Mobile devicesAs smartphones and tablets become ever more popular, many people rarely use a desktop computer to surf the Internet anymore. As a result, a number of current and prospective online college students are wondering if they can use their mobile device, rather than a laptop or desktop computer, to complete online courses.

What You Need for an Online Course

For an online course, the computer or device you use must, of course, connect to the Internet. You must also be able to create text documents. Some students might not by bothered by typing on mobile device’s small touchscreen keyboard as opposed to a larger traditional keyboard, while other students may hate it. Keyboard attachments for tablets may resolve the problem for some of these students, though others may still prefer a laptop or desktop computer. Online students must also be able to download assigned reading materials, which are often saved as PDF or word processing files. Many mobile applications allow users to download these files or even make notes or comments within the documents. Battery life of smartphones and tablets is another concern for online students. Streaming videos and viewing slideshow presentations can drain a phone’s battery quickly and may not provide the best viewing experience.

The core of an online course is a virtual learning platform. Some schools may use platforms that work on mobile devices, but not all schools do. If your plan is to use a phone, tablet, or other mobile device exclusively, you should ask advisors or IT staff at your intended school whether or not their learning platform is compatible with mobile devices or offers apps.

Depending on your program of study, you might need special software to complete your online degree program. Computer science classes require students to design programs using advanced software that some mobile devices will not support. Online laboratory science courses typically require the use of specific software to complete virtual laboratory projects. If your program of study will have you taking these courses, a mobile device may not be sufficient.

Making Strides toward Mobile Learning

Some schools and software programs are actively seeking to better integrate mobile devices into online learning. In 2011, the University of Phoenix launched its own smartphone and tablet app, The Huffington Post reported. An online technology provider called 2tor offers a mobile app for students at the University of Southern California, according to Computerworld. Some online colleges even have special mobile learning programs that require students to use a mobile device. The popular online learning platform Blackboard even offers a Blackboard Mobile app.

For some students, using a mobile device for online college courses may prove to be too distracting or inconvenient, while others may love it. The option may allow students to take an online class if they don’t own a computer. As mobile devices become increasingly popular, it’s likely that more schools will make online course materials as mobile-friendly as possible.