So, you’ve decided that you want the freedom to teach online, from anywhere, great!
But what supplies exactly do you need to get started? How much do you need to invest? There is so much equipment and different brands to sift through, what a potential headache!
Luckily, we’ve put together the essential list of what you need to get up and running, from hardware to software and everything in between.
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Let’s get started with our list of the equipment you really need for teaching online.
Interview: What Equipment do you Need to Teach Online?
First, say hello to Harold. Owing to his IT skills and background, he was hired in 2018 by ALO7 to provide IT support to its many online ESL teachers based in USA. This is a secondary role he is tasked with in addition to teaching online for the company.
Harold has troubleshooted hundreds, if not thousands, of technical issues with online ESL teachers and their equipment. This gives him a unique perspective into what type of equipment online teachers use, what works well, and what to avoid.
In this 25-minute video interview, Harold talks about everything you need to teach online. He covers a range of equipment and other technical aspects, including: computer, internet requirements, headsets, webcams, green screen… and some others aspects of his life as an ESL teacher.
It goes without saying that you will need a computer to teach online. While many online teachers use laptops, we recommend investing in a desktop computer instead.
Desktops are not only more cost-effective than laptops, but they are far more easily upgradeable, and thus have a longer lifespan. The temptation to buy a laptop to teach online will be high, but the cost of owning a laptop will be much higher, over time.
There may be other reasons to own a laptop, though. So, be crystal clear about your specific goals with online teaching, and decide what’s perfect for your use case.
You need to make sure the computer you buy ticks certain boxes. Let’s look at those minimum requirements:
- Hard drive: 128 GB or more, to store lesson plans, files, videos, etc.
- Memory: 8 GB or more
- CPU: Intel i5 or higher
Don’t save at the wrong end. Live video conferencing eats up a lot of memory and processor power, so having a powerful computer is vital.
Laptops are extremely convenient as they don’t require much space and are portable, so you could theoretically teach from anywhere!
If these advantages outweigh the cost advantages of a desktop computer, a laptop is right for you.
However, if you want to save some time and mental energy then no worries, we’ve rounded up a list of the best computers for teaching below:
Don’t let this low price tag fool you, the Acer Aspire 5 is powerful and solid enough to give you the performance you need in your online lessons. Not only that, the widescreen will make it easy to arrange your windows mid-class, keeping you stress-free and in control.
2021 Newest Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop
- AMD Quad-Core Ryzen 3 3350U Processor
- 15.6″ Full HD (1920 x 1080) Widescreen Display
- Backlit Keyboard
- 8 GB RAM
- 256 GB SSD Hard Drive
Premium, Ultra-portable Laptop
This is the laptop for those who are on the go. It’s thin and light, versatile (can be used as a laptop or tablet) and it comes with LTE, meaning you don’t need to worry about getting disconnected from the Wi-Fi mid-lesson!
Microsoft Surface Pro 8
- Sleek and slim 1.97 inches (ca. 5 cm) thin & 1.96 pounds (0.89 kg) weight
- 13″ Touchscreen
- Built-in Kickstand, and detachable Keyboard
- Intel i7 processor
- 16 GB RAM
- 256 GB SSD Hard Drive
Read our in-depth guide to selecting a laptop for online teaching if you want to dig deeper.
Most online ESL companies require their teachers to wear a headset, and many of these companies expect their online teachers to wear a headset that has a boom mic.
This is partly due to the expectation that wearing a headset with a boom mic provides better audio quality; but also partly because wearing one makes you look like a professional online teacher in the eyes of the company and students.
Fortunately, a good wired headset with boom mic should not cost you more than $50, and there are many options to choose from. High-quality Bluetooth headsets will cost you more, somewhat above $100.
Don’t buy cheap ones: They’ll easily break, or they have poor sound quality which is a no-go for online teachers.
We’ve again done the research for you already, and rounded up the top 3 headsets used when teaching English online. So relax, pick the one that feels right for you and get teaching!
