You don’t need fancy or specialized equipment to teach online – in fact, you may have everything you need already. You do not need a top-of-the-line computer, as you won’t need lots of processing power. You simply need enough processing power to run a few simple programs, enough disk space to save the materials you’ll be using, and a good solid internet connection.
I will make two suggestions about computers, targeted at those of you who plan to travel a lot. First, choose something as lightweight and with the smallest dimensions that you can. It’s an interesting property of physical matter that it becomes heavier the longer you carry it; must be something quantum mechanical.
The other suggestion for you would-be wanderers – and this I know will rile some of you – is to consider ditching your Apple in favor of a PC or tablet. Why? Because getting Apple hardware repaired is in many countries quite expensive, and that’s assuming you can even find an authorized dealer. While I don’t really expect you to toss your beloved MacBook Pro because I said to, you should buy the extended Apple Care warranty, know in advance where the authorized Apple service agents are, and have some sort of backup equipment just in case. That’s the voice of experience speaking…
What do I use? I currently have an HP Pavilion x360. It’s lightweight, and fits easily in a daypack. It has a built-in webcam which works fine. It operates either as a desktop, or in touchscreen tablet mode. It works fine for teaching, although it is a bit underpowered for some things I use it for, such as video editing and rendering. So when it’s time to buy again, I’ll go for something with more processing power. But for teaching, running Microsoft Office or OpenOffice, etc., then the Pavilion is fine. Currently, prices on Amazon run US$515 – $700.
I’d love to hear what you use, especially if you are a digital nomad out there tramping the highways and byways of the blue dot we call home. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your current PC or Mac may in fact be just fine. However, you may need to purchase a webcam if your computer doesn’t have one built in. Also, I strongly recommend using a headset, as you will hear your student better when using one, and he/she will also hear you better. Here are some recommendations:
Most newer computers have a webcam built right in, but if your computer doesn’t have one, you can easily install one. Typically the camera clips on to the top of your screen, and the other end of the cord plugs into a USB slot. Easy enough!
You can buy a webcam online at sites like Amazon or BestBuy. If there is an electronics store near your home, you may prefer to buy your camera there, in case you need to return or exchange it for any reason.
Webcams aren’t expensive, generally between US$30-$60. Logitech’s model C310 offers a good image at a great price.
While your computer’s built-in camera likely will be adequate, its built-in microphone will probably not be. Even if it’s good quality, unless you have a very quiet space in which to teach, it’s going to pick up background noise. You’ll hear your student better using a headset, and she will hear you better, when you are using a headset mike. So make the modest investment required.
Again, Logitech is a good brand. I’ve used Logitech’s model H390, shown at right, which costs less than $40, and like it a lot. It’s lightweight. The earpads are spongy, so that they are both comfortable and pretty effective at shutting out extraneous noise. It has a volume control in the cord.
Another good choice is the Microsoft Lifechat (model LX-300 shown at left). which can be found for US$25 – $30.
Plantronics also offers a good line of headsets.
All of these are reputable brands which can be found online, in BestBuy, or in the electronics departments of larger department stores.