The internet has opened up a whole world of possibilities, and in the context of education, it’s made learning accessible to many. No longer do people need to quit their day jobs to attend a university full time, or spend years taking college courses just so they can gain access to the actual courses they want to do.
Online learning is available to everyone, regardless of your starting point and best of all, you can learn about just about any subject imaginable. Not only is this great news for students, but for those aspiring to be teachers too. Now you’re able to teach and deliver courses from the comfort of your home, either as a full time job or just a side gig while you work elsewhere or even study yourself.
Whatever your situation however, it’s important to remember that your eLearning content is only as good as the technology you use to deliver it, and if you want to properly connect with students and give them the best experience, there are some technology must- haves that you’ll need to consider. Here are a few ideas.
Good quality laptop
Some of the main things to consider when you’re purchasing a laptop for online teaching are the screen size, whether or not you’ll want a touch screen and memory. When it comes to the screen size you’ll have a choice between 13, 15 and 17 inch so decide how important portability is to you as well as your budget (those with bigger screens will usually cost more). If you’re only ever going to be working from home then a larger screen will give you better visuals and moving it around won’t be an issue, but if you use your laptop for other things or present classes in different places then a smaller one might be better. Data storage is always going to be a concern for online educators so be sure to take this into consideration, a Solid State Drive (SSD) is preferable over a Hard Disk Drive (HDD) as it drastically reduces boot speed, is less prone to damage and doesn’t need defragmentation. Make sure you’re utilising cloud storage systems to safeguard your crucial data from accidental damages, here your information is encrypted and stored elsewhere so even if something happens to your device, your information is safe. Finally and perhaps most importantly is the processor since real-time online teaching requires high-speed processing. You’ll need something decent processing power, don’t overlook this.
According to our research, the Top Ten Best Laptops For Online Teaching are:
Fast, Reliable Internet
A connection of 500 KB to 2Mb per second bandwidth
Your internet connection is incredibly important as an online teacher, if it lags or cuts out it will lead to a very poor experience overall. This kind of internet speed can support live chats as well as uploading content and files. If you’re planning on creating HD live classes as part of your online course, go for a higher bandwidth such as 1.5+ Mb per second.
Away from interferences
WiFi connections can drop out due to interference from other sources, common ones at home being microwaves, TVs, and other types of technology. For this reason you’ll need to keep your router away from these devices.
3G and 4G networks
These will provide enough bandwidth for a live online course. If your WiFi signal is patchy and you can’t afford to miss your session, insert the Ethernet cable directly into your system’s port since a wired connection is more dependable.
It’s advisable to go for established internet service providers as they tend to be faster with better customer service if things go wrong. If you have a good experience with a local internet service provider, it could also be a cheaper alternative, just make sure that in the event of any problems they will quickly get you back up and running.
Having a poor webcam can cause a lot of inconvenience for you as an online teacher. Webcams are one of the most sought after tech tools for online teaching. Most laptops come with built-in webcams which can be used for live teaching. If you are looking for higher quality imaging, you can go for peripheral webcam options.
Most modern webcams support only high-definition video capture. Look for a video capture resolution of 720p or higher. ... You'll need over 15 fps to stream video. A frame rate of 30 fps or higher is recommended, with 60 fps being ideal, but it's not as common in lower price ranges. These points can help you out in making a decision while buying a webcam. If you have to deliver your class while sitting in front for the laptop without the need for high-quality output, the built-in camera of your laptop is sufficient.
For high-quality imaging, peripheral webcams could be used. Microsoft and Logitech webcams are most popular among the lot and known for better quality and standard features. A tripod can help you deliver a classroom lecture online while standing away from the laptop. Megapixels, frames per second and resolution are a measure of the efficiency and performance of your webcam.
Choose a webcam with more than 30 fps, 2+ megapixels and at least 640x480p resolution.
