This post is sponsored by Xfinity. All opinions expressed are my own.
The phrase “back to school” doesn’t mean what it used to anymore. For some, it still means heading back to traditional classrooms with teachers. But for many others, it means staying at home, e-learning via online courses with virtual instructors.
E-learning is not as easy as it sounds. It often requires that a student maintain their own discipline and structure. While this can be challenging, having the right tech essentials can make this new way of learning a lot easier.
Here is a list of five tech essentials that can make e-learning from home easier on students:
1. A Fast and Reliable Internet Connection
Arguably, the most essential item on this list is a fast and reliable internet connection. Without this, you could be facing choppy, lagging video instruction, or worse, no internet connection at all. And you can only use the “I couldn’t submit my assignment because I didn’t have any internet” excuse so many times with your instructors.
For the ultimate in-home internet and WiFi experience, Xfinity Internet is the way to go. Not only does it give you the speed you need, but it also gives you excellent coverage. Have a few weak spots in your house? Plug in a few self-optimizing xFi Pods and you’ll have consistent WiFi coverage through your entire house.
Included with the Xfinity Internet service is online security. This is one less thing to worry about when you’re trying to get that homework assignment uploaded two minutes before the deadline!
Even better, Xfinity lets you stay connected when you’re outside your home. Next time you need a coffee break or a quick bite to eat, look for an Xfinity public WiFi hotspot. There are tons of them through Xfinity’s service area, and they are free to connect to, even for non-customers! This means everyone can get unlimited access through 2020.
2. A Good Alarm Clock
Nothing will tank your grades faster than not showing up for class. This applies the same, whether you are physically showing up in a classroom or logging into a virtual class.
This probably won’t surprise you, but some students have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning. That’s why it is crucial to have a reliable and effective alarm clock.
Some students will be fine with the built-in alarm on their phone, while others might require a third-party alarm app that does a better job of waking even the deepest sleepers. Don’t forget to charge your phone overnight as alarm apps don’t work very well when your phone battery is dead!
If alarm apps aren’t your thing, consider a physical alarm clock that you keep next to your bed. These days, there are alarm clocks that will not only sound an alarm but also slowly wake you with light. Some will even shake the bed when it’s time to get up!
It probably goes without saying, but if you don’t have the proper equipment for e-learning at home, it’s going to be a rough journey. Perhaps the most important of all equipment is a good webcam.
If you are doing your e-learning on a laptop, you should be good to go as most laptops these days have a webcam built-in. Same goes for a tablet-like an iPad.
If you have a desktop computer, on the other hand, you may need to purchase a standalone webcam. You don’t need anything super fancy, but at the same time, you don’t want to cheap out on this. Something in the $50-$100 range should do just fine.
One word of caution. With so many people e-learning from home these days, it can be challenging to find a standalone webcam in a brick and mortar store, or even online. So, if you see one you like and it’s in stock, grab it!
4. Second Screen
One of the tricky parts about e-learning is trying to take notes at the same time you are watching online video instruction. If you like taking your notes digitally, it can be a challenge to bounce back and forth between the video instruction and your notes.
You might find it easier to invest in a second screen. This could be a second monitor for your desktop computer or a single monitor to extend your laptop or tablet screen.
With a second screen in place, you can easily watch your video instruction on one screen and take notes on another. As an added benefit, you may be able to look things up on one screen while taking an online exam on another screen. Of course, you should only do this if the instructor allows this (many do).
5. Digital Calendar / To-do Apps
In a traditional classroom setting, students move from one classroom to the next over the course of the day. E-learning doesn’t always work the same way. A student may have a video instruction at 9:00 a.m. and then nothing else until 2:30 p.m. Then, they may have until midnight that night to turn in their assignments.
Without some sort of system for remembering e-learning class times and assignment due dates, it can be easy to miss a class or let a deadline slip by. That’s why the last item on this list of tech essentials for e-learning is a combination of a digital calendar and a to-do app.
A digital calendar, such as Google Calendar, allows you to enter your class times and deadlines on the calendar and get reminders ahead of time. If you’re lucky, your instructor might even have a public calendar for your e-learning class, which you can easily integrate into your own calendar.
A to-do app works similarly but is more useful for to-do lists. For example, you might remind yourself to read chapters 4-6 of a book on a certain day or finish researching a topic for an upcoming paper.