When working from home or online as a teacher, it is critical for you to ensure you have the right equipment for teaching online. One of the areas online companies are looking for, and some even test during your interview is how reliable your equipment is.
Your equipment needs to be fast, reliable and clear, both visually and audibly. This is most important, to ensure your students gain the best online learning experience possible. But having this equipment also helps you become hired in the first place and experience less online technical difficulties.
Now don’t worry, the essential list of equipment needed to teach online is not an extensive one. It isn’t hugely costly teaching online and most of your costs you can claim back against your earnings as expenses.
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Here is the essential list of equipment needed for teaching online:
Laptop or Computer For Teaching
Most online companies require you to teach from a computer or laptop. The larger screen allows you to use the companies platforms with ease, you can see your students more clearly and, if you are working with a company that uses multiple materials e.g. zoom, PPT and the internet, you can move around easier with a laptop or computer.
Some companies such as PalFish, do allow you to teach from your mobile phone or tablet. I haven’t personally worked with this company, but it is not common practice and this is not allowed in most online ESL companies.
When looking for a laptop or computer, ensure to choose one with an i5 processor and 4GB RAM minimum. Specifications lower than this will provide you with a slow loading device and produce a huge time delay and lag when teaching. This is not a positive experience for your students and will cause you with difficulties in gaining bookings or even an online teaching position.
I personally teach using a HP laptop, which I have found extremely reliable.
It is very fast for downloading my lesson materials and extremely responsive. My previous laptop gave me huge issues with a time lag in my lessons. This HP laptop is very quick and has no delay on my webcam.
Prior to purchasing my HP laptop, I had been using a MacBook Air.
Again, the MacBook Air is fast, responsive and with no time delays. I just personally do not love Apple devises hence why I purchased my HP laptop.
If you have a laptop or computer already, check it’s specifications first before purchasing a new one. Set up a practice video call on Zoom or Skype to see if there appears to be any delay or how long it takes you to download a file from the internet. These points will give you a clear indication of if you need to consider purchasing a new one. If so, remember you can offset the cost of your laptop or computer against your earnings and claim it on your tax form as an expense (Make sure to keep your receipt or proof of purchase!)
Secure and Reliable Internet for Teaching Online
The internet obviously plays a hugely important role in allowing you to work from home or online as an online teacher. Without it, you would not be able to connect with your students from across the world and access your companies lesson materials and teaching platform.
The speed required does vary between each company, location and if you have any other individuals using your internet connection at the same time as you are teaching.
Most online ESL companies will list within their requirements or FAQ section what internet speed up and down they require their teachers to have. Whales English for example, asks for an internet speed of 20Mbps.
Online ESL companies want teachers to also be wired to the internet. They do not like teachers to use Wifi as this can make the connection less stable and impact on the quality of teaching. I know many teachers do use Wifi to teach and have no issues. I started teaching online with Wifi and initially had no problems. However, when I changed companies who had a very interactive teaching platform and lesson materials when I used Wifi I experienced an unstable connection.
I recommend you to get hold of an Ethernet Cable, even if just as a back up in case your company finds out you are using Wifi and request for you to connect with a cable. When I started using a wired connection with my new company, my internet issues went and I gained a much more stable and faster connection.
The cable I use is 10m in length and will stretch from the bottom of the stairs through to the back of the house upstairs, where I teach. They can come in different sizes, so it is best to work out how long you need your wire to be in order to wire the internet connection to your laptop or computer. If you are a Mac user, you will need to purchase this converter to be able to connect your ethernet cable.
For all online ESL companies, you are required to use a headset. Not only does it look professional, according to the ESL companies, but it is also actually extremely beneficial to you and your students:
When you are using a headset, you are training your mind to associate the headset with teaching. The crossover from home to work mindset can be a challenge when you are working from home. Using a headset helps prepare you mentally and get into a ‘teaching zone’.
It supports your students learning no end. Using a headset helps students to hear you more clearly, which supports their understanding and ensures they hear your pronunciation accurately to repeat well.
It supports your teaching role. With a headset, you are less distracted by any potential background noise and can focus on your students
You are able to hear your students clearly, helping you provide better feedback and positive interaction.
Ensure to purchase a headset which eliminates background noise and comes with a microphone. When I initially started using a headset, it did take a little bit of getting used to and wearing for a few hours at a time. Hence, ensure you purchase a comfortable headset as you will most likely be wearing it for a few hours consecutively.
I did have a period of a few lessons without using a headset and I hated it! My first headset broke, unfortunately, and so I was without one till the new one arrived. It was so hard to hear my students through the computer speakers, I was incredibly distracted by my kids playing downstairs and my dog barking, plus my students could pick up all of the backgrounds sound that I could hear as well. Not to mention I practically had to shout for them to be able to hear me through my computer’s microphone.
Here are a couple of headsets for you to consider. I personally use the first headset. It is big, but I find it really comfortable to wear, I can alter the volume and it blocks out the majority of background noise whilst I am teaching (apart from my loud dog when she is outside! Nothing can prevent her yapping getting through lol!)
Best Webcam for Teaching ESL Online
Not everyone will agree with me saying this is essential, but personally, I feel that a high-quality webcam is necessary and here is why. If you didn’t have a high-quality picture for your students to see you during your lessons:
- you will lose their interest as they might not be able to see clearly what you are doing
- if the image isn’t clear, it may become difficult for your students to concentrate on your picture and again, will become distracted
- they will struggle to see your mouth movements to help with pronunciation
- your students might not be able to clearly see what props you are using, or even your hand gestures when using TPR
Although as teachers, most online ESL companies require us to teach using a laptop or computer, many of your students will actually be learning via a mobile phone or tablet. So, as you can imagine, the screen is a lot smaller and hence your image is very small. It can already be difficult maintaining a students interest via a screen, with all the distractions they might have. Do not make your lessons any more challenging by not having a decent webcam.
Some computers or laptops may have a really good webcam installed so do check your webcam first to see if the image is clear. Otherwise, I really recommend purchasing an external HD webcam, some companies even request this. As you can see from the two images below, using a HD webcam provides a much clearer and crisper image, ensuring your students are given a better quality lesson.
Here is the HD webcam I use:
As you can see, this list is not an extensive list of equipment needed for teaching online. You don’t need to spend a fortune buying the top-end equipment. Just ensure you have the right equipment needed, which enables you to give a reliable teaching experience to your students, with clear video and audio.
Having the right equipment from the start will demonstrate to the online ESL companies you are applying for that you are a serious applicant. It will ensure that your equipment is not what is standing in between you and your first job as an online ESL teacher.