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What Computer Programs Are Popular On Campus Today?

written by: •edited by: Sarah Malburg•updated: 8/13/2013

Art, math, and computer homework often require certain programs to complete. Learn about the types of common computer programs, software, and platforms for today's college student, including Maple, Systat, Minitab, Excel, Word, Adobe, OpenOffice, Corel Painter, Blackboard, Moodle, and Angel.

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    Common Software Applications

    No matter which subject area a college student chooses to study, odds are likely that he will have to become used to using some Computers in College sort of computer program. Today's college students must be familiar with typing papers, creating spreadsheets, saving files, and sending and reading files. Some of the basic tasks in college are accomplished by using commonly used computer programs.

    Basic Typing

    If you need to practice typing, some colleges and universities have programs like Mavis-Beacon to practice keyboarding. Additional programs may be discussed in Introduction to Computers and Typing courses on campus. Ainsworth also offers programs going through typical QWERTY board practices including tests.

    Software Applications For Papers

    If a professor assigns a paper and requires the paper be typed, consider using Microsoft Word, WordPad, WordPress, or Works. All of these are word processing programs. If your computer does not have a word processor, you may want to consider OpenOffice, which is a free computer program that includes a document creation program.


    OpenOffice also comes with a spreadsheet option. The most common spreadsheet program, however, is part of Microsoft Office, called Excel. Spreadsheets are often used in math, science, computer science, and accounting courses. You can make spreadsheets to use as ledgers for finances, for graphing scientific data, or for producing a gradebook or other record-keeping document.

    PDF Files

    You may have to use Adobe Reader software to view a pdf file, or Adobe Acrobat or Microsoft Word to create a pdf file. PDF stands for portable document file, and it's a universal file. That means a pdf can be read on any computer (PC or Macintosh) and can also be sent easily through email or other means.

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    Common Web-Based Programs

    Some common computer programs college students must know about consist of those that are web-based. As college enters the digital era, more and more classes are being offered in hybrid or completely online formats. Today's students often enroll in online higher educational institutions.

    The most common online platforms used include Angel, Moodle, and Blackboard.

    Angel allows instructors to monitor students closely and has an integrated email system and group rooms to work on collaborative projects. Moodle is a free platform that allows for many of the same or similar features, but also includes blogs, wikis, and other ways of hosting forums and group discussions. It is popular enough to be used outside of higher education as well.

    Blackboard is so popular that many brick-and-mortar, traditional college courses contain Blackboard components. Professors may place grades online for students, lecture notes, presentations, and even homework assignments, creating a virtual space to store classroom materials.

    These online computer platforms include places to message and communicate with classmates, professors, and teaching assistants. Likewise, students may access their grades, course materials, syllabi, and readings. Some professors may use these platforms for group meetings and as a substitute to distributing worksheets and reading packets.

    Students taking online courses may be required to submit homework, participate in discussion board assignments, and take quizzes and exams through Angel or Blackboard.

    One additional platform may be used by online students. That is Elluminate, popular both for online tutoring services, as well as for virtual office hours. It allows for the use of microphones, allows for use of a whiteboard, and includes an instant messaging system.

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    Math-Specific Applications

    In math classes, your college professor may have you use a computer to complete homework assignments. In some algebra courses, programs like MyMathLab may come with college textbooks. In statistics, students may use Minitab, SPSS, or Systat. In calculus courses, many students learn to complete some homework using Maple.

    Learning how to do some of your homework on the computer helps complete assignments in less time than calculating by hand. It also requires that you know how to write the programming commands to get the graph to show up correctly, requires learning how to change the table form fields, and understanding how to calculate the derivatives you are assigned.

    Algebra software can help you gain more practice, as it includes additional math problems and lets you re-work a math problem until you achieve the correct answer. Some of the programs can even show you step-by-step instructions on how to solve these problems. Statistical software can allow for you to do multiple variable tests and graphs. Calculating standard deviation and other common statistical factors becomes much easier, especially with large data sets. Last, calculus programs help run deviations and long problem sets in a fraction of the time.

    At many colleges and universities, access to math computer programs comes from the college library computers, along with your textbook, or via online access. Some on-campus tutoring facilities and computer labs may have these programs to help students study and achieve higher grade point averages.

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    Programs for Art Classes

    Graphic and visual arts are growing college majors. Advertising, fashion, and film industries look for tech-savvy interns and new college art student employees. Clients like to captivate their audiences, whether it is paying for a well-designed website, a short animation video clip, or for a CD to send to their shareholders.

    Some of the most common computer programs for these courses include software for animation, advertising signs, and publishing spreads.

    Corel Painter is a very popular program that lets a computer user create a virtual canvas. Likewise, many art and visual design students learn to use ArtRage.

    Learning the computer software and programs in graphic arts, design, and virtual art can help in creating more eye-catching advertisements and in showcasing your natural abilities. The possibilities of these programs in combination with your imagination are quite endless. There is much more than just Microsoft's PowerPoint and Publisher programs to help you advance your business or portfolio of graphic design.

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    Engineering and Architectural Programs

    Just like art, computer, and mathematics classes, courses in engineering and architecture also have key software programs one needs to learn.

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one may find good employment within computer software engineering background.

    Some of the software programs out there for engineers include AutoCAD, which allows for both two- and three-dimensional design, and ones to test physical stress (see, calculate complex mathematical equations (like Maple), and prefabricate design templates. Which ones you may need to learn and use in college and in the workplace very much depends on what type of engineering you focus on as your specialty.

    Architects may also use AutoCAD, but benefit from learning three-dimensional (3-D) house and landscaping design.

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    On-Campus Opportunities

    As colleges and universities continue to incorporate technology and technological proficiency into the college curricula, students must learn to adapt and find the software and programs being used. Many schools include on-campus access to some programs, whether as part of a technology fee, library or tutoring facility or even in-class computer labs. Math, art, engineering and online classes are only some of the more common computer-based classes nowadays, and have many excellent programs and platforms from which educators can choose.