You don't need a lot of fancy and expensive computer equipment for online computer classes. There are a few basic pieces you do need for computer class success. But, as my colleague Mia Gwyn shares, a lot of these you can find for under $100. Mia, a fellow New Horizons instructor, helped me write some of these tips to help give you what you need to be successful in an online class.
Creative Ways to Create a Dual Monitor Setup
The first piece of equipment that will help you in an online remote learning environment is a second monitor. You need to be able to see what the instructor is doing and, many times, you will need to be doing it yourself to practice and retain how to do the task. To be able to do the hands-on activity when you only have one monitor becomes a little more difficult because you would have to keep switching windows to see me, then to see your work, to see me, then your work. It can happen and can work. But it's just more work.
There are so many creative ways of doing a second monitor without having to spend a lot on a great big monitor you plug into your laptop. Tell me a household in this nation that doesn't have a TV. If your TV has an HDMI port in the back of it, you can take an HDMI cord and plug it into the back of the TV. Some TVs are "smart" TVs that are capable of mirroring something that's on a different screen and putting it on the big screen.
Also, a lot of people have tablets that they use to actually log on and watch using their tablet as a second screen that way. Chromebooks can be used as second monitors similar to tablets, but be sure to use them as a second monitor, not your main work computer.
The Differences Between PC, Chromebook & Mac
If you are taking PC-based IT training or career development classes, then working on a PC is really helpful. This is especially true when taking Microsoft classes such as Excel, Word, PowerPoint, or Outlook. There's a lot of people that are confused about the difference between a PC and a Chromebook. They are different. And so is a Mac. You can take computer classes with a Mac or a Chromebook but the problem comes from mostly the keyboards.
Whether it's a Chromebook or a Macbook, you have different keys. The keys are in different locations and computer training classes utilize the keyboard very often with keyboard shortcuts. The instructor may instruct you to hold down the control (CTRL) key, but a Macbook doesn't have that. Sometimes you're trying to use the Delete key and a Chromebook doesn't have that.
Full Size Keyboards for Quicker Learning
When doing computer training, it would be helpful if you could have a regular full-size keyboard. If you're using a laptop, you do have a lot of the same keys but you just need to know where they are. Keyboard shortcuts are used for a well-rounded approach to using computer software.
Keyboard shortcuts can be more efficient than trying to find a button somewhere in the software. For example, with online learning, a function five (F5) key can help refresh things like a website or a lab. So we do rely on them occasionally. Function four (F4) is also really important in excel as the ability to change a cell from absolute (which means it never changes) to leaving it as a relative. You can type it in. It's just a lot longer to do so. It's just easier to hit F4.
Get a Mouse to Avoid Touchpad Troubles
If you have a laptop and you have a touchpad it is going to make your life just a little more difficult in computer training classes. We do things like "click and drag", which means you're supposed to keep depressed the mouse and move your finger. It can be difficult.
There are all sorts of very cost-effective wireless or wired mice. As long as it has a left click, right click, and scroll wheel it's a lot better than a laptop touchpad.
How to Keep Internet Connection During Online Class
Probably the biggest thing that will make a difference is how are you connected. None of us have control over our internet. We've all had different problems at different times. However, you can do a couple of things.
The biggest thing that will make a difference is if you directly connect to your router. An ethernet cable, which has a connector like the old-fashioned phone cables, plugs into the back of your router. You can plug it directly into your laptop or computer. I know that a lot of us don't have our routers directly beside our computers. Yours may be in the living room, a kid's room, or even the kitchen! However, you can buy a 100 ft. of ethernet CAT5 internet cable at Walmart for less than fifteen dollars.
If you directly connect to your router, your internet speed goes up phenomenally. Your chances of being dropped decline drastically. It really makes a world of difference.
The other thing is how much internet is actually being used. If you have other children or a spouse or somebody else in your home that's trying to stream YouTube, that's going to affect your situation in class. You need to prioritize what is the most important thing in your life. If you're putting the time and money into coming into online computer class, having your computer's internet connection is probably more important than having YouTube streaming down the hall
Are Wired or Wireless Headsets Best for Online Class?
A lot of this depends on your general environment. I would try to stay away from the wired earbuds that have microphones on the wire. They don't seem to have quite the quality. Also, it's harder to hear students and easier to hear things like it moving on your fabric.
If you are in an absolutely quiet area with no noise whatsoever like I am, the microphone and speaker on your laptop or camera could work fine.
If you're in a noisy environment, let's say you've got family, kids, etc, a two-earphone headset is better so you can concentrate. One of the biggest challenges of learning from home is actually when you have other people around. Trying to tune them out is really hard. Two-earphone headsets serve a dual-fold purpose in that you can hear the instructor, and it also blocks the distractions that you might have around you.
Blue Light Filtering Glasses
If you're going to be spending hours and hours in front of a monitor the quality of the monitor is huge. The higher the quality, the less likely you are to have headaches. I have actually reached the point where my monitor is mounted on my wall so I can look straight at it. Monitor resolution makes a huge difference in the amount of headaches that you might get because if you're spending a lot of time on a low quality screen with poor lighting you're going to end up with headaches.
You can find glasses that don't even have any sort of prescription but they have blue light blocking film. It doesn't interfere with your ability to read or see, but what it does is it gives your eye just that extra bit of rest when you're looking at a monitor for hours and hours like a full-day computer class.
Questions to Consider About Career Training
Education is the key to career advancement, but you don’t need a college degree or MBA to get ahead. IT training and career training are an efficient and proven way to advance your career and acquire new job skills. Ask these questions when considering career training programs.