Tech tools for online teaching: Get the one-stop guide for tech tools for teachers
Are you considering teaching online and sharing your expertise with the world? Well, join the club! Online teaching has become a buzzword in the 21st century as eLearning technology is lending new wings to the scope of education. The internet has brought together students and teachers from around the world in a global learning ecosystem driven by state-of-the-art tech tools for teachers and newer innovations every day.
Do it like a pro!
The competition in the field of online education has become fierce. In addition to great content, what else can you have to make your online class successful? The answer is online learning technology. By employing the best tech tools for online teaching, you can make sure your classes run smoothly every time. Here are some of the online classroom technology tools and tech must-haves to teach online:
Fast and reliable internet connectivity
The importance of a reliable internet connection needs no reiteration. Here are some quick points to ponder over before selecting an internet service provider:
- A connection of 500 KB to 2 MB per second bandwidth can support live chats as well as content upload. If you intend to make HD live classes a part of your online course, go for a higher bandwidth (1.5+ MB per second).
- WiFi connections tend to drop out due to interference from other sources (microwave, TV) hence keep your router away from such devices.
- 3G and 4G networks provide enough bandwidth for a live online course.
- If WiFi signal is dropping out or 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 players but, if you have a good experience with a local internet service provider, it could also be a cheaper alternative.
Take a look at the popular internet service providers:
- India: Airtel Broadband, MTNL Fibre Thrill, Hayai Broadband and Reliance Ultraband
- USA: Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner Cable and Verizon
- UK: Virgin Media, Sky Broadband, Plusnet and BT Infinity
Laptops are one of the most important tech tools for online teaching as they act as a substitute for your class presence. Therefore, they should provide maximum support in conducting an effective online class. Those who want mobility can go for laptops instead of desktops with specific features tailored according to their needs. Laptops are more energy efficient and, over long-run use, help you save more. Look at these points if you are planning to get the best laptop for online classes:
- Operating System: Operating system (OS) is the first filter you apply when you are browsing for a computer system to teach online. Systems with Microsoft OS are relatively affordable. Microsoft allows you to integrate your machine with other devices effortlessly. Mac OS is fast, secure, gives great output and saves a lot of time in basic processing. Systems with Chrome OS are also making a dent in the market and appeal to those who need affordability and value-for-money.
- Display: If you don’t want to lug big laptops around, a smaller display (11” to 14”) is advisable. 15.6” is the mid-sized option and if you are looking for a relatively bigger screen, go for a 17” display. A brighter display is required if you are teaching outside. The resolution should be more than 720 pixels to get the desired output.
- Memory: Data storage is a key concern of online educators. 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 (Although, it might increase your budget). The size of your drive can range anywhere between 250GB to 1TB. Use a cloud storage system to safeguard your crucial data from accidental damages.
- Processor: Real-time online teaching requires high-speed processing hence compromising on the processor may not be the best idea for you. Look out for processors among Intel i3, i5 or i7 or AMD A-series for a decent processing speed.
- Random Access Memory (RAM): It is the short-term memory of your computer and helps it perform real-time functions. To conduct seamless online teaching sessions, you should have a 4+ GB RAM. Go for 16 GB RAM for high-speed processing.
- Extra features: Some of these extra features can be useful while teaching online:
- Two USB ports to use additional accessories
- A 5 to 10-hour long battery life for extended sessions and dealing with power drops
- Backlit keyboards to help you work in a low-light environment
- Touchscreen display makes it easier to perform basic navigation functions
Here is a list of popular options in laptops you can consider buying:
- ASUS F555LA-AB31: 6” screen, 500 GB hard disk, 4 GB RAM, multiple USB 3.0 ports and 802.11ac for faster internet connectivity make this one a reliable option for online educators.
- Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575G-53VG: Along with basic features (15.6” display, Intel Core i5 and i7), this laptop comes with up to 12 hours of battery life, NVIDIA graphic card and 256 GB SSD storage.
- Dell Inspiron 15.6″ FHD Touchscreen Signature: In addition to a touchscreen display with 10 finger multi-touch support, this laptop offers high-end specs for enhanced performance such as 1 TB hard disk, 8 GB RAM and Intel Core i5 (2.30 GHZ) processor.
- Apple MacBook Air: With 13.3” screen and 1.4 KG weight, unmatchable processing and output, Apple MacBook Air is a popular choice for those who can shell more for high quality and an amazing user experience.
Desktops give you the liberty to customize your system according to your needs and add accessories when required. The first question you should ask yourself before getting a desktop is whether your routine will allow you to run your online classes from a desktop computer. If you are stationed at home, have little need to travel frequently and like solitude while delivering your online session, a desktop is meant for you. What’s more? It doesn’t run into hardware and software problems as often as other machines like tablets and laptops do. Here are some important points you would find helpful in buying a desktop computer:
- Intel i series processors (i3, i5 and i7) or AMD A-series processors and Random Access Memory (RAM) ranging anywhere between 4 to 16 GB are the best picks for the kind of processing you will need for live, online teaching.
