Getting Accepted and Prepping for Class
In This Chapter ▶ Discovering whether you’ve been accepted ▶ Enrolling in classes ▶ Getting oriented to the online learning environment ▶ Shopping for and buying books You’ve done your research, applied to an institution (or two, or more), and now you’re waiting to hear back. What happens next? In this chapter, we discuss what to do once you are accepted. This process includes registering for classes, becoming familiar with the online environment, and purchasing your textbooks. Time to get started.
Finding Out Whether You’ve Been Accepted or Rejected Many online institutions take less time to respond than a traditional academic institution does. When you apply to traditional institutions, sometimes you’re required to wait at least two months to find out whether you’ve been accepted. Depending on whether the online institution accepts unofficial transcripts to conditionally admit you (admit you based on copies of your transcripts with the condition that you request original copies be sent by a predetermined deadline), you may know within just a few days whether you’ve been accepted.
Institutions notify students of their acceptance in different ways. Some schools choose to notify their students via a phone call from the academic advisor. Others notify students via e-mail. This not only speeds up the process, but reduces the need for paper, as well. Very few institutions choose to notify students via standard U.S. mail. If the institution’s Web site or application documentation did not provide you with a timeline for notifying students of
acceptance, contact your academic advisor. You can also contact your advisor once you’ve submitted your application to get a progress update.
One advantage to online programs is that the institutions offering them aren’t restricted by physical space, so they can enroll more students. This doesn’t mean the standards are lower for accepting students; it simply means that the institution doesn’t need to limit the number of seats available within the program to the number of seats in a physical classroom.
You’re such a smartie that we know you were accepted by multiple institutions. So, now what? How do you choose the program that is right for you? Refer to Chapter 5, where we talk about narrowing your options when searching for institutions. You should use the same checklist now for deciding which school is best for you!
Unfortunately, on the flip side of acceptance to a school is rejection. An application can be rejected for several reasons. Talking to your academic advisor will help you narrow down the reason why your application was rejected. Some of the reasons applications are rejected include the following:
✓ A data entry error may simply have been made. ✓ Previous academic history did not meet the prerequisites for the course or program being applied for. ✓ Previous academic grade point average did not meet the minimum standard for the course or program being applied for. ✓ Required deadlines were not met within the application process. ✓ Official transcripts were not received by previously attended academic institutions. ✓ Program enrollment has reached its maximum for the current term.
If your application is rejected, don’t assume this status is permanent. As you can see from the preceding list, many of the reasons applications are rejected are easy to resolve quickly. Yes, you may have to delay your enrollment by one term, but don’t let that deter you from accomplishing your academic goals. Here are a couple of steps you can take:
✓ Sharpen your academic prowess: If your application has been rejected because of your past academic performance, you may be asked to take remedial courses or student success classes as a way of proving your commitment and establishing your academic abilities. These courses may be available at the institution for which you are applying or you may be required to take these courses somewhere else. Also, in this situation, some institutions will place you on academic probation and conditionally accept your application. You are then required to maintain a specific GPA in order to enroll in future terms.
✓ Meet the necessary prerequisites: If your application is rejected because you didn’t take the prerequisite courses, you’ll have to postpone your application until you have successfully met those requirements. Contact your academic advisor to find out who offers these courses and when classes begin. In this situation, be sure to ask your advisor whether your application will remain on file or whether you’ll have to resubmit it once you have successfully met the prerequisite requirements.
Registering for Classes Even if the physical task of registering for classes is an easy one, you want to be sure you’re enrolling in the correct courses and taking them in the right order. This section helps you determine your academic path and provides strategies for staying on course during the registration process.
Creating a plan with your academic advisor Your academic advisor’s role is to guide you through the registration process, get you started, and keep you on track throughout your academic career. The first task your academic advisor should help you do is create a roadmap of your academic career. This is a checklist of all the classes you must take within your program and the order in which you must take them. This list should also include other program requirements needed for graduation. Though each program is different, some example items include the following:
✓ All courses in program listed sequentially in the order they should be taken by term ✓ Recommended electives listed in sequential order by term ✓ Thesis, final project, and/or portfolio deadline listed, if applicable
Who cares what order you take courses in as long as you take them all, right? Well, not always. Some courses may not be offered every term. If you take courses out of order, you may find yourself in a position where the course you need as a prerequisite to the remaining courses in your program isn’t available. This can force you to have to stop out for a term and delay your graduation date. It can also impact financial aid matters, because you may be required to take a minimum number of credits per term in order to receive financial aid. If you’re forced to reduce your classload due to poor planning, you may not be able to receive your financial aid reimbursement for that term.
