To teach online, the only gear you really need is a computer with a built-in camera and microphone (plus internet access), and you shouldn’t let a lack of fancier technology hold you back from starting a teaching business on Outschool.
That said, experienced online educators will tell you a few upgrades can make virtual teaching even sweeter! We asked the Outschool educator community what tech tools have made a big difference for their teaching businesses. Here’s what they recommend.
This may seem like a given, but it’s truly the foundation of a successful virtual class. There’s nothing worse than losing your WiFi connection and getting kicked out of Zoom during a class. Parents and learners are frustrated by connectivity issues just as much as you are, so educators recommend doing everything you can to set yourself up for success here.
To really up their game, some educators will even dig out a tried-and-true ethernet cord and hardwire the internet into their computer. This isn’t required, but it gives you a sense of how serious you can be about not losing that connection while you’re teaching!
Headphones with microphones
A pair of comfy headphones with a microphone attached may be one of the best initial investments you make as an online educator. A good headset can improve the sound quality remarkably for both you and your learners, and that can make a big difference in creating a consistent class experience.
Gaming headsets are popular with educators on Outschool for their superior quality. Wireless earbuds can work too, but they often need to be charged and can be uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time, making many educators opt for headsets that cover their ears. One educator mentioned an extra bonus from this investment:
“My headset microphone has background noise canceling, so students don’t hear my dog or the lawnmower!”
Dual monitors were probably the most popular tech upgrade among the educators we polled. It’s a more expensive investment, but many educators cite this as their favorite purchase for seamless virtual teaching if you can swing it! With two monitors, you can share a presentation from one screen and keep your Zoom feed with learners’ faces on the other. This way, you never miss a question and have your notes and slides in view throughout class.
If you use Apple products, Sidecar allows you to use an iPad as a second monitor with a Mac computer (laptop or desktop). So you can potentially save yourself a purchase if you already have those devices at home.
Webcams & document cameras
Webcams, document cameras, and multi-camera set-ups can impact your classroom experience in more ways than one. One educator on Outschool said:
“I only just recently upgraded to a better camera and lighting and redid my videos, and I saw more enrollments almost immediately.”
Pretty amazing! Webcams provide a better video quality than almost any built-in laptop webcam, and how you look on screen makes a difference to learners. Another educator said investing in a good webcam “has made a huge difference in the lighting and professionalism of my videos.” You can even use them to record professional course videos that introduce prospective learners to your personality and teaching style.
Some educators require multiple cameras for their type of instruction. For example, a musician may need one camera on the piano keys and one on their face. Document cameras can be especially useful for educators who use whiteboards or tablets in class or educators who need to demonstrate skills with their hands (like arts, crafts, and music).
If web or document cams are out of your budget, an easy hack is to purchase an adjustable phone arm. These arms usually clip right onto your desk or monitor, allowing you to use your phone camera as a second video stream. As for this particular hack, one educator said, “I don’t know how I taught without it!”
Lighting & background
Getting great lighting in your teaching space can be tricky. If you teach from multiple locations, you may need a mobile solution (like a clip-on ring light) you can take with you. Folks with an area at home dedicated to virtual teaching may be able to install more permanent LED lighting that really brightens up their space.
A few tips from educators on putting yourself in the best light include:
- Use ring lights that plug in, instead of running on battery (they could run out during class if you forget to charge them)
- Tall lamps or desk lamps can work as lighting sources if you’re on a budget and set them up just right
- Natural lighting is ideal if you can get it consistently
Some educators recommended roll-up green screens for your background, as well, especially if you don’t work in a separate office or room in your home. When talking about her green screen, one educator said, “Five-minute set-up and my living room becomes a pro studio with any background I need or want!”
There’s one big winner here from educators: Canva Pro. Canva helps anyone – truly anyone, regardless of experience – make professional image and video designs. There are plenty of tutorials for newbies, and the possibilities are endless. Especially as you think about branding your business, this can be a great asset. Educators use Canva or similar design services to create:
- Thumbnail images for their classes
- Class materials
- Social media posts
- Marketing materials like digital ads or flyers with unique QR codes
Okay, what about the stuff that just gives you that extra boost during a long day of teaching? Here are a few of educators’ favorite things:
- A high-quality chair with lumbar support
- Electronic coffee mug warmer (no more cold coffee)
- Movable standing/sitting desk, or a standing desk attachment for a regular desk
- Stationary bike pedals or an anti-fatigue mat for standing desks to keep your body moving
- Monitor riser for great posture while sitting
Have a few items on your wishlist after reading this post? So do we. If you’re wondering which brands or types of cameras, lights, or desks are popular in the Outschool community, post your questions in the Educator Hub on Facebook to hear directly from other educators on the platform. For more tech tips, dive into this course on using Zoom as an educator or learn more about choosing and creating virtual activities for your classes.