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The best tech tools to make distance learning in college work better

There has never been a better time to attend college exclusively online than right now. A big reason is because of all the amazing technology available to make the journey easier. And all of that tech has never been cheaper or more accessible.

To help out, in this blog post we’ll explore the best tech tools—both software and hardware—to ensure you’re successful.

1. Google Docs

This one depends on how your college handles assignments, but if you’re looking for an easy way to handle word processing that also happens to be free, you can’t beat Google Docs. This online suite gives you options that closely resemble Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. It offers the chance for real-time collaboration between students and teachers.

2. Tools for managing assignments: Trello or Asana

We know that distance learning students tend to be much better than their peers at self-directed learning. A way to help out with that is keeping on track and on task with a project management app. Here are two to consider:

  • Trello offers an excellent way to visually represent various buckets of assignments and schoolwork and move them from “in progress” to “review” to “complete.” This is the project management app I personally use for my business. With Trello, you can create individual cards that represent assignments and then move them between “stacks” showing progress and momentum. The app also makes it easy to add attachments or make comments. As a parent, you can also access your student’s Trello board to monitor progress.
  • Asana is similar to Trello except that it offers more customization and detail on individual tasks. Another big difference is in the visuals: If your high school student works better with a “check list” type format, then Asana is ideal. If he or she prefers a more visual approach, Trello is the ticket. The bottom line: If you want to go more granular, Asana can be a great tool. But if you want to keep it simple, go with Trello. For most high school students, Trello will be more than sufficient.

3. A time-tracking app

There are so many great time tracking apps out there. One app that combines some fun with helping you stay on track is Forest. When you commit time to a task, you plant a tree and watch it gradually grow. If you get off task, the tree dies. RescueTime is another option. This one is perfect to not only track your time, but to block out distractions (like social media).

4. A laptop

As a tech tool, a laptop is close to indispensable for high school students because they will inevitably use them during the next step in college or other vocational training. A laptop doesn’t have to break the bank, either: Chromebooks can easily be found for under $300 (some of them $200) and offer much of what’s needed to aid a college education.

Why not get a desktop? While they’re cheaper, in the long run a laptop will serve you better and prepare you for life after college. Plus, you always have the option of connecting a laptop to an external LCD and keyboard to mirror a desktop experience. (See point 5 below.)

5. Tablet

This could be an Apple iPad, an Android tablet, or even a Kindle or Nook e-reader for books. A tablet could actually be a decent replacement for a laptop. For example, if you want an Apple device but can’t stomach the $1,000 entry-level price for a MacBook Air, you can combine an iPad with a smart keyboard for around $450.

6. Headphones

They must have a built-in microphone. A bonus is if they are noise cancelling, especially if you have a larger family.

7. External monitor

Having a portable device like a laptop, tablet, or smartphone has its perks, but screen real estate is not one of them! That’s why it can be beneficial to have an external monitor on hand where you can hook up your portable devices to enjoy a bigger screen.

8. High-quality webcam

Whether it’s Zoom, Skype, or one of the many other apps out there, video conferencing has become a way of life in 2020 and 2021. To make the most of it as a remote learner, you need a high-quality webcam. Most laptops come with built-in cameras, but it’s with investing an extra $50 in a higher resolution camera. Here is the model I recently bought off Amazon.

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