Minimum Requirements to Teach Online

As with any digital practice, teaching online has several technical requirements that, if met, will ensure the most efficient and productive experience for both the faculty member and the students.

Internet Connection

In the general case, if you have a connection defined by your internet service provider (ISP) as “high speed internet”, then you likely have a sufficient internet speed for online course delivery. But, we’ll go a little deeper here in regards to the actual numbers.

Internet speeds are represented by 2 numbers, “download rate” and “upload rate”, both represented in units of Mbps (megabits per second). A sufficient speed for teaching online would be 8Mbps download and 2-3Mbps upload. Any speed faster than those numbers is obviously just a better experience.

“So, how do I know what internet speed I have?” Well, you may remember your internet speed numbers from when you ordered your service, or be able to find them by logging on to your ISP’s account page. However, you can just run a free test by visiting a website:

While the 2 values listed above are sufficient for teaching online, having a faster upload value than the 2-3Mbps would be especially convenient if you plan on recording quite a bit of video. A number of 10Mbps or higher would be especially good as the upload value.

Devices

The basic device requirements for teaching online are a computer (either Windows or Mac OS) with a built-in or aftermarket USB webcam.  If you don’t have a built-in camera and need to purchase a USB one, there are many brands on the market which would be sufficient, but the “industry standard” in the tech world are cameras made by Logitech which should be available at most online retailers.

While iPads or other tablets have become more common, and while there are things you can do with them that you cannot do with a computer, they are still less ideal as the primary device for delivering classes online. This is not to say that it’s not possible to run an online class strictly from an iPad, it just won’t be as efficient a process as on a computer where you can use multiple programs at the same time.

Enhancements

Audio

The single best thing you can add to improve the technical quality of your online course delivery is a quality USB vocal microphone. There are many on the market at different values, but one recommended model is the Blue Yeti from Blue Microphones. You will find this microphone available at most online tech retailers and the purchase of it is PDF-eligble.

Microphones that are built into computers or webcams do work, but the sound quality is certainly minimal, and because they are so far away from you they have a tendency to capture and amplify a lot of “room sound” making them sound more distant and “echo-y”.

Lighting

Lighting of your room can make a real difference to the students who will be watching your content…from allowing them to focus on you and not be distracted by overly bright or dark elements to being able to get contextual cues from body language.  There are many ways to “do lighting”, so instead of recommending specific products, see this video which offers some simple, practical suggestions: