Whether you check email once a week or post on social media daily, brushing up on your computer skills will help you feel comfortable logging on anytime, anywhere for any reason.
The Internet was dubbed the “information superhighway” in its infancy for a reason. Digital communication allows you to tap into real-time information, seek answers at the touch of a button and communicate with people hundreds and thousands of miles away.
Computers, smart phones and other mobile devices are evolving to become more user friendly and portable. You’re likely using a computer, smart phone or tablet every day and learning a new or different way to do things which may remove any hesitation you have to earning a degree online.
Participating in an online degree program can help you gain experience, learn new skills and expand your knowledge, potentially leading to career opportunities that may not have been attainable otherwise.
Refreshing the most basic computer skills can boost your confidence and make it easier to take the next step with your laptop (or mobile device) in hand. If you want to be sure you’re able to handle the demands of participating in online lectures, collaborating with classmates via email or messaging software, or conducting assignments using a spreadsheet, slide presentation or document, there are resources available that will walk you through basic tasks such as setting up email, creating files, surfing the Internet and getting your device set up.
Setting up a new computer, smartphone or tablet
- GCF LearnFree.org offers free video tutorials for computer basics including setup and maintenance, installing and uninstalling software, typing guides and more. Other videos showcase basic tips per device including Android Basics, Chromebook Basics, iPad Basics and more.
Smarter, efficient Internet searching
- Lifehack.org offers free “need to know” tips and “hacks” for everyday tasks, including online best practices such as Google search tips to get the right results, faster. Cut search times by following simple tricks like adding quotation marks to narrow down results and inserting a colon to search for content on a specific website (for example, President site:gov.com).
- Lifehacker.com also offers short, to-the-point tips to help streamline your day, including tech tips like using keyboard shortcuts to search faster; for example, using Ctrl + T or Command + T on a Mac will open a new web browser instantly.
Creating files and documents
- Microsoft Office Support: If you subscribe to the Microsoft Office Suite, you can use Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more to create, save and share documents and presentations. If you need help getting started, visit the site for self-paced “how-to” tutorials for all of the products.
- If you’re already familiar with Microsoft Word, consider reviewing these shortcuts to help you search, draft and format your document faster. Shortcuts such as Ctrl + A will select everything in your document. Learn more from “Eight Microsoft Word Shortcuts You May Not Know,” by Lifehacker.com.
- Google Docs: GCF Learn Free offers a video tutorial which shows you how to create, save and share in Google Drive.
Creating an Email Account: Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo and more
Before creating a new email account, review the options to see what you need most – inbox storage, social media integration or instant messenger. According to PC magazine, Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo top the list for “Best Web-Based Email Services.”
- Outlook, Microsoft Office’s email program, can be set up by following step-by-step instructions on the Microsoft Office Support site.
- Follow these instructions to set up a Yahoo email account and take note of the links mentioned in the next section for Gmail resources.
Working in Google: Google Docs, Google Sheets, Calendar and more
- The G Suite Learning Center by Google offers Gmail cheat sheets, interactive web sessions and an in-depth Q & A section to help you set up a Gmail account to email, schedule appointments, create, share and store documents and more. Get started by checking out the quick start guide and get your questions answered by reviewing the tips library as you start sending emails and creating files.
Setting up social media accounts
Whether you’re setting up a profile or completely overhauling your Facebook or LinkedIn profiles, make sure the information shared fits for the audience and purpose of your profiles.
- LinkedIn, a social media networking tool designed for professional use, has 21 sections for you to fill out to complete your profile; learn more about how to prioritize each category with these guidelines from Hootsuite, a social media marketing and management dashboard.
- Twitter, a social network site which allows you to broadcast brief messages to a targeted group, only allows 160 characters for your bio, so focus more on what you’ll be sharing and give your followers an idea of what they’ll be seeing from you. For more best practices, including how to tag people in photos, post videos and get more followers, check out this featured article from Hootsuite.
- Facebook, the world’s largest social media network primarily used for real-time conversations, sharing and netoworking with family and friends, continues to add features like live streaming and new ways to respond to posts – like the rollout of happy, sad and angry emoji reactions that can be added in addition to hitting “like” on a post. GCF Learn Free shares these updates in the Facebook news section on the site, which includes several easy-to-understand video tutorials on everything from adjusting your privacy settings to managing your news feed.
If you prefer to do some studying offline, you can visit your local library to inquire about basic computer classes and other resources such as a “how-to guide” like the ones listed below:
- Computer Basics Absolute Beginner’s Guide, Windows 10 Edition
- Easy Computer Basics, Windows 10 Edition
- The Internet for Dummies (14th Edition)
- Laptops for Dummies (6th Edition)
- PCs All-in-One for Dummies (6th Edition)
- Microsoft Office 2016 All-In-One For Dummies (1st Edition)
- Is This Thing On?: A Friendly Guide to Everything Digital for Newbies, Technophobes, and the Kicking and Screaming