Computer Skills for the Returning Student

Computers are the new tools of getting a good education, both for those already in school or for an adult returning to school after a long absence. For anyone who feels overwhelmed by having to select a computer, learn new software programs, or get their assignments online, it is important to remember the fundamental truth about computers- computers are designed to make your (school) life easier.

If you are an adult learner returning to school, what do you need to know about computers? First, you need to decide whether to purchase a computer for your schoolwork or use those available at libraries or on campus. If purchasing a computer for your own use, what is the best operating system and software package? Those pursuing fine arts, graphic design, and similar fields should surely consider the Mac alternative in a PC world. Getting advice from the art department at your college if you are a graphics major, for example, is a good first step. Talking with other students, consulting your local electronics store, and yes, doing research online can all prove helpful.

Next you’ll need to decide what type of computer hardware you need if you decide to purchase your own computer for schoolwork. A laptop allows you to be more portable, while a desktop is frequently more comfortable to use for long projects, like reports and papers.

Two fundamental things that most students will need to be familiar with are a word processing program (for writing papers) and a knowledge of how to do research online. These are both fairly easy tasks to manage. Even if your knowledge of computers is limited (or nonexistent), there’s good news. Most universities offer computer classes and assistance or training in even the most simple word processing programs.

Getting comfortable using a computer is probably the biggest hurdle to overcome. The Internet can seem intimidating. Often people who are not used to using a computer are afraid they will break the computer by making a wrong move, a most unlikely scenario. Finding a friend or relative to help you become familiar with basic skills is a good tactic to use before you go back to school.

What are you most likely to do on the computer? Write papers and reports and do research. Many professors today have their own Internet web pages (frequently through the university’s website) where they can post class information and assignments. Most universities offer online registration for courses as well, saving you the time of visiting campus to complete the task. It’s also frequently easier and cheaper to track down textbooks online through major bookstores and discounters. As an adult learner, these tasks are easily learned and will save lots of time and travel for adults who frequently have very full lives to lead in addition to attending school.

In short, the computer skills that you need as an adult student are probably a lot simpler than what you envision. There are many places to get help with your needs. With a little practice, you’ll soon be acting like the other students, wasting time surfing the Net instead of doing your homework.