Even if communication with your advisor isn’t required, and you have a very detailed roadmap, touch base with him after each term and before enrolling in the new term. This is especially important if you have failed a course or had to stop out for any reason and are ready to begin again. It ensures you’re still on the right track and program requirements haven’t changed since your initial enrollment. A quick e-mail exchange with your advisor should suffice.
For students who simply want to take a few classes for personal interest or professional development, the academic advisor still plays an important role. The academic advisor can serve as the first point of contact for administrative help such as registering for courses, paying for courses, or recommending other courses that meet your interests.
Picking your first classes Most academic programs require students to take an introductory course before getting into more detailed topics. Online programs are no different. If you’re enrolled in a degree program, you’ll most likely have to take an introductory course as your first course. Students often complain that this is a waste of time and money if they’re simply going to focus on each topic discussed in the course in more detail in future classes. However, the introductory course serves several purposes, including helping students get familiar with the field, institution, and studying (in case it has been awhile since you last had homework, or you need to develop college-level study habits). In the online environment, the introductory course also helps you become familiar with the technology used.
If you’re not enrolled in a degree program or have a choice regarding the order in which you take classes, think about possible learning curves and how much you can take on. For example, if you haven’t been in school for awhile, this is your first college course, or technology makes you a little nervous, you may want to take an introductory course or one with fewer credits that requires less time dedicated to coursework.
Choosing between traditional model and cohort model classes Whether you’ll be enrolling in courses that follow a traditional model or a cohort model is something to consider when looking at degree or certification program structures during the interviewing process that we describe in Chapter 5. The structure-model decision is determined by the institution and/or department sponsoring the program, and in most cases you won’t have a choice of models. Here are the differences between the two:
✓ Traditional model: In a traditional model, you may be required to take an introductory class as your first course, but then you break off from the pack and choose your own path. This is where paying attention to prerequisite requirements and details such as how often a course
is offered throughout a year is important. Freedom is nice, but with it comes responsibility. The traditional model is great for students who want more control over their own destination. They can choose what classes to take and in what order. However, this model does require more planning. If you choose this model, it’s important to communicate with your academic advisor often so that he can insure you’re on the right track. ✓ Cohort model: A cohort model (which we introduce in Chapter 4) is one where you start and stop with the same people in every class. The only time students mix in this model is if the program allows students to choose elective courses throughout the program. For example, say you want to get a Master of Education degree. Jane Smith is in your first course with you — EDD101: Introduction to Education. Jane is in the next three courses with you as well. However, after taking the four core courses, it’s time for you to take specialty courses. You may choose to focus on elementary education, while Jane decides to take courses in special education. At this point, you part ways and see each other at graduation. In a cohort model, everyone who starts at the same time should finish at the same time, whether they take the same classes or not. For many students, the cohort model is best because they like the fact that their entire academic career is already planned out. Plus, it’s not uncommon for students to become lifelong friends after “surviving” an entire degree program together. However, some students prefer diversity and would rather have different classmates from one course to the next.
Whether to participate in a traditional model or a cohort model is really only a concern for those participating in a degree program. If you’re taking classes for professional development or out of interest, you’ll participate in a more traditional model where you choose what classes you take and when. However, you may still need to meet prerequisite requirements. If a course you want to take has a prerequisite you’d rather forgo, talk to your advisor, who may forward your request to the instructor. If the instructor is willing to consider your petition, he may ask you to provide proof that you understand the concepts presented in the prerequisite course. For example, you may have to submit your resume or take a proficiency exam. But don’t be surprised if the instructor requires you to take the prerequisite course.
Deciding on other types of class structures In Chapter 4 we introduce you to a variety of other course formats that you may want to consider when registering for courses. For example, if you’re enrolled in a program that’s geographically close, you may want to consider a blended program where you’re provided some face-to-face opportunities with the instructor and your classmates. If distance is an issue, but you like having voice interaction with others, a predominantly synchronous class
may suit your learning style better. But, if your work/life schedule provides limited study time, you may be better off taking a self-paced course.
As nice as it is to have choices, remember that course formats can be different from class to class within the same program depending on the program, course content, and instructor preference. Therefore, it’s important to get a sense of the entire program’s expectations when conducting your research.
