What Essential Supplies Do You Need for Online College Courses? List of the 10 Most Important Tools for E-Learning Students

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It was not long ago when physical attendance was a prerequisite for all college classes. Almost overnight the advancement in computer technology and the internet changed all that. It is now possible to enroll in online undergraduate and graduate courses, and all the classes will be conducted strictly online. This article will not tackle the merits of online schooling, but we list the basic tools for e-learning students.

The must-haves for online college includes much familiar equipment and some you might not have considered. The list of equipment required for online classes is not set in stone, but few of the items you cannot do without.

Basic Tools for E-Learning Students

1 – Desktop Computer or Laptop


Just like you cannot build a house without a foundation, you need a computing device to be able to register and take classes online. Luckily, the price of the latest desktops are dropping and most will come with robust internal operating systems to make attending online college as seamless as possible.

If you hate getting stuck at home while taking college classes online you might consider investing in a well-made laptop computer. A portable laptop gives the student the ability to partake in online college classes just about anywhere as long as reliable Wi-Fi connection is present.

Unfortunately, some of the older computers might not be suitable for online learning due to slow speed or outdated internal components. The Random Access Memory (RAM) and the processor will determine how fast any computer system will be. A laptop/desktop with a faster processor and larger RAM should be preferred over others.

2 – Computer Accessories

After settling on the right computer system there are essential peripherals to make online learning as enjoyable as possible. The list of computer accessories can take many different forms, but they’re essential to college e-learning success.

A – Keyboard

Who doesn’t know what a keyboard is? It is required if you’re using a desktop, and will sometimes be embedded within the laptop itself. The best keyboard for e-learning should have an interactive interface and allow for the creation of as many shortcuts as the user desires. It is the key accessory for accessing all the functionalities of any computing system.

B – Mouse

The mouse is probably as well known as the keyboard and also plays a significant role in how one interacts with either a desktop or laptop computer. The mouse used on a desktop will always be external using either a wired or wireless connection.

A laptop can have the mouse built into the interface, which requires a learning curve to master moving the cursor around at a faster pace. It is also possible to connect an external mouse to a laptop computer, which in our opinion is the way to go.

Even if the mouse is placed on a flat and smooth surface you might require the use of a pad to get the most use out of it. With the right type of mouse pad, it will remain stable, while also preventing some of the nasty elements from penetrating the internal components.

C – Headphones and Microphone

Another worthy investment for taking online college classes is the need for a good headphone and microphone. Few of the high-end headphones will have a microphone embedded within. Most computer systems come with low volume speakers, which might not concisely convey what the lecturer is saying. Also, a good pair of headphones will block out interferences, both indoors or outdoors.

D – Web-Camera

Sooner rather than later, the need for video-conferencing will arise. It is an ideal way to communicate with an academic advisor or financial aid counselor. Some of the latest desktops and almost all the recently built laptops will come with a built-in webcam. You do not need to purchase an external web-camera as long as the one within your computing system is of decent quality.

E – Flash Drive

Another good item to buy for e-learning is a reliable flash drive. A flash drive is used to store data and can be carried around with you with ease. You can use it to store e-books rather than letting the data take up needed computer storage space. Since flash drives are usually small by design, it can easily be lost or misplaced.

It would behoove any online student to get cloud storage as a backup for any information loaded onto a flash drive. Another alternative to preserving computer storage space is to invest in an external hard drive device. It does the same thing as a flash drive, but most often, it can not only hold more information but also load it faster.

F – Printer

Taking college classes online does not negate the use of printed materials, because the need to fax, scan, copy materials will eventually arise. Having an all-in-one printer at home will be the ideal setup, but you can also get by if you have access to a printer at work or your local print shop. The need for a functional and versatile home printer cannot be underestimated.

3 – Reliable Internet Connection

The most essential tool for taking an online class is a reliable internet connection. It matters not how the web connection is initiated, but it must remain steady and reliable. If using a router, ensure that it is secure and will not sputter just when the online professor gives out the most important information. Even if you have all the equipment required for online classes you would have wasted your funds without a reliable and fast internet connection.

4 – Personal Organizer/Wall Calendar

Contrary to what some might think, taking college classes online comes with work and responsibilities. What better way to keep track of all your online class schedules and course loads than to use a work calendar or personal organizer. There are many Apps one can use for this purpose and all you have to do is search through the App store of your device. Some of the Apps to use are free of charge, but the better ones will cost a few dollars to download.

5 -You Need a Word Processor

Gone are the days when Microsoft Word ruled the world of word processing without any credible competition. There are now many alternatives like Google Docs, Apache OpenOffice Writer, LibreOffice Writer, WPS Office Writer, Etherpad, Zoho, etc. There are many others and you can get a long list by just searching for it on Google.

6 – Notebook

Even though it is online learning you’ll still need the use of a regular notebook to jot down relevant points made by the teacher. It’s better to have a notebook for each online course and you can get them for a dollar each at your local Dollartree store.

7 – Pen

Those that think the pen will be gone with the advancement in the digital revolution are sadly mistaken. A good pen will serve the needs of e-learning college students in more ways than one. The pen is still the most convenient way to take notes during an online class.

8 – A Comfortable Chair

Online learning is not like a traditional classroom where it is common to move from one room to another. The need for a comfortable chair for taking online classes is of paramount importance. Since you’ll be seating through online classes for long periods, get a chair with the right lumbar back support.

9 – Is A Computer Desk Required?

A good computer desk with space for note-taking will more than pay for itself in the long run. You’ll be mistaken if you think your coffee table will make a good e-learning desk. A dedicated table will have enough space to place a laptop, keyboard mouse, and other required e-learning essentials within easy reach.

10 – Do You Need Textbooks?

Do you need books for online classes? This is one of the most asked questions online, and the answer depends on the college and type of course load. Some schools have textbooks in an e-book format, while others will require students to purchase the physical books. Textbooks in an e-book format will cost less than the physical version. Ask the college what format they use before enrolling.


The basic tools for e-learning students are by no means set in stone. Use your imagination to alter the list as you see fit. The thing about must-haves for online college is adapting the tools to complement the student’s lifestyle. The key essentials in any online college school supply list are the computing system, keyboard, mouse, and a reliable internet connection.

The need for books for online classes will depend on the university. Some will require the purchase of physical books, while others will encourage the use of textbooks in an e-books format. Either format will come with a cost, with the physical textbooks costing the most.

The list of equipment required for online classes can be adapted to each individual’s learning style. In our opinion, the most essential stuff for e-learning are self-discipline and motivation. Only if you have what it takes to succeed in the online college world will the 10 Most Important Tools for E-Learning make sense.

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