Distance learning is an increasingly popular option for graduate students, and the common software for Master's students makes learning online approachable and manageable for all types of professionals. From the software used to deliver and structure the course, to all kinds of webcam tools and textbook-based online learning solutions, there are several key pieces of software that any existing or aspiring online learner should become acquainted with as they prepare to use the Internet to pursue and receive a graduate degree. Before getting started, keep a few key categories of software in mind.
Course Delivery Software: Blackboard and Beyond
Blackboard initially came to market as an efficient way for students to check their course grades online and to interact with their professors or fellow students through an approachable, web-based interface. Today, Blackboard has evolved well beyond that initial commitment. The software has been completely overhauled as a central online learning resource for graduate students and others. Using Blackboard, schools can allow students to interact through discussion boards, post blog entries each week, collaborate on shared wiki sites, and submit assignments through a built-in document processing center. Blackboard also allows live chats and webcam conferences through its downloadable "Blackboard Collaborate" application.
Beyond Blackboard, companies like Desire2Learn, eSchool and Moodle have all developed course delivery software that can fully integrate with a student's university credentials and their current course schedule. Because course delivery software is the nerve center of any distance education program, it's important for all graduate students to learn how to navigate between classes, rosters, assignments, exams, and collaborative tools.
Textbook-Based Learning Solutions
Course delivery software might be the nerve center of an online graduate program, but it's not the only software that most graduate students will need to learn and use. Many of today's largest textbook publishers, most notably Pearson, have developed their own online resources for each textbook. Pearson's solution is known as "My Lab and Mastering," which pairs a textbook with chapter-based assignments and regular tests. Pearson uses Java and Flash to deliver a fully immersive learning experience that supplements both the course delivery software and the textbook itself. McGraw-Hill also offers a similar textbook portal that permits weekly quizzes, homework assignments, discussion boards, and tests.
One thing worth noting is that textbook-based online learning portals are typically not free. While the cost of Blackboard and other online systems typically gets integrated into student tuition, the cost of a textbook's online solution typically falls on the student as an up-front cost at the beginning of the term. If a school requires this software, keep in mind that access for one semester may cost as much as $100 per textbook.
Student Account Portals
Finally, remember that almost every university has a central student portal that is used for paying bills, registering for classes, and viewing degree requirements. These portals vary in design, but most universities publish helpful FAQs and PDF guides that make it easy to setup an account, navigate the available options, and become familiar with managing every aspect of an online graduate program.
Online Learning Software is Easy to Master
Most graduate students are probably familiar with today's most popular online learning tools, from Pearson's textbook portal to Blackboard, Moodle, and many others. Even so, it's important to become familiar with the common software for Master's students online in order to properly submit assignments, complete tests, and achieve excellent grades each term.