With burgeoning rates of technology adoption, colleges, universities and trade schools are integrating online learning into their curriculum at a rapid rate. In such cases, a computer is an obvious requirement for online coursework. Some schools have gone so far as to require students to have a computer before enrolling in classes. In some cases — even today — this requirement can be an obstacle for enrollment in certain courses.
In order to address such concerns, some accredited online colleges actually offer laptops to students who enroll in the schools’ online classes. Some schools give you ownership of the laptop or tablet, while others just lend the technology to students during their enrollment. Both options put into students’ hands the equipment needed to take online college courses and earn a degree.
Online Education Is Becoming More Popular and Accepted
Recently, a survey by the polling group Gallup showed that most of the Americans polled feel that online college courses are at least as good as their brick-and-mortar equivalents. Inside Higher Ed reported that the poll’s results were an important step in lending greater validity to online education programs in the eyes of employers, educators and students’ peers.
According to the poll, a majority of Americans — at least those included in the survey — feel that online instruction is at least as good as on-campus courses when it comes to providing good educational value. Respondents also felt that online delivery offered a format that in which most students can succeed, as well as more individually-tailored instruction.
Respondents rated online versus in-classroom courses on seven criteria that particularly honed in on the courses’ reach and quality. The survey defined online education as “classes conducted entirely or partially over the Internet,” and did not differentiate between courses taken for credit, personal enrichment, or professional development. A majority of the respondents found online courses to be at least as good or better than face-to-face courses on all but one of the factors — “providing a degree that will be viewed positively by employers”.
The past year was particularly big for online education because of the explosion of Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Among the higher ed community, there is fairly broad-scale agreement that MOOCs and other technology-enabled education will be truly transformative in higher education only at the point that they give educators the tools to do two things: (1) expand access to the low-income students who are disproportionately excluded from today’s higher education system, and (2) provide instruction that is more targeted to an individual’s educational needs — a goal, several argued, that might ironically be achieved sooner precisely because technology enables education to be delivered to so many students at one time.
Reasons Online College Offer Free Laptops or Tablets
It is because of this transformative quality of technology that schools’ are moving to get laptops and PCs in the hands of their students. Not only does it keep the school on the cutting edge of course delivery, it also offers a leg up when students are choosing an online college from which to earn a degree. A student with a laptop is a student that can study and do homework wherever they may be; and if the student has to return their machine to the school, they may be less inclined to transfer to another college before graduation.
Online schools know that students need a laptop or PC in order to do any online work. Since all the classes are online, it only makes sense that this needed utility be provided by the school. Offering a free laptop to their students allows students to not have to worry about another big, out of pocket expense in order to enroll. By removing this barrier of entry, online colleges give students a chance to enroll wherein they may not have before–all due to the fact that the student could not afford a laptop. There is also the monetary benefit to both colleges and students.
A “free” laptop with your enrollment is also a great marketing strategy. Colleges are happy to provide a student with a laptop in exchange for the student spending their tuition dollars with the school. The higher ed market is intensely competitive these days, especially among the online players in the sector. The cost of furnishing a free laptop or tablet is a far better prospect than potentially losing several years worth of tuition dollars. Thus, many of the schools are trying to remove any objections or barriers you your enrollment in their online degree programs or courses.
At this time, only a dozen or so schools provide free laptops or tablets to their students. But, as online education becomes more popular and readily accepted, the number of schools — online and on-campus — offering technology to their students is growing. Some of the accredited online colleges that provide students with free laptops or tablets actually give students ownership of the devices. Stevens-Henager College is one such example. Meanwhile other schools, including well-respected institutions such as Wake Forest and Villanova Universities, lend you a laptop or tablet to use during your enrollment. However your school does it, the bottom line is that you will have the technology you need to earn your degree without having to spend additional money on a laptop or tablet.
When Do I Get My Laptop and Can I Keep It?
Most schools will ship your laptop or tablet on the day you become an official student of and enroll in your chosen online college. Generally, the laptop will remain the property of your school. Some universities allow the students to keep the laptop. Others require the laptop to be returned. The majority of online colleges that offer laptops allow students to keep the laptop upon successful graduation from their college. If you somehow lose or damage the equipment, or if it is stolen, you will likely be on the hook for the cost of the laptop or tablet, but at a reduced rate. If you believe someone else took your device, be sure to report the stolen laptop to the police. Once the report is filed by the police, the school can file an insurance claim and you will probably be able to buy a replacement laptop be at a discounted price.
A handful of the online schools that are currently offering free laptops or tablets to their students are listed below. The schools listed either include devices in their tuition, or offer great discounts and financial aid purchase eligibility for their enrolled students.
Full Sail University
Students who are enrolled in Full Sail University’s degree programs must have a computer for their studies. Fortunately, the school supplies the necessary equipment upon enrollment. As part of your college costs, Full Sail will charge you a computer fee that will vary based on the program in which you’re enrolled. Because each course of study requires a unique set different hardware capabilities and software, your laptop will be customized to fit your major. This ‘Project Launch Box’, as the school calls it, is offered at a considerable discount off standard market prices for the laptop and software.
Tennessee-based Bethel University uses tablet technology for its online coursework. All full-time online students are issued iPads, which arrive pre-loaded with applications that the school feels are most relevant to “your business life.” The iPad is yours upong graduation from Bethel. The school’s site is unclear as to whether the iPad is included as part of the tuition or whether a separate technology fee is assessed.
Undergraduate students in Stevens-Henager College’s online hybrid course programs can take advantage of the school’s laptop program. While you’re enrolled, the computer remains the property of Stevens-Henager — if you transfer or drop out, you’ll be required to turn it back in to the school. Upon graduation from the college, though, you’re allowed to keep the laptop as a gift from the Stevens-Henager.
Long Island University — C.W. Post Campus
The CW Post Campus of Long Island University, which offers a wide range online courses, furnishes enrolled, full-time undergraduate students with an iPad Mini. Full-time students pay a technology fee to defray the costs of the iPad. Interested part-time and graduate students may also be eligible to purchase a tablet at a discounted price of $250.
University of Phoenix
Students at the University of Phoenix can take advantage of a broad array of technology discounts to help them complete their online degree programs. The discounts include software and peripherals, as well as devices such as smartphones, tablets and, of course, laptops.
Undergraduate students enrolled in CollegeAmerica degree programs are offered laptops with their paid tuition. As with most other schools on this list CollegeAmerica owns the laptop while you’re enrolled, but you get to keep the computer once you graduate, you can keep the laptop.
St. John’s University
Full-time undergraduate students at St. John’s can choose from one of four laptop models that the school offer upon enrollment. The tuition and fees cover the complete cost of the device, unless you choose MacBook Pro, which requires an additional surcharge. While you’re enrolled, the computer belongs to St. John’s, but the laptop is yours to keep after graduation.
Northwest Missouri State University
Incoming, full-time freshmen are offered laptops at Northwest Missouri State University offers laptops to all of its full-time, incoming freshmen. While the school does have a brick-and-mortar campus, several of its programs can be completed online and on a full-time basis.
Liberty University Online
While Liberty University Online doesn’t directly provide its students with a laptop or tablet, it offers a marketplace where students and other constituents can purchase devices and software at ‘deep educational discounts’. Federal financial aid regulations allow you to use aid funds to purchase computer equipment and software. Once enrolled, you could use such funds to take advantage of Liberty’s technology discounts.