What if I Break the Internet? How to Overcome the Fear of Using Computers for an Online Degree

The best online schools know: Computers are the technical, almost magical portal to knowledge. That’s why the best online schools are prepared to show students how to get up and running quickly and easily.

Computer skills are commensurate with confidence. Yet, many adult nurses are struck with computer-phobia, the fear of all things computer, once they are asked to complete tasks other than checking email or surfing the ‘Net. This is especially true when adult students realize that joining forums, posting comments, uploading documents or writing papers are key components to the education process.

“Adult students don’t necessarily rely on a computer like the younger generation does,” explains Jen Chavez, New Student Success Advisor for American Sentinel University. “So they’re afraid to try new things, to click around and see what happens. They’re afraid they might do some real damage or break something.”

It’s no surprise that such fears exist. Computer language is filled with phrases like, system crash and system error: scary terms that make computers sound like bombs ready to explode. There’s a perception among many adult students—real or otherwise—that she or he may cause a problem that can’t be fixed or press the “wrong button.” That’s the kind of fear that prevents comfortable exploration and use.

Yet, new adult students are always surprised by how easy it is to gain the confidence needed to make the computer not only a friend, but an ally. “It’s just a lack of familiarity with a few basic things that open the door to a whole new set of skills,” says Ms. Chavez.

Quality online universities teach and assist with computer skills

Imagine if you were a student at a traditional campus-based school. A good orientation would give you a physical tour of campus resources, a tour of the library, academics buildings, and the student union. For an online learning experience, what you really need is help mastering the most important tool you’ll need to be a successful: your computer.

Adult students are very pleasantly surprised to find out that computers skills are easier to master than they thought, especially if there are friendly, unhurried student success advisors by their side.

An online school should provide resources such as screen sharing (i.e., the ability for an advisor to share what’s visible on their computer screen with a remote user) and webinars (i.e., informative online seminars covering computer basics, tips on writing papers, live chats with deans, etc.), to help new students get acquainted with the online learning environment.

But it’s not enough to simply have these resources available to students. A great online university will also show adult students how to perform successful searches in the online library to garner the best results. It’s essential for students’ success that they learn from the university how to conduct research and capture valuable data for class input and papers. Being able to lean on a partner (advisor) to learn the nuances of the online library and how to navigate through the resources makes the student experience much more enjoyable.

Also, the computer is useful for online orientation, which shows new students how to gain navigate an online classroom, post contributions to a live discussion, how to upload and save documents, and how to copy and paste information. Additionally, a good orientation teaches students how to save and organize files, use a web browser, and organize folders based on their hierarchy or levels of importance.

The results of a good orientation allow the once computer-phobic to become computer-friendly. Students realize that computers are less complicated—or mysterious—than they thought. With a few helpful instructions and a patient advisor to lean on, new students quickly gain the confidence they need to be successful.

“Most students are so surprised at how easy it is to gain the basic skills they need, to join discussions, to research and write papers, once they have the confidence to know where to click and what to expect,” says Ms. Chavez. Best of all, basic computer skills serve nursing students in particular as they advance their increasingly tech-oriented nursing careers.