In my last article I shared with you the importance of having some basic software on your computer before getting into some online courses. This time I will go a bit deeper to explain some of the snags you can run into online and what software you can use to minimize those stumbling blocks.

So, after ensuring a good browser and word processing/office software you will want to check to make sure you have some plug-ins that help your browser display certain web content such as video and certain interactive features.

The most common software that websites around the web use to display video is a little program called FlashPlayer by Adobe. If you have a good browser like I suggested in the last article then you will most likely be prompted to install this Flash plug-in when you visit a site that requires it such as YouTube or many others. If you visit a website and expect to see something, but there is a blank space where the video or presentation should be and you are not prompted to install FlashPlayer you may visit:

The other piece of software that some online college courses use is Java. Java is common for online games, but it also may be requires for your interactive quizzes or teaching modules. You will also most likely be prompted to install it when you need it, but if not you can get it from here: And don’t worry when it asks you often to update, just click yes to give it permission to do so.

Next, while you may not have any problems if you are a savvy internet surfer, some sites when you visit them will actually install software on your computer without you knowing. They may trick you into allowing it, or may do so without any input from you other than going to their site. To prevent against such attacks you can install a virus, adware, spyware protection software that monitors the sites you visit for just such malicious or hidden intent. While there are many popular ones such as McAfee and Norton Antivirus I have found personal value in free ones such as AVG , Spybot Search & Destroy and AdAware, in that order.

Email is a must, but like a browser, you probably already have that taken care of. If not, I would highly suggest using a slick free service like Google’s Gmail. Don’t worry, when you see ads that have to do with an email you’re reading, Google doesn’t have people reading your emails to make that happen. It’s just an algorithm, your privacy is safe.

Lastly, you may need a statistical analysis program if you are in the behavioral sciences or another research field. Excel, PowerPoint and Photoshop are other popular programs that you may need, depending on the classes you are taking. Check with your online institution to make sure you don’t need any other software.

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