I can’t believe it has already been a year that I was sent home and asked to teach remotely. At that time, all I had was my laptop and a pair of headphones which I plugged in. Fast forward one year, and I realise that I have actually added more to my home teaching office.
In this post, I will be sharing what other online teachers and educators can include if they wish to enhance their working environment. Below is a video where I detail more information.
1. A Decent Laptop or Desktop
The first thing which I purchased – which is possibly the most important – is getting a laptop or desktop. Obviously, you need to get a laptop/desktop which is capable of running multiple windows and applications, as well as meeting your needs. Personally, I wanted to get an Apple MacBook Pro for video editing and its portability back in 2019 and it also seemed to be a great choice for online teaching. The current line-up of Apple laptops with the M1 chip are more affordable and you can purchase a decent laptop for your classes. If you want to buy a desktop alternative then you could either get an Apple Mini or an Apple iMac.
I have used a Windows laptop and desktop before but I found that they usually crashed or disconnected when teaching online classes. However, since using my 2019 MacBook Pro, I have had very few issues at all and it is incredibly reliable. Nevertheless, purchase a computer that you feel comfortable with and you will be comfortable when delivering lessons.
2. A Second Monitor
The next investment that you could consider when enhancing your home office is to get a second monitor. The reason is that when you have a single screen, it is very difficult to spread out applications and tools. When you have that screen space, you can manage everything a lot more effectively and this is obvious when you teach online. On my primary monitor (my laptop), I use Zoom or Skype, while on my second monitor, I use PowerPoint, Word or other applications to share with students.
The monitor that I decided to purchase was the Samsung LU28E570 28″ UHD 4K Monitor. It would allow three different inputs (2 x HDMI and 1 x Displayport). I would always recommend either Samsung or LG when it comes down to external monitors for laptops or desktops. The extra screen space will allow teachers not to worry or stress over such a small screen.
3. Bluetooth Headphones
When I was teaching last year, I was using headphones which plugged into the side of my laptop. If I were to move or want to stretch a little during the lesson, I had to take my headphones off. Thus, I decided to get some Bluetooth Headphones: a pair of Sony WH-CH510 Bluetooth Headphones.
What I like about these headphones is that they are affordable, have a very long battery life and also fit snuggly over my rather large head. You can also walk away from your computer and still listen to students while you are pottering around in the same or different room – something which is impossible when you use cabled headphones.
4. An External Microphone
One of the latest investments – which I wish I had invested earlier in my online teaching career – was an external microphone. They help immensely when it comes down to improving overall audio quality for online lessons or meetings. Plus, you look really cool when you have it.
I would recommend that you consider purchasing a USB microphone such as Røde or Blue Yeti. I decided to get the Røde NT-USB microphone as it has a nice little pop shield (to stop all those plosives causing unnecessary feedback while speaking) and you also get a nice little tripod included. If you really want to literally and figuratively elevate your microphone, you can get a swing arm for the Røde (Røde PSA1 Swivel Mount) or a microphone and swing arm for the Blue Yeti (Yeticaster).
5. Bluetooth Keyboard & Mouse
The next step for making a more professional home office is to make it more accessible than before. One way to achieve this is getting a Bluetooth Keyboard and Mouse. There are a variety of keyboards and mouses on the market, depending upon whether you have a Windows or Mac OS environment.
Personally, I wanted to get a keyboard which would function effectively with my MacBook so decided to purchase the Logitech MX Keys. On top of the keyboard, I wanted to get a mouse but as I have grown used to the Apple Trackpad, I decided to invest in the external Apple Magic Trackpad 2. Both linked up to my laptop immediately and have required very little recharging over the past number of months. It also allows me to not sit over my laptop and keep it at a distance if I wish.
6. External Webcam
One more thing that a teacher should consider is using an external webcam. You may be wondering why when you have an in-built camera/webcam with your laptop. Well, to be honest, the quality of this in-built is not that great and an external webcam such as the Logitech C920 Webcam offers much better quality. Students will see the difference and you will set an example for other teachers when you attend a meeting.
I decided to use a camera that I purchase last year as an external webcam: my Sony ZV-1. Sony have created an application which will allow users to use it to connect to their PC or Mac via their software and use it as a webcam. I have been using it for a while now and I enjoy the greater clarity and quality.
7. Cable Adapter
When you work with a MacBook Pro, you will be stuck with the connections decided by Apple and to connect all the other wired devices to it will require an adapter. Thus, I had to invest a little in getting a useful adapter. There are several adapters on the market and are a lot cheaper than Apple alternatives, so I would suggest MacBook users to get the VaKo USB C Adapter.
If you wish to connect your Mac to your second monitor, ensure you have a HDMI input for the monitor and get a USB C to HDMI cable. This allows you to use one of the connections on the MacBook rather than relying too heavily on the cable adapter.
That is my set up and what I have invested in during the past 12 months of teaching remotely for my institution. What is your current setup for teaching remotely? What would you like to improve upon with your home office? What advice would you have for me to improve my current office set up?
As ever, share your ideas and tips in the comments.