- The monitor you need depends upon your requirement. 17” is an optimum size, 19” is on the higher side and anything bigger than that is required for big conferences and webinars so that you can see everyone.
- Desktop lets you have more memory as you can add hard disks with a larger capacity whenever you want. An internal memory of 500 GB to 2 TB is enough for online teaching.
- All operating systems will efficiently support your online classes but choosing one depends on your priorities. Mac OS is fast and safe but expensive, Windows OS is ubiquitous, flexible, open and affordable and Chrome OS gives more features at a lower price and is becoming popular too.
You can consider buying these popular options among desktops: Acer Aspire TC, Dell Inspiron 24 3000 Series, Lenovo Ideacentre 300 and Apple Mac Mini.
Tablets make computing an easy affair. In the long list of tech tools for online teaching, tablets have worked their way up the hierarchy. Easy to carry and use, tablets come in all shapes and sizes. All you have got to do is figure out the one which fits best. Here are some points to help you select the ideal one:
- Operating System: While Android OS is flexible and comes with shared login in a single device for family use, Apple iOS comes with a plethora of mobile apps and an unparalleled user experience. Windows OS comes closest to giving you a traditional computing experience which might look like a cross between old PC platform and new tablet interface (not so appealing).
- Screen: Tablet screen size typically ranges from 7” to 13”. A 7-inch screen could fit in your pocket but will be a compromise in terms of output. While 10” to 13” inches bracket is for those who want relatively bigger screens, 8” to 10” is the average screen size.
- Resolution: A resolution greater than 720p is ideal for eLearning sessions. Right now, the highest resolution you can get is 2,732 x 2,048 pixels in Apple’s iPad Pro (12.9”). If you’re looking for a 10-inch Android tablet, go for a display with at least 1,280 x 800 resolution.
- Storage: A tablet with 2+ GB RAM and 16+ GB internal storage will ideally meet your online teaching requirements. Windows and Android tablets come with expandable storage options as well.
Want to try one? Take a look at the best options in the market for tablets:
- Samsung Galaxy Tab S2: A spectacular 9.7” Super AMOLED screen (2048 x 1536 p) coupled with a SIM slot, Android Lollipop OS, 1.9 GHz quad-core processor and 32 GB internal memory (expandable up to 128 GB) make this tablet a complete package.
- Apple iPad Air 2: One of the most desired tablets, this one comes with a 9.7” IPS LED screen (2048 x 1536 p) with 264 ppi, 2 GB RAM, superb performance (iOS v8 OS with A8X chip, 64-bit processor) and jaw-dropping aesthetics.
- Lenovo Yoga Tab 3: If you are looking for a budget option, Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 is a lightweight tablet offering a whopping 20-hour battery life along with a rotating 8 MP camera, Android Lollipop processor and brilliant 8” HD display.
- Apple iPad Pro: Apple iPad Pro is the best of the lot with a 12.9” screen (2,732 x 2,048p), iOS 9 processor and 4 GB RAM.
A stylus makes it easy to draw diagrams, highlight text and make selection on the screen of your device. It works great as a supporting tech tool for teachers. Avid note-takers find styli helpful in their online teaching classes. If you are teaching a complicated subject (mathematics, economics or science), a stylus helps in explaining concepts on digital screens in a live, online class. There are different types of styli depending upon the kind of device you are going to use them with:
- A capacitive stylus works in the same way your finger does on a capacitive screen by distorting its electrostatic field
- A Wacom stylus interacts with Wacom-made digitized layer for greater sensitivity
- A Bluetooth stylus transmits operational information via Bluetooth and communicates with your device to give you the best output
Here are the most sought-after options in styli if you want to get one for yourself too: Adonit Mark, Adonit Jot Pro, Apple Pencil, BaseTronics, Wacom Bamboo and AmazonBasics
Just when we were thinking that practice of writing by hand was fading away, digital pens have entered the arena. Digital pen is considered as one of the key tech tools for online learning. It lets you take notes (on your notebook or specially designed papers) and save their digital version online. Take a look at these points and select a digital pen after a careful consideration of your needs and budget:
- Ease of use is a critical factor as digital pens come in different widths and lengths and can have buttons on the side which you may not want.
- Digital transcription of your hand-written notes is the primary function of a digital pen. Beside this, digital pens also come with built-in storage to record your notes in real-time and let you save them later.
- You can either have a digital pen with ink or without ink depending upon whether you need a hard copy of your digitized notes as well. Digital pens can work with either a traditional notebook or only on their proprietary paper.
- Some optional features include audio recording for saving lectures, mouse functionality and pressure sensitivity for those who want to draw with their digital pens.
Here are the popular products that you can consider buying:
- Neo N2: This digital pen comes with a smooth and ergonomic design, 11.2 mm thickness and aluminum body. Neo N2 supports 15 languages, stores up to 1,000 pages and works only with N notebooks and Neo notes apps.
- Livescribe 3: A bit thicker than its competitors, Livescribe 3 digital pen is precise and easy to use, comes with a built-in sound recorder and doesn’t necessarily require special paper (you can print the paper it uses with a 600 dpi printer).