Gathering the information you need to register Whether you register online, via mail, or over the phone with your academic advisor, you need to have the following information at your disposal for each class you want to take:
✓ Course Term: The term name and year including start and stop dates, for example, Fall 2010, Aug. 10–Dec. 13, 2010. ✓ Course Title: The name of the course provided in the course catalog. This is often an abbreviated title due to the character restrictions of most catalog applications. An example of a full course title is English 101: Composition 1; a catalog may abbreviate it as ENG101 Comp1. ✓ Course ID/Course Reference Number (CRN): The Course ID is usually a letter representing the department followed by a course number. For example, E101 is the course ID for English 101: An Introduction to Writing. The CRN is an extension of the Course ID that usually includes a cohort identification and section number. For example, E100 OL1 002 could be the online version for English 101 and the second section offered to cohort 1. (We discuss cohorts in the earlier section, “Choosing between traditional model and cohort model classes.”) ✓ Instructor: The name of the instructor teaching the section of the course you’re enrolling in.
Most of this information can be found in your course catalog or the checklist/ roadmap document you create with your academic advisor. However, you won’t be able to find the CRN or specific instructor for the courses without going to the institution’s course schedule page. This page is usually connected with the registration Web site so that you can determine your desired course section and register right there. Contact your advisor and ask him to show you where to find this information.
Understanding registration processes Though your advisor helps you determine your academic path and is available for questions when needed, actually registering for classes will most
likely be your responsibility. Academic institutions use a variety of Webbased applications and interfaces for registration; some institutions give you the option to register via the phone or good old-fashioned snail mail.
The two biggest differences between registering online and mailing in your paperwork are time and technology. It can take two weeks or more to mail in your registration, receive confirmation, and process the financial paperwork. Because of the added time it takes to process information, and the fact that institution staff simply enter the information into the same system that you would if you were registering online, some institutions don’t allow you to register via mail.
Some institutions use the phone as a way for you to dial-in to an automated registration system. You dial a number, enter a Student ID and numeric password provided by your academic advisor, and register for courses using the same course information as previously listed.
But hey, you’re signing up for an online class! The technology route is for you. It’s also a great exercise for practicing Web navigation. What better time to start sharpening those skills? Figure 7-1 illustrates an example of what an online registration system might look like. In this example, you can see that all education (EDD) courses are about to be listed because all other fields are blank or have “all” chosen. If you know the course number or title, you may be able to search for those specific fields directly. Upon clicking Class Search, you would get a list of all the courses that match your search criteria, including each course’s title, ID/CRN, instructor, start date, end date, and possibly more. Registering for a course is as simple as clicking on it.
Remember that each institution uses different registration technology and it make look different than what you see in Figure 7-1. However, the general information about each course will be the same.
Taking action if a course you want is full One advantage of a cohort model (which we describe earlier in this chapter) is that you’re almost always guaranteed a seat in every course you need. When a cohort fills up, either a new cohort is started or students are asked to wait one term and start during the next rotation of courses.
If you’re in a traditional program and the course you want fills up, contact your academic advisor. Sometimes, he can tell you whether enough other students need the course to justify opening another section. Also contact the instructor of the course. Instructors are often given the ability to admit additional students beyond the standard enrollment. If all else fails, work with your advisor to find another course in your program and update your academic roadmap accordingly.
When in doubt: Talking to your academic advisor How many times can we tell you to contact your advisor when you need something? Three, four, six, ten? We do so because this relationship is truly critical! Your advisor’s job is to help you succeed. Take advantage of this and ask for help when you need it.
The assistance your advisor provides is priceless. However, never rely on one person blindly. All humans make mistakes. Be sure you understand what’s going on at all times and ask questions when they arise. One of the best ways to do this is to prepare everything yourself, such as your registration schedule, and ask your advisor simply to review it and provide feedback.
Getting Oriented Institutions typically offer orientation sessions for new students enrolling in their first online course — whether enrolled in a degree program or single course. These sessions are usually a one-time event with resources that you can access throughout your academic experience as needed. Research shows
that students who participate in an orientation program are more likely to succeed academically. Therefore, many online institutions provide orientation programs, even to those who are only taking one online course. Some institutions require students to participate, whereas at other institutions participation is voluntary.
Trust us when we tell you that participating in an orientation program is worth your time and effort. It has been our experience that students who don’t participate in an orientation program often are more confused and frustrated because they have to learn how to navigate within the environment while also focusing on academic deadlines.
