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Online Learning Penn Foster FAQs

Technology Requirements for Online School

If you’re thinking about going back to school online, one of the biggest questions you have is probably what kind of tech you need to take your classes. Here’s what you need to know about the technology requirements for online programs with Penn Foster.
Desiree Sinkevich

Des Sinkevich

Going to school online comes with the freedom of completing your classes your way, the flexibility of studying and taking exams when you have time – rather than based on a set school schedule – and the knowledge that you’re only a login away from moving on to your next lesson. But before you dive in and start working toward graduation and your career goals, you probably have more than a few questions about how to take online classes, their computer requirements, and the tools you may want to help you do your best. Here's what you need to know about everything, from the kind of computer to get for your online classes to what kind of apps or tools to download to help you succeed!

What you need to take online courses with Penn Foster

Whether you’re finishing a high school diploma or are hoping to further your education and career with a degree or certificate, you know that self-paced, online courses are going to work best for you. You want to make sure you have everything you need to get started before you, well, get started so you can be confident that you’re prepared for success.

Some basic requirements for all students include:

  • A valid email address. Some students make a new email address specifically for school to avoid losing important work in a cluttered inbox. You can do that, too, or stick with your personal email. Whatever works best, as long as it is an email you access regularly.
  • Internet access. This could be a home network or wifi you use at a library or coffee shop. As long as it’s reliable and doesn’t lag, you’re good to go!
  • A working desktop computer, laptop, or tablet. Whether you’re a Mac person or prefer a PC, it’s important to have a reliable device, something that is in good working order so you can get started with your work without worry.


Does Penn Foster give you a laptop?

No, Penn Foster doesn’t provide students with laptops, computers, or tablets. Students are responsible for having their own devices to use for their classes.

Penn Foster computer requirements

While requirements can vary slightly based on the particular course you’re working on, in general, there are a few major things you’ll need for any course.

  1. Operating System. Whether you’re using a laptop or desktop, your program will work best with a more up-to-date system. We recommend a Microsoft® Windows® based computer running Windows 7® or later or an Apple® Mac® computer running OS X® or later. If you’re using a tablet or smartphone, the operating system may be updated automatically and regularly through your settings.
  2. Internet Browser. While there are a few different internet browsers out there, and you probably have a favorite, some work better than others with your Learner Center and lessons. When accessing your study guides and exams for your online classes, Google Chrome works best. You can download the browser for free!
  3. Keyboard. You can get a lot done using a basic tablet or smartphone, but most programs have at least one assignment or paper that will be tough to complete without one. While it can be done, having a working keyboard on your computer or one that can be attached to a tablet will save you frustration in the long run.


Can you do Penn Foster on your phone?

Yes, you can use your phone for your Penn Foster classes! With a smartphone that’s connected to wifi or that allows you to use data, you can access your Penn Foster courses wherever you are. Using your smartphone for classes can be a great way to fit studying in on the go, on your lunch break at work, or whenever you have a free second.

However, keep in mind that you may not be able to do all of your coursework and assignments on a smartphone. Some programs include classes that require you to submit a project, like creating a spreadsheet or writing a paper. While it may be possible to do these on a smartphone, it’s not easy and can be frustrating. It could take you much longer to do the work on a phone compared to a laptop or desktop computer and you may have typos that are harder to catch on the smaller screen.

Additionally, some classes may have simulations or exercises that you need to complete that just can’t be done on a phone. If you don’t have your own computer, borrowing a friend’s or going to your local library can be the best way to complete those particular activities.

Read more: How Does Penn Foster Work?

What supplies do you need for Penn Foster? 

Besides the technology requirements, there may be additional supplies you’ll want to have on hand to help you study! These aren’t necessary for everyone – some people like to keep their experience completely digital and take notes on their computer or phone – but some common supplies that can make your education experience a smoother one include things like

  • Notebooks
  • Pens/pencils
  • Calendar or planner
  • Notecards or flashcards
  • Highlighters
  • Post-Its

Read more: Penn Foster Exams and Grading Explained

Productivity tools to have

Alright, you’ve checked your computer, your email is working, your internet is fast, and you’re ready to tackle your first lesson! But, before you jump in, there are a few more things you want to make sure you have available to be 100% prepared. Falling under the category of “productivity tools,” access to writing tools such as Microsoft Word, spreadsheets, and more will be helpful to your program. Depending on your course, they may be necessary.

If you don’t already have the software on your computer, getting access to Microsoft Office Suite for your coursework is something you may want to consider. While using open-source word processors or spreadsheet applications like Google Docs and Google Sheets can work for some basic classes, you may need Excel, Powerpoint, and Word to complete some Microsoft specific lessons.

There are a few options that can work for different needs and budgets. You can buy the software in a one-time purchase, or, if you know you only need access to Excel and Powerpoint for a short time, you can purchase a monthly subscription.

In addition to word processors and spreadsheet tools, having some time-management apps at the ready can help you organize your studying from the get-go. There are a ton of free apps and browser extensions that can help you build out a study calendar and optimize your time online.

Read more: What to Do When You Need Study Help

Tech tips to keep in mind when studying online

When you’re taking online classes, your computer or device is your school. Everything you need is often saved there, so when something goes wrong, it can be extra frustrating. To make sure you don’t lose your work, make sure to back up your files.

You can back up and save what you’ve done in a few ways. First, a flash drive can be a lifesaver. If you want to make sure your work is saved independently from your computer, a flash drive is your best bet. After completing work, save it to your drive and you’re all set if something happens to your device. The flash drive can then easily be transferred to a new computer or used at a library if needed.

If you’re working from a tablet or think you’ll lose a small flash drive, saving work to a cloud system can be just the thing. Google Drive is free and easy to use, so can be super helpful for storing work you can access from anywhere. If you want something a bit more secure that offers more storage space, there are also subscriptions for cloud services through Apple, Android, and Google app stores.

You don’t have to be tech savvy to succeed in online school

If you’re not super familiar with using a computer or different software on a regular basis, the idea of taking online classes can seem intimidating. It doesn’t have to be though! With the right preparation and tools, and support from Penn Foster’s Admissions and Student Advocate Teams, you can dive into using the Learner Center with confidence.

Need more help? Check out our Learning Resource Center where you can find everything from tips on how to study for an online course to class-specific tools to help you succeed!

Read more: How to Get Ready to Go Back to School


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