Tag Archives: online

How can I connect to the Internet in the UK?

Students using mobile broadband

This month’s guest blog post describes the different internet connection options available to students in the UK, and is provided by Broadband Genie:

Broadband is an essential utility for today’s students, but finding a broadband service that’s affordable and flexible enough to suit student life can be a challenge. So what do you need to know, and what are your options?

Broadband contracts and student living

A common problem faced by students is that the majority of broadband packages require you to sign a lengthy contract of 12, 18 or 24 months. This is problematic if you’re only living in a place for a short period of time or aren’t certain about your immediate future. Ending a contract early incurs a cancellation fee and that’s an additional expense that most students would prefer to avoid.

One alternative is a short-term contract. While not commonplace, there are several ISPs (Internet Service Providers) – such as NOWTV, TenTel and DST – that offer broadband on 1-month, 3-month and 6-month agreements. This provides more flexibility as you can cancel at short notice without facing extra charges.

However, there are some disadvantages. These short-term packages tend to be more expensive than the long-term deals, both in terms of the running costs and the upfront fees. You will most likely need to pay a setup charge (often included for other packages) and may have to pay for the Wi-Fi router too. There’s far less choice as well, with just a handful of ISPs offering short-term deals.

Another option is a student broadband deal. These are packages offered by a few ISPs (notably Sky, Virgin Media and BT) which are explicitly aimed at student users. The key difference with these deals is they come on a 9-month contract to fit with term times. They are only available at certain times of the year, but are worth considering if you see them as they can be good value and may help to avoid a cancellation charge.

If you do have to go with a regular 12, 18 or 24 month contract, make sure you’re aware of the ISP’s cancellation policy and what it might cost to end it early before signing up.

Which type of broadband is best for students?

There are various types of broadband available around the UK. What are the differences, and which is best for your student home?

ADSL

ADSL broadband using the BT telephone network is the most widespread and cheapest fixed-line service. It’s available to the vast majority of premises and can be available for under £20 per month.

ADSL has a maximum download speed of 17Mb and an upload speed of just 1Mb, which is significantly worse than the alternatives. It’s sufficient for one person or a small group of budget-conscious users, but sharing ADSL in a busy student home can be tedious as it can quickly slow to a crawl.

Pros:  • Cheap   • Available to almost every home   • Wide choice of ISPs
Cons:  • Slow by modern standards   • Needs a phone line

BT fibre

Fibre optic broadband from the BT network is a vast improvement on ADSL. Download speeds reach 38Mb, 52Mb or 76Mb, and upload up to 20Mb is available. That makes it more suitable for handling multiple users.

It is, however, slightly more expensive, and is not as widely available. Just over 80% of properties do now have access to these services. While the service does run on the BT Openreach network, it is available from a wide range of ISPs just like ADSL, so there is plenty of choice when it comes to finding a package at the right price.

Pros:  • Fast   • Good choice of ISPs and deals
Cons:  • Availability is still limited compared to ADSL   • Needs a phone line

Virgin Media

Virgin Media operates its own fibre optic network and has the fastest speed of any nationwide ISP, with a maximum download rate up to 200Mb. That’s very helpful if you have lots of housemates and are concerned about performance.

Pros:  • Very fast   • Doesn’t need a phone line
Cons:  • Must be in a Virgin network area   • Virgin is the only ISP

Fibre To The Home (FTTH)

Some lucky students may have access to next generation ‘FTTH’ services. This is a full-fibre connection which can deliver incredible speeds of up to 1Gb, and does not require a phone line. This is only currently available in a few areas, but it’s something that will likely become more widespread in the not-too-distant future.

Pros:  • Incredibly fast   • No phone line required   • Surprisingly affordable
Cons:  • Very limited availability

Mobile broadband

Getting your broadband from a mobile network is an alternative to fixed-line services because it is very flexible in comparison. Contract lengths are less critical as the connection is not for a specific location – if you move home the broadband comes with you and there are no fees to worry about. There is also the choice of long-term contracts, rolling monthly contracts, SIM-only deals and pay-as-you-go.

Provided you can get 4G, mobile broadband performance is now very good. Speeds can outclass ADSL and even approach entry-level fibre optic home broadband. The connection is less impressive on 3G, but still capable of handling most of what the average user will need.

The biggest drawback is the limited data cap. No provider currently offers unlimited mobile broadband, so you’ll need to be very careful about usage to avoid extra charges or service limitations.

Pros:  • Flexible and portable   • Variety of contracts   • 4G speed can be excellent
Cons:  • Performance relies on a strong signal (You can check coverage using the Ofcom app)   • Low data usage limits

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

Leave a comment...

Posted in Uncategorized

Getting online when you arrive on campus

Apps on mobile phones
Image courtesy of jfingas (Flickr).

This week’s blog post considers how to make the most of the online environment at your university or college.