To help you avoid becoming one of those frustrated and lost students, in the following sections we discuss how to determine what kind of orientation is available and how to participate in the process.
Determining whether an orientation is available and/or required Hopefully, you asked about orientation during your initial interview when researching online programs (see Chapter 5 for more about this process). However, you may not have discussed the details needed to register for and participate in the orientation. This information should be provided with your acceptance information. If not, you should contact your academic advisor immediately. The sooner you know, the sooner you can start planning.
If you didn’t discuss this during the interview process, again, contact your academic advisor immediately. Knowing whether you’re expected to participate in an orientation program and whether it’s offered online is important. It’s also important for you to know the timing of the orientation and whether missing it would delay you from starting your program.
Some institutions require you to participate in an orientation program as a degree requirement. It would be a shame to skip orientation and not find out until you’re ready to graduate that you’re ineligible because you never took the orientation.
Distinguishing types of orientation programs Orientation programs for online courses are provided via two delivery methods. Some institutions require students to attend an orientation at the campus, whereas others offer an online equivalent.
Face-to-face orientation An institution may ask for you to attend an orientation on campus for a number of reasons. Being on-site provides a secure way of confirming your identity and gives you the opportunity to meet some of your faculty and support staff face-to-face. You can confirm that your paperwork is in order (financial aid, registration, and other important documents) and get to know some of your peers. This experience also helps you feel more connected to the institution itself.
Other benefits of face-to-face orientation include the following:
✓ Live computer demonstrations: Most likely, you get to learn about the online environment in a computer lab where someone actually demonstrates how to log in, navigate within the system, and perform other tasks needed to successfully participate in the institution’s online classes. You may even get to log in yourself to ensure that you feel comfortable doing this on your own before returning home. This experience is priceless! It’s a good thing, too, because in this situation, you’re responsible for travel, lodging, and food expenses; you may as well make the most of your orientation experience. ✓ Q&A opportunities: You’re introduced to policies and procedures in an environment where you can ask questions and receive immediate answers. You also get to hear the questions asked by your peers and the answers to those questions as well.
Online orientation In contrast to a face-to-face orientation, you may be offered an orientation that is completely online. Online orientation programs are usually created one of four ways:
✓ Web pages on the institution’s Web site: Institutions that don’t require students to participate in an orientation program may simply develop Web pages and provide students links to those pages in their acceptance documentation. These pages may be compiled on one site (usually the technology support department’s Web site) with a navigation system, or they may be randomly scattered and referenced as needed within your course. For example, separate links to technical information may lead you to a different site than links to library resources, which may lead you to a separate set of resources maintained by library staff. In this form of orientation, no one knows your progress. ✓ Self-paced orientation inside the course management system: This method is very similar to the preceding one in that the materials are available immediately and 24/7, but it’s a little more authentic in that you get to work within the course management system you’ll use for coursework. The institution can track student completion through the course management system.
✓ Instructor-led orientation inside the course management system: Some institutions require a more formal orientation program. These institutions hire an instructor to facilitate an online orientation very similar to the other online sessions of the academic courses you enroll in. The orientation lasts a couple weeks, at most. The advantage to this structure is having an instructor available to answer questions when needed. The disadvantage to this structure is that you may not have access to the materials once the course is complete. Another disadvantage is that these orientations have specific start and stop dates. If your acceptance to the institution came after the orientation class began, you may have to wait until the course is offered again before enrolling in courses required by your degree program, unless the institution allows you to concurrently enroll in both the orientation and program courses. ✓ Synchronous Web conference facilitated by an instructor: Synchronous Web conferencing tools may be used by some institutions to hold live sessions where the facilitator can take participants on a virtual tour of a course management system, a virtual library, and other utilized instructional tools. The advantage of this method is that you have a live person you can ask questions of, and orientation is accomplished quickly and expediently. The obvious disadvantage is working with scheduling challenges.
Figure 7-2 provides an illustration of what an online orientation program may look like. In this example, nursing students are provided with a virtual guide (talking avatar) that welcomes them to the program and provides resources to important program information, including policies/procedures, technical support, academic services, and other important information. In this specific orientation, students also get to watch a welcome video from the program’s dean and the university’s president. Students have access to these materials at any time by going to a Web site that is linked to the student’s login portal.
