E-learning, distance learning, remote learning, virtual learning, whatever you want to call it, presents its own set of challenges for both teachers and students, but outfitting yourself with the right tech can make all the difference when it comes to minimizing distractions, being seen and heard clearly, and keeping a stable connection.
Making sure students and teachers can emulate the face-to-face learning experience as closely as possible is key. Upgrading your webcam will give you the flexibility to move around, change the angle and can even auto-correct for low lighting to give you a crisper image. A few months ago, it was hard to get hands on a good, low cost webcam, because everyone wanted them. Luckily that’s not the case anymore. You can get a decent webcam, like the Logitech C310, which has lighting correction, face detection so it will follow you if you move around, a universal mount to easily place it wherever you like and a built-in microphone for just under $50. If you are looking to show clear visuals of physical objects, like a textbook or worksheet, document cameras will do just that.
Minimize Distractions with a Headset
While you may not be able to control your pets, other family members, outside noises etc., what you can do is invest in a headset with noise cancellation. Active Noise Cancellation means the headset uses microphones to detect ambient noise and play you a kind of anti-noise to cancel out that sound so that you can focus on what’s important. Studies have shown that active noise cancellation can make it easier to concentrate and even reduce stress. In addition, when shopping headsets, you’ll want to look at comfort for long sessions, battery life if you are going wireless, and you may even get an upgraded microphone built in. Speaking of that microphone, if outside noise isn’t as much the problem as being heard clearly, there are some great USB microphones that can give you professional sounding quality. Check out the HyperX QuadCast mics which have sound great and people seem to really like them. Learn more here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FK3-njrl3is
No matter how great your audio and video is, a poor connection adds a level of frustration to learning that can break even the most determined of wills. Instead of trying to buy a whole new router, you may be able to get by with a wi-fi extender. Wifi extenders boost the existing signal from your router to the rest of the house so that you have a stronger signal wherever you are.
Another hiccup you might be running into is that your device just seems to be running at a snail’s pace, regardless of the strength of your connection. A lot of us are using older devices we had around the house that we never thought we’d have to lean on so heavily. It might be time to look beyond the minimum suggested system requirements the your learning tools require. For anyone using multiple applications at the same time – email, video chat, open documents and websites – all of these eat up valuable system memory. Not to mention that Windows itself needs some of that system memory just to run. If you are looking to upgrade the RAM in your laptop or home PC, feel free to check out these video https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAsUq-kEMSD6X5kFfvOmBOcpRWlMcjjiu where we walk you through it step by step. It’s easier than it sounds.
Finally, most laptops and smaller personal devices only have a few USB ports. If you did want to connect things like a keyboard, mouse, webcam, headset, a phone to charge or anything else that helps to enhance your distance learning experience, not only will you quickly run out of available USB ports, this can also drain your devices battery pretty quickly. A dedicated external charging hub will allow you to connect multiple devices, charge multiple devices and start as low as $15. As a bonus, if you like to keep your e-learning gadgets in one dedicated spot but move around with your laptop outside of school time, being able to connect to everything with one simple cable can be a real time saver.
We’ve discussed some of the more simple, low cost upgrade options in this video, but I’d love to hear from you. What e-learning obstacles are you currently facing? List them in the comments and if we have a hardware solution, we’ll do our best to help you out. And if you have any other online teaching or learning tips outside of tech you can also leave them in the comments! We can create our own little remote learning resource directory!