Plantronics Blackwire 3320 Wired Headset with Boom Mic
- Clear, natural and rich audio with wideband audio
- a flexible noise-canceling microphone
- USB-A to Connect to Your PC, Mac or Cell Phone
Jabra Evolve 65 MS Wireless Headset
- Industry-Leading Wireless Performance
- Advanced Noise-Cancelling Microphone
- All Day Battery
- Includes Link 370 USB Adapter
- Range of up to 100 feet (ca. 30 m)
Fast and Reliable Internet
A fast and reliable Internet connection is a must for online teaching. Your Internet connection largely depends on the service quality in the area where you live, but for the majority of online teachers working from home, this will not be too difficult a requirement to meet.
Still, a few things you need to ensure about your Internet connection is that it meets the online ESL company’s minimum upload and download speeds, but also has a low ping rate (latency). Generally, you should be aiming for upload and download speeds of 10Mbs or higher, and a ping rate less than 100ms.
Some online ESL companies also require their online teachers to use a wired connection, because connecting to the Internet with an Ethernet cable generally means a faster, more stable connection.
Read our complete guide to meeting Internet requirements for online teaching here.
Modern laptops include a built-in webcam which saves you a lot of hassle in this area, phew!
But… what if you are using a desktop computer which doesn’t have one? What if your employer requests a separate, external webcam (I’ve had it happen before), or maybe you just want to provide extra quality videos to your students. What then?
No need to make many words here: We’ve been using this Logitech webcam for years, and it flawlessly does its job.
Logitech C920x Full HD Pro Webcam
- Full HD 1080p/30fps Video Calling
- HD lighting adjustment and autofocus
- Razor-sharp images even if you’re in a low-light setting
- 78 degrees field of view
- built-in mics
Online Teaching Software
Ok, now you’re set up with all the hardware needed to teach, but what do we need software wise?
If you teaching company does not provide an own teaching platform, you will need to use one of these video conferencing tools:
Because you are teaching online, lighting plays an important part at your workstation. Some online ESL teachers go overboard with their lighting setup, but in truth, your lighting setup does not need to be elaborate or expensive.
At a very basic level, you can do well with one or two inexpensive LED desk lamps and position them to get the best illumination on your face and body. Your aim is not to glow in the dark here, but rather to ensure your students can see you clearly.
The positioning of your lights is just as important as the brightness of your room. We recommend LED lights for most online teaching setups because they don’t emit as much heat, last longer, and are generally brighter than other types of lights.
Some LED lights also give you the ability to adjust the light temperature between cool and warm colors; this is especially useful if you intend to use a green screen while teaching online, but also not a bad feature to have for just about anyone teaching online.
You’re all set for technology now but what about your office?
Maybe you already have a comfortable set-up which you can use; if so, then this is the area you can save a bit of money.
However, bear in mind that you will sit in your office chair for (hopefully) many hours of the day. It needs to be comfortable and appropriate for your teaching style.
Your chair should provide exceptional support for your back and neck, meaning that an investment in this chair now will result in not paying out to a chiropractor 6 months from now!
Once again, we’ve selected a recommendable mid-range priced option for your, saving you the hassle!
Komene Ergonomic Office Chair
- Rolling Desk Chair, breathable mesh back, headrest
- Lumbar support
- Adjustable height, headrest and 3D Armrest
- Recline up to 135°
- 5 years after sale support
Props and Teaching Aids
Once you have the essentials out of the way, don’t be afraid to spruce up your teaching space. These things, while cheap, offer a massive boost in presentation which your students will certainly appreciate.
Your props should be relevant to the age group of the ESL learners you teach, and should provide opportunities to elicit responses and encourage interaction from your students. They can also be excellent for warm-up activities, showing and telling activities, and games.
Online ESL teachers should be equipped with props and teaching aids, including:
- Soft toys
- Play food
- Flash cards
We’ve put together a helpful list of the best teaching props.
Although a green screen is not a necessary piece of equipment for teaching online, having one can make a huge difference to your virtual classroom as well as student engagement.
With advances in technology, software is getting better at layering your background with images and videos, without having to use a green screen. But it’s not yet perfect, and a green screen still gets you better results for the time being. Besides, they are an inexpensive investment for the value they bring to your online classroom professionalism.
Read our guide to learn how to buy and use a green screen in an online classroom here.
Now you have everything you need to teach online!
Hopefully, you should already have some of these things on hand which leaves you with only a few things to pick up. After that it’s a case of gaining experience and establishing yourself as an online guru!
The next step is to check out this guide on creating your first lesson plan.
Good luck and happy teaching!