Participating in orientation No matter what type of orientation program your institution offers, be sure to play an active role. We can’t stress enough how beneficial participating in an orientation program can be. This is a great time to learn how to navigate and use your institution’s technology in a safe environment without the pressures of homework and assignment deadlines. In the following sections, we explain how to register for orientation (if needed) and provide pointers on how to make the most of your session.
Registering for the orientation (if necessary) To track which students have participated in the orientation, you may be asked to register for it as if you were registering for a class; your school will provide instructions on how to do so. As a matter of fact, institutions that require this component track it on your transcript as a way of easily determining whether
you’ve successfully met graduation requirements. Other institutions, especially those where the orientation program is not required, may not have a registration system.
Don’t get too excited about the thought of the orientation program being listed on your transcript. It’s not going to boost your Grade Point Average (GPA). Most orientation programs, even those that are required, are zerocredit requirements. This means they can keep you from graduating, but they don’t affect your academic standing.
Taking a virtual tour and noting important information Most orientations, whether they’re face-to-face or online, provide students with some kind of virtual tour of the learning environment. These tours can be developed using still screenshots of an example course, video, or application sharing in a live environment.
During a virtual tour, students are provided with a visual demonstration of how to log in, navigate within the course management system, and perform common, daily tasks. These may include reading new announcements from the instructor, checking for new posts within the discussion forum, replying to a peer’s post, checking internal e-mail, submitting assignments, and using other software required by your academic program.
As you participate in the orientation program, be sure to note important information for future reference. Keep this information close to you when studying. Here are a few vital pieces of information to write down:
✓ Contact information for technical support, including e-mail and phone number (see Chapter 9 for more about technical support) ✓ The URL to the institution’s course management system where your classes will be housed ✓ Steps for logging in and navigating to your virtual classroom (see Chapter 8 for general tips) ✓ How to navigate and log in to the library (see Chapter 11 for basic guidelines) ✓ How to start a new discussion post inside your course’s discussion forum (see Chapter 10 for an introduction) ✓ Any additional tips provided for student success
This tour is one of the most valuable assets of the orientation program. If this resource is something you can get to anytime, be sure to note its location for future reference. You should also bookmark important external resources linked to from within the orientation. Finally, don’t forget to bookmark other important sites, such as your institution’s home page, the course management system login page, the library, and the technical support home page.
Browsers allow you to determine whether you want a bookmarked page to be displayed on the toolbar, where you see it every time you open the browser, or in the regular list of bookmarks. Put the login page on your toolbar so you can find it easily!
Buying Books After registering for your courses, you need to find out what textbooks and other supplies are required for your courses. This section helps you determine how to find out what supplies you need and how to purchase those supplies.
Knowing which textbooks you need Most brick-and-mortar schools have switched to an electronic registration system. As a result, institutions have also connected their registration systems to electronic bookstores. Therefore, after completing your course registration process, you see a button labeled “Buy Your Books Now” that links to the institution’s online bookstore. Clicking on this link not only takes you to the virtual bookstore, it also creates a list of textbooks and supplies you need based on the courses you’re enrolled in. Clicking this button doesn’t obligate you to purchase your books from this site. It’s just the best way to find out what books and supplies are required for your courses. Some institutions may provide a syllabus link in their course listings, which often includes required materials.
However, it’s important to check the date that the syllabus was updated before using it as a reference for purchasing books and supplies.
Deciding where to buy your textbooks Just because your institution’s registration system is connected to an online bookstore doesn’t mean that’s where you have to purchase your gear. You have choices! Granted, purchasing your textbooks and supplies from your institution’s online bookstore can be quick and convenient for many reasons:
✓ You know you’re getting the right books and supplies. ✓ The process for purchasing the books and supplies is integrated with or linked to the registration system, making the purchase a quick one. ✓ The books and supplies are delivered right to your door (with a shipping fee of course).
But, are you getting the best deal, especially when it comes to textbooks? Sometimes purchasing textbooks via the institution’s bookstore is more expensive. Determining where you can purchase your textbooks at the best price takes some legwork. First, you need an accurate list of all your required textbooks. You can find this information through the institution’s registration system or the online bookstore. Be sure to write down the following information before searching elsewhere:
✓ Title of the textbook ✓ Edition of the textbook (some newer editions are really different from their older editions) ✓ Year of publication ✓ Author(s) of the textbook ✓ ISBN of the textbook
Local bookstores are a great place to start your hunt for a bargain. By providing bookstore staff with the preceding information, especially the ISBN number, they should be able to quickly look up prices for you. They should even be able to do this over the phone, saving you the time and gas it would take to drive all over town.
