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Technology and Distance Education: What Do You Need?
Canadian students enrolled in more than 1.36 million online credit courses during the 2016-2017 college year. And 1 in 5 students took at least one course online each year prior to 2020. But remote education isn't just for the college crowd.
Even K-12 adoption is expanding across the globe, and with current safeguards in place, many students are beginning their first day of school at a laptop or desktop in their own homes.
Whether you recently started using remote learning in your home or you've considered it for a while now, it's crucial that you study up on what to do ahead of time. We've listed our best tips for technology and distance education for anyone looking to have a seamless and productive school year. Start now to get ready for the next semester.
Best technology and distance education tips
While the exact methods for achievement may vary from school to school or even student to student, educators agree on the basics of online learning. Here are some of the steps you can take to stop distance education snafus before they begin.
1. Create a workspace for success
There's no need to order an executive desk set just yet. Most students can make do with a modest corner workstation set up in their bedroom or a shared office area, assuming it has all of the required elements. What do they need?
- Desktop or laptop PC
- External mouse and keyboard
- Speakers and/or headset
Get a work surface that's right for their height, and don't skimp on the desk chair. Ergonomics play a vital role in helping everyone stay healthy while learning from home.
2. Learn technology in advance
The first day of class is too late to prepare for what's ahead. Test your software before the semester starts to understand how tools like video conferencing and real-time exams will work with your specific laptop or headset. Troubleshoot problems well before the first day, and buy new equipment ahead of time for best results.
If your school or teacher doesn't respond quickly enough to your requests (after all, they are troubleshooting their own setup), visit the website for the tech provider you'll use (Zoom, Google Hangouts, etc.) and check their FAQ pages for the most common answers to issues. Even the best software for distance learning has an adjustment period.
3. Check in often
It's up to you to be proactive about getting access to important information, so it's good to know how to reach instructors and classmates with questions before they become urgent.
When your student doesn't know something, don't let them wait until the assignment is due or even the next class session to ask. The most successful remote students are the ones who take the initiative to be part of the classroom experience.
4. Update software
Does your computer meet all of the laptop requirements for online classes? A cutting-edge piece of equipment only matters if its software is functioning well. Know how to check your software for updates, including security software, which can protect the PC from damage or productivity loss.
If you aren't sure what version your child's class is using for an app or platform, check the syllabus or ask the teacher. Make sure that each tool is installed and working properly before the first class.
The best laptop for online classes
It's hard to overstate the importance of a computer in distance education. Even with our best practices in place, your child may face limitations without a well-performing computer to view class videos, do research, and complete work. While the perfect fit depends on class requirements and personal preferences, the following laptops have won high praise from distance learners.
1. HP Chromebook 14a-na0020ca HD notebook
The HP Chromebook is a classroom staple, with more schools using this brand of gear for their "one student, one laptop" program to quickly get every kid online.
The HP Chromebook 14a-na0020ca HD is an updated learning laptop that features an efficient and flexible Chrome operating system that connects students seamlessly to Google Classroom, YouTube, Gmail, and more. This laptop also features B&O speakers for an immersive audio experience, making it an easy pick for the best laptop for distance learning.
- 14-inch HD display for easy viewing
- Responsive quad-core Intel® Pentium® processor
- Backlit, bilingual, full-sized keyboard in French and English
- Up to 11 hours and 45 minutes of battery life
2. HP ENVY 17-cg0010ca laptop
If you want a bigger and bolder experience, it may be time to invest in a premium device like the HP ENVY 17-cg0010ca. This powerful laptop offers a stunning 17-inch Full High Definition (FHD) screen so that your child can take in every detail of online presentations. It runs on the Windows 10 Home 64 platform to provide easy access to you and your family's favourite programs, too.
You'll also get the benefits of enhanced video security features. This laptop comes with an unhackable webcam shutter and a mute microphone button you can access at any time, while using any software.
- Intel Core™ i5-1035G1 processor, featuring Turbo Boost Technology
- 128GB M.2 SSD storage for keeping all your files and projects safe
- NVIDIA® GeForce® MX 330 graphics card for art and gaming projects
3. HP Pavilion 15-dq1010ca FHD convertible laptop
With a screen size between our first and second picks, the HP Pavilion 15-dq1010ca FHD provides the functionality of a Windows laptop with the sleek portability of a tablet. You can easily fold it from laptop to tablet mode because its sturdy hinges are built to last. It's also much more adaptable than a traditional tablet thanks to the multiple ports and a multi-format card reader.
- Responsive 15.6-inch diagonal HD touch display for movies, learning, and games
- 1TB 5400 rpm SATA for an incredible storage capacity
- Full-sized, English-language keyboard for easier composition and note-taking
The best desktops for distance learning
If you prefer a stationary setup, you can't go wrong with these high-performing desktops that are ready to make homework, art projects, and video conferencing a breeze. Choose the one that fits your workspace, your style, and your child's school demands.
1. HP 22-c0039 All-in-One PC
When shopping for gadgets isn't your idea of a good time, a PC like the HP 22-c0039 All-In-One is a fantastic solution. The computer is built into the monitor, and everything you need is in one box, making this plug-and-play option the quickest way to get back to class this semester. You'll also enjoy 8GB of memory, which is more than enough for performing the multiple tasks used by students every day.
- Beautiful, minimalist design matches every home schooling space
- Intel Core™ i3-8100T processor and UHD Graphics 630
- 2TB 7200 RPM SATA offers more onsite storage so you can access projects quickly
2. HP ProDesk 400 G5 desktop mini PC
When space efficiency matters, consider a mini PC like the HP ProDesk 400 G5. This small computer takes up very little space and you can even mount it under a desk for less clutter. This computer was made for small businesses, making it an excellent match for high school students, college learners, and anyone juggling remote corporate life and classroom duties.
- Business-class processing from the Intel Core i5-9500T
- Stunning visuals from the Intel UHD Graphics 630
- Increased security to keep your files safe
3. HP ENVY TE01-0049 desktop PC
If your academic career is focused on the arts, 3D design, engineering, or other processor-intensive activities, the HP ENVY TE01-0049 desktop computer is an excellent choice. With an Intel Core i7-9700 processor featuring 8 cores, it's built to handle the most demanding editing and rendering tasks while streaming video with less stutter or lag.
The Intel UHD Graphics 630 is made to keep up with all of your creative projects, plus gaming and content streaming, too. This computer will quickly become your “everything” PC, giving you just as much support for your weekend pursuits as your weekday academics.
- High-performing 12GB DDR4-2666 SDRAM memory
- Increased airflow and cooler temps via the brushed thermal vents
- Compatible ports for true 5.1 surround sound
Why distance learning matters now
Even if you don't have to learn online this year, it's best to prepare for the future. Many classrooms offer distance learning choices that may fit well with your changing schedule or offer you more opportunities for continuing education. Some of the most notable master's programs are exclusively online, for example, and owning the right computer is crucial.
If you don't see yourself sitting at home while you learn, don't dismiss this as a chance to upgrade your tech. A proper learning station is also useful for a home business, household management, and creative pursuits, too.
About the Author: Linsey Knerl is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Linsey is a Midwest-based author, public speaker, and member of the ASJA. She has a passion for helping consumers and small business owners do more with their resources via the latest tech solutions.