Everyone agrees there’s a basic set of computer skills that all online learners must have. Think you’re ready to get started? Check out the skills listed below to see if you can use a computer confidently in pursuit of your online degree.

The most obvious skill, perhaps, is a good understanding of how to navigate the Internet. You’ll need to know how to open an Internet browser, how to maximize and minimize the browser window, and how to use the forward and back buttons to move back and forth between Web pages. Major browsers like Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox have extensive Help files where you can find answers to all of your questions about Internet navigation.

Second, make sure you know how to manage files on your computer. Make sure you know how to find folders and files using Windows Explorer. Practice creating, copying, deleting and saving files until you’re sure you know how. If you’re in doubt about your skills, select “Help” from the Windows Explorer menu bar and then search for information about “files”.

If you don’t know how to Copy and Paste, learn. A surprising number of computer users still haven’t mastered these basic Clipboard functions. This skill set includes the ability to left click and drag to highlight information in a document, to copy that information to the clipboard, and then to paste that information from the clipboard into a new document or spreadsheet. Search Google, Yahoo or MSN to find a free copy-and-paste tutorial if you need to brush up on this important, timesaving skill.

Sending and receiving email is another key skill you’ll want to be confident about. Because you’re likely to receive course materials and other documentation by email, you’ll need to know how to handle email attachments and how to open them or save them on your computer. Your email program will have a section in its Help file that can answer any questions you have about email and how to handle email attachments.

Finally, as an online learner you’ll need to know your way around some kind of word processing software. Most new computers come with Microsoft Word already installed and it’s generally considered to be the standard in word processing software. Fortunately, there’s a free alternative for those of you that don’t have Word installed on their PCs. Try OpenOffice, a free, easy-to-use software suite available at openoffice.org that comes with a robust word processor called OpenOffice Writer. OpenOffice Writer has all the functionality of Word and can even open and create files in Microsoft Word format.

Now that you know you’re ready for online learning, make sure your computer is up to the task, too. In most cases, you’ll want a computer running Windows XP or MAC OS 9 or higher. Also, many online universities have found that AOL users can’t properly access online courses, so make sure you have a recent free version of Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox on your computer. Because many online courses involve streaming video presentations, it’s best to have a monitor resolution of at least 800 x 600 and a fast DSL or cable modem connection. Last but not least, say leading online universities, don’t forget to enable java script and cookies for the optimal learning experience.