As a student in any degree program, you will find many high-tech gadgets advertised as invaluable to the online learning process.

Some of these devices do provide benefits in the academic environment, particularly for students enrolled in distance online learning programs.

The following devices should be considered for any online learning “must-have” gear list.

1. Smartphone or iPod

As an online learning student, it is essential to be able to monitor your coursework and other academic developments when you’re on the go. The smartphone’s voice capabilities aside, its online functionality allows you to check grades, answer forum messages or email from professors, and keep your academic calendar up to date. If you do not have a smartphone, an iPod makes a highly capable digital assistant. Many excellent academic applications exist for smartphones and iPods; it should be easy to find an app that suits your needs.

2. Headset with a Good Microphone

Online learning coursework often includes watching and listening to lectures, webinars and other tutorials. Frequently, you will converse with professors and other students via Skype or within a chat-room. For these occasions, a comfortable headset with a noise-canceling microphone is worth its weight in gold. The headset diminishes the impact your online activities have on others in the vicinity, and a good microphone both improves the clarity of your voice and allows you to speak more quietly.

online learning

3. Transportable External Hard Drive

When your academic career depends on the files stored on your hard-drive, a reliable backup is a must. Many backup options exist for you to choose from, but the most inexpensive and versatile is the external portable hard-drive. External hard drives that are currently available pack a massive amount of storage into a very small form, and they offer the advantage of being easily portable should you need to transfer large amounts of data from one computer to another. Every student enrolled in a online learning program should consider backup technology as a must-have, and external hard-drives fit the bill nicely without breaking the bank.

4. Netbook or Laptop

If you’re like most online learning students, your life is not entirely focused on academia. Family and work responsibilities may prevent you from spending as much time working in your designated study space as you would like. A portable computing device, either a laptop or smaller netbook, will allow you to work wherever you are and whenever time permits. You will have the convenience of a familiar computer with familiar tools, and you can work during downtimes in your other activities. If you’re feeling burned out, using a laptop allows you to take full psychological advantage of the change of scenery afforded by any of the myriad venues that offer free Wi-Fi.

5. E-Reader

Many academic texts are becoming available in formats compatible with most e-readers, and using such a device makes it possible to carry such texts with you easily. If you would like to get away from your study space for a time, e-readers permit you to take your materials with you in a remarkably compact form. As more textbook publishers convert their offerings to this format, the number of e-readers used by students will increase rapidly.

Online learning students have many useful high-tech devices to choose from in their quest for the best study tools.

If you are currently preparing to enroll in an online learning degree program, you should consider the devices listed here as essential items in your academic arsenal.

Patricia Neff is a freelance writer who blogs about online degree programs. If you are looking to get your degree from the comfort of your home, Patricia recommends looking into online criminal justice programs.