- Equil Smartpen 2: The best thing about this digital pen is that you can use it with regular paper (a clip-on receiver records your writing or sketching and transcribes it digitally). It comes with pressure sensitivity, 4 GB storage (15,000 pages) and free apps (equil note and equil sketch) for better sharing and organization.
- Sky WiFi: Sky WiFi is one of the most versatile products in the lot with WiFi syncing, audio recording and microphone as well as mouse functionality. Although, it requires special paper for note taking which may prove to be a hassle.
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. 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.
Take a look at one of the best webcams available out there:
- Logitech Ultra Wide Angle HD Webcam: With 1080p output, this webcam is ideal for webinars and video conferencing.
- Logitech HD Webcam C525: Along with a video recording option and 720p output, this webcam is portable and perfect for HD video calls.
- Microsoft LifeCam Studio: 1080p and auto-focus complete with a tripod mount and TrueColour technology make this one a good buy.
- Microsoft LifeCam Cinema: This webcam can be used for a widescreen output. It comes with 360-degree rotation, microphone and TrueColour technology for high-quality results.
Your eLearning content is as good as the technology you use to deliver it. Since, in an online learning session, communication is a key factor, the headset you are using is one of the crucial tech tools for online teaching and a deciding factor in the success of your online class. Here is how to pick the best headset for online teaching:
- There is no best headset as there are good options in every price range. If you sit in a relatively quiet cabin, a low-priced headset with microphone could do the trick.
- Headsets with mic spare you of shouting into the laptop microphone.
- If you are teaching in a dynamic environment with a lot of external noise, you can go with noise canceling headsets.
- Choose wireless headsets if you want to move across the classroom and stream online at the same time.
Here are the popular options in this category:
- Logitech ClearChat Comfort/USB Headset H390: This is an affordable option which comes with padded ear pads and headband for comfort, noise-cancelling microphone, and easy to use plug-and-play USB connectivity.
- Microsoft LifeChat LX-3000 Headset: Leatherette ear pads, a two-year warranty and high-quality audio ideal for live video chats make this product a popular choice among online teachers.
- Logitech Wireless Headset H600: This fold-and-go wireless headset comes with laser-tuned drives to minimize distortion and lets you move around within a 33-feet radius freely.
- Plantronics CS510: If you want to go for top-of-the-line features and high-end quality, this is the one to go for. In addition to the usual features, it offers digital signal procession and lets you move within a 350-feet radius.
Whiteboards have been around for almost two decades but with the advancement of digital technology, they are seeing a new dawn and have been considered as one of the essential tech tools for online teaching.
- An interactive whiteboard utilizes 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”.
- 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.
Here are the popular whiteboards for online teaching in the market:
- SMART Board 600 series: A popular choice, SMART board offers 8K resolution, 65” and 75” screen sizes, wireless connectivity, easy integration with other systems, Silktouch technology, responsive SMART ink and Object Awareness to distinguish between finger, pen and palm
- Promethean Activboard: Available in 78” and 88” sizes, this product comes with a cordless digital pen, multi-touch interaction, dry-erase surface, low glare screen, and USB and wireless connectivity.
- Numonics Intelliboard: This product offers a range of screen sizes (77″, 62″ and 47″) along with durable laminated surface, an image quality of 1000 lines per inch, Encyclopedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite DVD, E-Wand, an interactive pointer, and a multimedia pen.
In the era of pocket-sized smartphones, sleek tablets and compact laptops, the onus of great sound quality rests on your headsets or peripheral speakers and microphones. If you don’t want to use a headset in your online classes, speakers are your best bet. There are several factors to consider before buying a speaker for online teaching:
- Room size: In a small, closed room, a powerful speaker may sound muddy with its bass interfering with normal sound. Similarly, a small speaker for larger rooms isn’t a good combination either because of low volume levels.
- Types: Speakers come in different shapes and sizes such as floor-standing, in-wall, bookshelf, satellite, sound bar and portable speaker. While floor standing, in-wall and bookshelf speakers are best for listening to music and watching movies, a portable speaker fits all your online teaching needs. A portable Bluetooth speaker may not be high on bass beats, but can be used effectively in an online class.
- Thanks to integrated Bluetooth and WiFi technologies, an auxiliary port is not the only thing you have for connecting your speakers to your system.
We have selected the popular speaker options for you:
- Bose SoundLink Mini: This product offers an unparalleled sound quality packed in 0.67 kilograms with Bluetooth and auxiliary connectivity, 30 feet wireless range and a built-in mic for audio calls.
- JBL Charge 3: With waterproof design, up to 20 hours of battery life, 6000mAH power bank, JBL Bass radiator and speakerphone option, this one is a durable choice.
- Harman Kardon Onyx Mini: This 0.5 kg device comes with Harman’s amazing sound quality and lets you connect to three devices simultaneously, answer calls with built-in microphone and enjoy a 10-hour playback time.
- Ultimate Ears UE Boom 2: A 360-degree surround sound experience coupled with 100 feet Bluetooth range, 15 hours of battery life, and a waterproof and shockproof design make this product a great buy.