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Obtaining a college degree is a proven method for obtaining employment with higher pay than those lacking a degree. Many companies require college degrees when it comes to placing individuals in management positions. In today’s world, there is no lack of access for you to go after a college degree and one of the most popular options is attending college online.

Can I Use a Mobile Device for Taking an Online College Class?

As 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

Can I Use a Mobile Device for Taking an Online College Class?

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. Wireless Bluetooth keyboards are yet another option, allowing the keyboard experience to be used on a smartphone or tablet. 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.

Advantages of Mobile Devices for Learning


One of the biggest advantages you might discover when it comes to using a mobile device for online learning is the cost. Not everyone can afford a laptop or desktop computer but in today’s world, just about everyone has some sort of mobile device. Keep in mind that the higher priced mobile devices will offer more of a fluid experience than the less expensive models since the pricier models will have better internal hardware.


Can I Use a Mobile Device for Taking an Online College Class?

With time being such a precious commodity for many students, another advantage to using a mobile device for learning is portability. When students can bring their classwork and homework with them in pockets and backpacks, they can use whatever spare time they have in order to work on their courses.

Distance is Not an Issue

One of the most useful benefits of using mobile devices for online learning is the freedom to learn from virtually anywhere on the planet. A student doesn’t have to actually be on campus in order to dive into the world of philosophy or theology or any of the sciences. Seen in this light, mobile devices have actually made achieving a college degree more possible than ever before.


Mobile devices also allow students to feel connected when taking online courses in a ways previously not possible. Virtual classrooms create an atmosphere of learning while physically distant from others, allowing thoughts, ideas, and discussions to be shared no matter where the student is located.

Learning Styles

Mobile devices are useful when it comes to adapting to the different learning styles of the online student. You might be someone more comfortable with audio-visual input and find yourself drawn to online videos. Someone else might be more open to simple text-based information and learn in that way.

Advances in Student Expression

While a laptop or desktop computer might work in some areas of online education, mobile devices give students an advantage when it comes to expressing themselves. Art projects can be conceived, created, and developed all on a smartphone or tablet, combining video input with audio. A photography student can go out and use a mobile device in order to capture images and sounds in their natural environment. If you’re a student interested in pursuing a degree in cinematography, your mobile device literally allows you to capture an unexpected scene as you’re simply going about your daily routine.

This is not to say that going with a desktop computer for an online course is less efficient than going with mobile devices. Each of these have their own strengths and their own weaknesses and it’s up to you to decide which is going to prove to be the better fit for you.

Disadvantages of Using Mobile Devices

Can I Use a Mobile Device for Taking an Online College Class?

Screen Size

When you’re spending hours working on your classwork and staring down at your mobile device, the size of the screen can be a distinct disadvantage. While a tablet has a larger screen area, it is still more limited in scope than a desktop monitor or a laptop screen. In addition, the screen resolution might not be ideal, leading to eyestrain or a study headache.

Battery Life

If you’re using a mobile device and you’re not plugged into a power source, you might find that you’re going through your battery power faster than expected. Depending upon the actual mobile device you’re using and the apps you’re on, battery life might be reduced by as much as half of what you need. Students who spend a lot of time on their smartphones have taken to carrying around portable power packs they use to recharge their devices when needed.

Easy Distractions

By far, distractions might prove to be the biggest problem when it comes to successfully navigating the world of online learning. While you have the advantage of taking out your phone to get some quick reading done for a course, you might find yourself distracted by phone calls from family and friends or just from having to deal with the everyday world around you.

Successful Strategies

If you’ve decided on going for your online education using a mobile device, there are a number of ways you can improve your chances for completing your degree successfully. Investing a little time and effort into your educational pursuit can have a long-term impact.

Treat the Course as a Genuine Course

Just because you’re not in a classroom doesn’t mean you can’t view your courses as being genuine college courses. This means you’ll want to give them the same priority you would if you were actually sitting in a classroom among your peers. There will be times when you might have to be flexible in your scheduling but you can’t postpone your assignments and coursework indefinitely.


If you’re taking an online class, you’ll want to hold yourself accountable for fulfilling the obligations of the class. You’ll need to know when assignments are due and make sure you give yourself enough time throughout the week in order to complete them. If you’re someone who might have trouble with self-discipline, have a friend or family member help you to stay on track with your assignments.

Effective Time Management

One of the areas many students have problems with is managing their time effectively. There will be times when the real world intrudes upon your need to work on your education but effective time management skills will help keep you on track. If you have to pause for a couple of hours in your study time on Tuesday, you have to make up those lost hours at some future point or else run the risk of falling behind on your studies.

Study Area

Even though you have a mobile device, you’ll want to make sure you have an area dedicated for your studies. Sitting on the couch and with the television on might not be an ideal way to maintain focus. Having a quiet area where you can sit with your mobile device and take notes and devote your time and energy to the classwork is one of the most effective tools you possess in achieving your online degree goals.

It might prove useful to organize your study area in a space where it won’t constantly be disturbed. If you don’t have that option, using the kitchen or dining room table as a desk is fine and you can keep all your supplies and notes stored in a readily accessible area.

Stress the Importance of Your Studies

It’s important to let family members and friends know that when it’s time for you to focus on your studies, that’s what you’ll be doing. When you’re trying to slog through a difficult lecture, having someone try to get you to go out with them or help them move the furniture in the living room can break your train of thought. Studies have shown when someone is taken off-task, it can take up to 23 minutes for the mind to get back into mental focus, according to Nicholas McGill of Inc.

Determine how you Study Best

One of the primary keys to successful online course completion is finding your best method of studying. If you’re someone who needs silence when doing online courses, either find a quiet place where you can achieve that or invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. You might be someone who needs to be in a more engaging environment and there are “open offices” where you can be around other people in the background without engaging them.

Create a Study Routine

One of the tremendous benefits to setting up a routine is, once established, there isn’t thought required. When you decide at a certain time every night will be when you sit down to work on your online course, the moment you sit down at the designated time, your brain is already gearing up to go into “study mode.” A study conducted by the National Institute of Health also showed that when an episode of a routine was missed, there was no lasting detriment to the overall routine, which shows that when the unexpected creeps in, you can break the routine temporarily without abandoning the entire process.

Take Breaks

While it’s admirable to immerse yourself in your online studies, it’s important to also take breaks. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, students are told to actually plan out their breaks, as well as physically move around and get away from the course material. MIT also advises to schedule meals in a way that makes them enjoyable, rather than simply shoving food into your mouth and then getting back to studying. There are apps available that can help you set up regular break intervals to maximize your time efficiently.

Physically Take Notes

According to National Public Radio, taking notes longhand (rather than on a keyboard) forced students to process the information being given better. When a keyboard was involved, the students tried to type down everything being said in the lecture, but when they were taking notes by hand, they had to focus only on the relevant information. The very act of taking notes this way had the important information being gleaned before it was ever put down on paper.

With the right attitude and the right tools, you can easily turn your dream of getting a college degree into a reality, regardless of whether you choose to go with a mobile device or more traditional desktop and laptop arrangements.

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