If you are feeling a bit geekish, we have handy tips on using your Canon or Nikon DSLR as a webcam too
Owning a good headset is a crucial part of any online ESL teacher's arsenal, the quality of your headset can massively impact the quality of your lessons so take the time here to find the right piece of equipment. You will need to be able hear your students clearly, and they need to hear you. Communication with your students is extremely important, just as much so as the video quality. However it’s not a ‘one size fits all’ and the headset you choose will be very much down to preference. Some things to consider are:
Large, chunky headsets are popular these days, gamers love them but they might not be the ideal choice for online teaching. Not only is there a chance they could take the focus away from you while you’re interacting with your students, they can also get a little uncomfortable especially if you’re teaching for several hours. Comfort should be at the top of the list, if you overlook this you might find yourself getting grouchy and irritated and feeling worn out more quickly.
When it comes to teaching online, you need to consider the audio quality coming into your ears as well as the quality coming out through your mic. You don’t need super high-end audio quality specs, but you do need to be sure the headset you choose produces crystal clear audio input and output. Try and go with a noise cancelling boom mic if you can, this is because the mic is placed squarely in front of your mouth. This is in contrast with in-line mics, which tend to produce a lot of noise when the line touches or accidentally hits your hand or clothes while you teach
You can find really good quality headsets for reasonable prices. Don’t go with the cheapest you can find by any means, however unless you’ve got a really good reason to spend excessive amounts then you don’t need to. Test out a range of models and bear the prices in mind.
Research shows that writing things down can help our brains function better in a whole host of ways, including idea composition and expression. Just when we thought that writing things down by hand had been taken over by typing, software like digital whiteboards came to the rescue.
While they have been around for almost two decades now, the advancement of digital technology means they’re gaining a new lease of life and are now considered as one of the essential tech tools for online teaching. They really do allow you to pair the benefits of visual thinking and collaboration with the convenience of technology. When shopping for a digital whiteboard consider:
- An interactive online whiteboard utilises a screen, an LCD projector, and a stylus.
- The screen comes with either front or rear projection and its size ranges from 16” to 90” depending on your needs
- Interactive whiteboards employ different technologies like ultrasonic, electromagnetic, LASER, Infrared and resistive membranes. You can choose between fixed and portable ones according to your requirement.
- Their price depends on the technology and components.
- Ability to attach files: You should be able to attach links, images, and other files to your whiteboard for easy reference.
- Presentation options such as the ability to share your digital whiteboard online or export it.
With a range of different options to consider, you need to know that the model you choose has all of the features that you personally will need when delivering your lessons.
Screen recording is a vital part of online teaching if you’re presenting live lessons, as it allows you to capture and broadcast it again if needed. You can also record sessions with students, and self-critique your own teaching methods to find out where you need to make improvements.
If you’re planning to develop an online course at some point, screen recording can be used to seed content and lessons. It's important to choose the right screen recorder depending on what you intend to do with the footage you capture as different recorders offer a range of differing features.
For example, they can save captures in varying formats, or capture footage from external sources such as a webcam; and some even give you the opportunity to upload to the internet directly from within the program. Some run nicely on average hardware, while others are more demanding.
A screen recorder that a gamer recording HD game graphics for example will probably be much different to what you need if your main form of presentation involves slides.
Homework/ assignment software
Assigning homework or practice questions will help to reinforce the information you have been teaching, Word Documents and PDF were previously commonly used in the past, however as online tutoring evolves, more tutors are using web products and mobile apps to help with things like assigning homework.
Showbie is one example, as it combines all of the essential tools for assignments, feedback and communication in one app meaning there’s less time spent struggling with your tech setup. There’s a wide range of quiz software for teachers out there too, which enables you to put together questions for students to answer, and allows you to filter through and mark it easily (or in some cases, automatically).
There are learning games and trivia you can create too using this kind of software to make the homework process a bit more exciting.
Document and online collaboration
There are a variety of web-based tools that allow teachers and students the ability to perform a wide range of tasks within learning sessions. These include everything from interactive discussions, online collaboration activities, sharing and accessing electronic learning resources, and much more.
Using proper online collaborative tools will increase the interest of your students in teamwork and encourage participation. Getting students to share and collaborate on projects, give and take feedback, annotate, brainstorm, make media, or just hang out are all ways you can collaborate when it comes to your learning sessions. Here are some examples of software that may fit the bill:
The right computer accessories can make or break you as an online teacher. You might be knowledgeable and charismatic, but if you’re not able to properly communicate with students then your courses are likely to fail. Put in the research with your tech and setup before launching your lessons.