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How to navigate online course technology for seniors

A growing number of senior citizens are giving up a relaxing retirement in favor of returning to school. Some retirees are taking just one or two classes to learn about something new, while others are looking to earn a certificate or degree that could help them work in an industry they’ve always been interested in. Either way, virtual learning is an amazing option. Seniors can benefit from online college in a number of different ways, not the least of which is that it offers the flexibility and convenience of doing everything from the comfort of home. Plus, it’s also often less expensive than campus-based college.

One thing about online school that’s slightly intimidating for some seniors, though, is that it requires being comfortable using new technologies. If you’re considering taking classes online, here’s a guide to navigating the technological aspects of virtual college:

Understand technology basics
There are some tech basics that every student looking to take an online class needs to know. These are all part of what’s called being “digitally literate,” and they include tasks like creating a Word document, being able to navigate a search engine and other online resources, and comfortably interacting with others over the Internet (by email, in discussion groups, etc.). If you aren’t sure whether you have the basic tech skills needed to take an online course, there are a couple of ways to find out. One is to call the school and speak to an admissions representative who can give you an idea of what to expect. Or, look into Microsoft’s free Digital Learning Curriculum. The online program will help you determine your technology skill level, then start you on an online course to help you become more digitally literate.

Orient yourself with the student site
If you have all the basic skills needed to succeed in online school you’ll simply need to figure out how to navigate the classes themselves. Your online college will more than likely have a student site, where you’ll be able to submit assignments, communicate with professors and classmates, check your grades, pay tuition and more. As soon as you sign up for a class, login to the student site and take a tour of all of the options on it. The student site will be the foundation of your online classes, so check back frequently for messages from your instructor.

x_0_0_0_14092606_800Once you enroll in a class, visit the student site to learn how it works.

Ask your professor for help
Some seniors worry that they’ll be the only ones with any technical difficulties throughout the course of their learning, but that simply isn’t the case. Because online learning is so flexible, you’ll find there’s a wide array of generations in your classrooms, from millennials looking for an alternative to traditional college to stay-at-home parents and fellow baby boomers. Everyone will have a different level of familiarity with technology, so don’t be afraid to ask your instructor for help if you ever run into an issue or can’t figure out how something works. There may also be times when the student site is down or you can’t complete an assignment because of Internet problems – just call or email your professor as soon as you can and he or she will be happy to help.

Call a school representative
If you’re struggling to navigate the student site, call a school representative for assistance. Representatives are available to answer any questions, whether you’re having trouble submitting an assignment or making a payment.

Remember, if you’re interested in learning online, there will be tons of resources available to you in case you have a tech-related question. Don’t let technology keep you from exploring interesting classes and learning new things!

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