Online teaching and learning has become essential in these testing times of COVID19. Teachers all across the world are using their desktop computers, laptops, mobile phones, tablets to stay in touch with students. Earlier, while a teacher would teach 40-60 students at a time in a classroom, now online education has made it possible for a teacher ANYWHERE in the world to reach out to hundreds of students, ACROSS the world. So you may be having an online class in mathematics or English, with students from India, Bangladesh, UK, Canada, USA, South Africa, Argentina, Australia, etc all joining in at the same time. A teacher’s class is no longer confined to his / her school or college, rather it is a class without walls, The world is your class.
So what equipment will a teacher require to start an online class? There are many things one can buy but if you are starting out in online teaching, I suggest, keep it simple and not too expensive. Don’t go for the best, the most expensive, the one with most features, instead go for the devices that are easy to use.
The simplest device is of course your mobile phone. Most smart mobile phones have enough processing power to compete with a desktop/laptop. So you have the rear camera which you will need for recording a video. Rear camera has a higher resolution (better quality of picture). If screen-recording, then you don’t even need a camera. The only devices and software you need to have to start with are: a desktop computer with i3 or preferably i5 processor, 8 GB RAM, a webcam (preferable – but not essential), 1 TB hard disk, WiFi connectivity, basic software like word-processor, spreadsheet, image editor, movie editor. If you are looking for a free alternative to Microsoft Office, there’s Libre Office (free). For screen recording, the best software and free is OBS Studio For image editing, Libre Office should be sufficient but if you want more capabilities, go for GIMP. You will require a sound editing software – Audacity is the standard software here. All these software are FREE. Ofcourse, you must create a FREE account on Google or Microsoft Outlook because that will give you plenty of tools – all FREE – that are so essential for communication. These include: email, whiteboard, quiz-maker forms for collecting data, online word-processor, online spreadsheet, online presentation tools, online videocalling – Teams, Zoom, etc. The most important software is the operating system. Go for Windows 10. Often, the operating system is bundled in the cost of the desktop/laptop and it is better to opt for this rather than installing operating system on your own. Some also assume that Linux operating system is cheaper, but in my article here, I explain why that is not necessarily true. I believe we teachers should spend our time on the primary activity at which we are good – teaching. Leave the software installation part to those who are more comfortable with that.
If you want to teach mathematics, statistics, physics, chemistry or other subjects that involve equations, you will do well to buy a writing tablet. Wacom tablets are good but you will find cheaper alternatives on Amazon. Writing on a tablet takes time to get used to. So you may prefer to have a whiteboard (4 ft x 3ft) and whiteboard pens of atleast blue, black, red and green colours. But then you will also have to invest in a webcam and possibly a tripod stand to record from the whiteboard. Or you can use the rear camera of your mobile phone. Now, if you have to choose between investing in a writing tablet only and investing in a whiteboard + webcam + tripod, the expenses will be almost the same but the later option will be faster to use. Checkout my article on free online whiteboard here.
So what specifications should we look for in a desktop? I feel an Intel-based computer with an i5 (preferably i7 processor), with 1 TB hard disk, at least 3 USB ports, and as much RAM as is possible. If buying a laptop go for 15.6 inch screen. If buying a desktop, buy a monitor with size above 20 inches – its easier on the eyes. If space is an issue then you can consider buying an all-in-one computer where the screen and other parts like CPU are in one unit. Since you are buying a computer in 2020, it may be advisable to go for i7 processor instead of i5. If buying a laptop, consider buying a wireless keyboard and mouse. Working long hours on laptop keyboard is injurious to health. Dont go overboard with hardware as in 2 years you will get faster and better hardware at lower/same price.
Please ensure to take an extended warranty on the computer – it costs a little but gives peace of mind as most computers have just a 1 year warranty.
Hope this helps. Let me know what you feel about this.