For people preparing to go back to school, the computer can be a hurdle or a boost. No matter the discipline, most colleges and universities will require some amount of time spent interacting with a computer. Brushing up on (or learning for the first time) computer skills is an excellent way to prepare to go back to school.
Most people born before the 1980s have seen technology take computers to a new level. If you are like me, you probably learned how to type on a typewriter. Penmanship, too, was important in the classroom. You probably also slaved away in the library, flipping through the card catalog, to do any kind of research.
Now, you can use computers to budget your time more effectively and be organized. Here are some different ways you will (or can) interact with computers in the educational setting.
1. As a word processor. Computers are useful, because you can save and edit later. Spell check (surprisingly underutilized by students) makes sure your spelling is flawless and most standard word processing software also even suggests changes when grammar is poor. You also can throw away your thesaurus, because that’s right, your word processing software has one of those, too. No longer do you need to measure margins with a ruler. There are lots of other cool applications you can use with a simple word processing program. You can create calendars to keep organized, make labels to stick in your books, or make simple tables or charts.
I highly recommend for returning students to also use the track changes option when writing. This is a great way to see your edits, and even share it with professors, who can mark up an electronic copy.
Most computers (whether PC or Mac) have Microsoft Office Suite, or a bundle of software designed for basic computer needs. In addition to a word processing system, you will also find excel which is a spreadsheet program and PowerPoint which helps create slide show presentations. The best way to learn this bundle is to spend some time learning the menus and reading the help sections for tips and tricks.
2. Research. I don’t recommend using internet websites as the sole source for papers and projects. However, the internet is a great tool for research, if only finding out about current research. Most higher ed schools also have electronic journal articles available through a proxy server (or a way for your home computer to act like the library computer), which can save you lots of time in the library. For mature students, especially, who have to squeeze in study time when they can you can use the internet to work at odd hours or brief intervals from the comfort of home.
Most Universities have a help desk or IT department that can assist you in the basics. Librarians can also be very helpful.
Most students access internet/computer assistance in “computer labs” or rooms that consist of a bay of computers. Usually, a student worker will be assigned to the lab to help troubleshoot and for security. When in doubt, ask!
You will also find online library access a great alternative to rummaging through the computer catalogue. Most systems operate a query or search based on key words, title, author or subject material.
3. Pay your tuition, check in with professors, and all things administrative. You can also renew books online, downloaded needed forms, and check your transcript. Again, its a simple as using the internet, and most Universities will offer how to instructions on the basics.
The “business” side of University has transitioned to online services as a way to help students avoid long lines, trying to squeeze in appointments during business hours, or generally having to wait lengthy periods for information. When you are admitted or register for your classes, simply ask your college or university staff for information on their online services and any instructional material they might be able to provide.
4. Some classes are online or partially online. You may be asked to blog, chat, or complete a multitude of tasks online. To begin with, if you are unsure, you might want to try it out in the lab, so that you have someone available to ask questions. There also will be information typically available on your college or university’s website given detailed instructions on how to do anyone of these assigned internet tasks.
5. Dress up presentations and papers with google images! Simply by going to the URL (or web address) images.google.com you can conduct a keyword search for images to use when needing graphic arts. You can find images that look a lot better than clip art (or picture files already installed on your computer), and it is typically as simply as clicking and dragging to paste into documents. Many computers also come with a photo editing program to turn academic or personal pictures into works of art.