When you arrive in the UK and begin your course of study at a UK college or university you will need to get used to going from one place to another on a daily basis, between buildings, across campus or even between campuses if your place of study is a large one. The teaching timetable will require that you quickly get to know the location of lecture theatres, seminar rooms, computer workstations and possibly labs, and of course, administrative offices, the library and student union facilities (including shops and restaurants) as well. Don’t worry! Even if at first you get lost, you can ask other students for directions and it won’t take you long to learn.

However, for some aspects of your study programme you will be able to save time and effort by using your institution’s online facilities. Your library will almost certainly have an online website and online catalogue which you access from anywhere, log in and use to search for course books and other materials that you need to read or reserve to collect later.

Setting up and regularly checking a university or college email account is very important and one of the very first things to do after you arrive. Your lecturers will often contact you by this means to make you aware of important dates and events for your course diary. Your institution’s administration will also use it to contact you. You may be able to arrange an appointment to see your tutor by sending a polite and clear email (although some tutors prefer to use a signup sheet on their door to show when they are available to see students individually).

It is very likely that your college or university will have a downloadable and dedicated institutional app for your phone. This can be customised by you, and may provide information while your are on the move about your timetable, the library, campus maps, local bus times, your modules, student news and social events and much more. Find the computer support service on your institutional website to find out how to download the app.

So after you have physically arrived on campus, don’t forget to get yourself online!

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

Leave a comment...

Posted in Uncategorized

Finding learning resources in your subject area in online repositories

Online repositoriesThis week’s blogpost is about locating learning resources that can help you learn more about the subject you are studying.

Previous blog posts have suggested where to find online learning resources that relate to developing your academic skills in reading, writing, listening and speaking, and those that can help you develop your vocabulary and grammar in English. The free learning resources in Prepare for Success are a good place to start for this.

For students who come to the UK to study a particular subject through the medium of English, there are also useful resources online to help them develop their subject knowledge. Some online resources also combine subject-specific content with English language development.

Teachers increasingly use online repositories (banks or storage places) to store and share many of their teaching and learning resources as ‘open content’. More and more of these are free to access and web-based. Students can also search and use them to find resources for independent learning. For students of languages and other disciplines in the Humanities, two repositories in the UK are LanguageBox and HumBox. Students can sign up for a free account and then browse and bookmark any resources that they wish to use. Each resource may have been made available (by the person who uploaded it) either to download for use or use directly from a web link (URL).

Another large UK repository containing many different subject-specific learning resources across the Sciences and Arts and for Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE) is Jorum. The resources in Jorum can be freely browsed but need to be downloaded for use.

In USA, there are also some large repositories of teaching and learning resources. MERLOT II is a well-known one. It contains multimedia educational resources in a range of subject areas, and students as well as teachers can sign up to use its resources for free. Wisconsin-online is another free-to-use digital repository of interactive ‘learning objects’. Users can learn directly from resources online or download them.

There are many other smaller repositories of teaching and learning resources that can help you to learn independently in your subject area. An internet search engine such as Google will help you find many more.

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

Leave a comment...

Posted in Uncategorized

How to stay safe online

Student at a computerThis week’s post is by our guest blogger, Ofcom-accredited comparison site www.cable.co.uk, and gives advice about staying safe online.

The Internet is now an essential part of study in all disciplines but browsing and studying online can involve risk. Knowing where the dangers lie can help keep your personal information safe from hackers and your technology free from viruses.

Emails are essential for communicating when at university. When opening emails, be certain that you know the sender. Unknown emails (known as ‘spam’ in the UK) may contain viruses, malware or spyware that could harm your computer and put personal information at risk.

Be extra careful if you receive an unexpected email from a financial institution (such as a bank or PayPal) asking for your details. These messages are rarely genuine and are designed to get access your personal details. They are commonly known as ‘phishing scams’. You may receive unexpected news about a competition you can’t remember entering, or be told you’ve inherited large sums of money, yet there’s a key thing to remember with scam emails: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Be cautious about sharing personal data in social media groups. Hackers (individuals who steal personal data by accessing other people’s accounts) are everywhere on social media. This includes Facebook, Twitter, Tencent QQ, Qzone and many others. There are two simple steps you can take to keep your details safe. Here are two tips:
• Create a strong password. Strong passwords consist of a combination of letters, numbers, and capital letters, and are very difficult for a hacker to guess.
• Change your passwords regularly. Once every couple of months should be sufficient.

When dealing with money online, be sure to use your own computer. This applies to online shopping and online banking too. Public computers are rarely safe, as someone could potentially access your information without you knowing after you’ve logged off. If this happens, and a hacker gains your credit card details, you could lose money.

If you do find your bank account is compromised as a result of hacking, contact your bank immediately and explain the situation as calmly as possible. Give your bank as much information as you can so they can begin investigating the matter on your behalf.

For more information, you may wish to read the Cable ’10 tips to stay safe’ online guide.

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

Leave a comment...

Posted in Uncategorized