Another gas-saving technique is to check out other online bookstores, such as Amazon.com. Because online bookstores have a larger market to cater to, they often purchase items in high quantities, allowing them to discount the price to consumers. Another advantage to online bookstores is that they deliver the books right to your door. Depending on the amount of your purchase, you may qualify to have the books shipped for free.
We recommend that you shop around and look for the best deal before automatically purchasing a textbook from the institution. You may even want to purchase your textbooks for the same term from multiple vendors. When doing this, though, be sure to pay attention to taxes and shipping costs to make sure you’re really getting the best deal.
Whenever you’re looking for textbooks outside the institution, mention that you’re a student. Some bookstores provide educational discounts to students. If your institution doesn’t provide you with an ID (some online institutions don’t), see whether the vendor will accept a copy of your registration as proof, or contact your advisor.
Buying new or used — that is the question Most academic and online bookstores give you the option to purchase either new or used textbooks. Whether a textbook is available as a used book is based on whether the same book has been used in the past and whether students sold the book back to the bookstore at the end of the term.
So, should you purchase new or used books? New books are for you if:
✓ You like to be the first to highlight and write comments in the margins. ✓ You don’t want to read what others thought was important (old highlighting and notes). ✓ You have lots of money. New books are more expensive! ✓ New books smell good to you (like new cars).
Of course, every issue has two sides. Used books are good for you if:
✓ You want to save money. You can save upwards of 40 percent of your total costs by purchasing used textbooks. ✓ You see value in reading what others have written in the margins. ✓ You don’t care about reselling. It’s hard to resell a used book. Buyers are more reluctant to purchase a book with more than one previous owner.
Buying used books offers some obvious benefits. But, do you know what you’re getting when you buy them online?
Sites like Amazon.com or Half.com provide a venue for people to sell books they no longer need. To sell on these sites, a seller must first create a profile. Each of a seller’s items is described by providing the book’s overall condition and any special conditions or damages endured by the book. For example, you may read an ad that says something like this: “Book in great condition with highlighted text in 3 of the 13 chapters. No writings in the margin and no bent
pages. This book is a steal.” Some ads even have pictures of the book, which allow you to see proof of its condition. This feature is great for ensuring you’re buying from the right person.
Another way you can determine whether you’re purchasing from an honest person is to check the seller’s ratings. Attached to each seller’s profile is a rating system that allows buyers to rate their purchasing experiences with that seller. These ratings are public for other prospective buyers to see. They allow you to see whether the seller has provided honest information about his products, shipped them in a timely manner, and provided quality customer service. A positive rating may look something like this: “Overall rating 99%,” and one of the buyer’s comments to go along with this seller’s rating might look like this: “Great customer service and product was in excellent shape. Fast shipping too. A+ seller.”
Before purchasing a used book online, be sure to look at the seller’s overall rating and the comments left by other buyers. This saves you a lot of future headaches and helps guarantee a positive purchasing experience.
Believe it or not, there is yet another method for getting physical textbooks: renting. Yes, renting. There are a few companies out there that have a system for renting textbooks and then returning them at the end of the term for less money than purchasing the book. For example, one of Kevin’s textbooks cost over $90; however, at CollegeBookRenter.com (www.collegebookrenter. com), he can rent the book for 130 days for $47.52.
The wave of the future: Digital textbooks Digital textbooks are available for permanent download to your computer or temporary use by logging in to a Web site. For example, the same book Kevin can rent for $47.52 in the preceding section, he can also get electronically from CourseSmart.com (www.coursesmart. com) for $64.82. This price includes digital access to the book for 180 days and the ability to highlight and take notes using the site’s proprietary tools. Even though this is cheaper than buying the book, it requires an Internet connection and has an expiration date. Other sites such as Amazon (www.amazon. com) and ebooks (www.ebook.com) sell electronic books that you can download and access from your computer, cellphone, or personal digital assistant (PDA). These are usually permanent downloads and often a few dollars cheaper than the print version. Some institutions are switching to digital textbooks. You purchase the book as a computer file and read it on your computer or a digital reader such as the Amazon Kindle or Sony Reader. These devices store hundreds of books in digital format and are the size of a standard notepad. Not all titles are available via digital readers, but they’re starting to gain momentum. Programs and individual courses that use digitally formatted textbooks will give you additional information during the application or enrollment process on how to purchase the books and the required reader when registering.