic applications such as Antivirus and Microsoft Office are usually expected so that you can create documents and presentations that can be opened by your instructors.

3. Internet Access

Public internet or Wi-Fi is not ideal for the long term as it might block access to some sites and slows down the speed. So, a broadband connection is highly preferred. Check with Internet service providers in your local area for current monthly rates.

Remember, there are additional technology needs in online learning that may not be associated with costs, such as email, Internet browsers, plug-ins, etc. For example, students pursuing degrees in graphic design will have technology needs that are different from those studying sociology. Some programs recommend purchasing additional items such as web cameras, headsets, printers, and scanners.

Every little bit helps

There are strategies available to help you learn online on your budget. Here are a few ideas for shaving down total costs:

1. Work with what you have

If you already own a laptop/computer, take enough time to explore the space available on the hard drive and your system condition. You can buy a better system later.

2. Search for student discounts

Once you’re enrolled in an online class, you may be eligible for special pricing. Your university may have its own bookstore that offers discount purchases to students to buy any application you may be required to use. So, before you buy anything new, check with the school’s help desk and advisors and find out about available offers for hardware, software, and possibly Internet access.

3. Ask about employment benefits

Find out if your company provides tuition assistance, or partner with an online college/university. If so, explore a budget-friendly online course.

Budgeting becomes easy if you make saving a habit and a part of your long term plans. If you have tips on saving money for online learners, share your ideas with us.

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