Hardware for e-Learning

This section is dedicated to the required hardware you need for an adequate and pleasant e-Learning experience. Below you will find hardware suggestions for different topics and uses and some troubleshooting if you experience any difficulties.

For in-depth information on the use of microphones, mixers, video-cameras and etc. you can visit the EWP site here.

Information

Most of the e-Learning tools can be used with devices that you already have at home for instance: a computer, a smartphone and maybe you even own a tablet. This applies to MS Teams as well.

However, different devices or even operating systems (Windows, Apple, Linux) have an impact on how well Teams might work. To see the exact hardware requirements go here. There are also some general tips that might help you improve your experience with Teams:

  • Check if your system is up-to-date with the latest security updates
  • Make sure you're connected to a power-outlet whenever you can, so you will not have a battery problem
  • Only use relevant applications on your computer. It’s better to close other applications running on your computer. They can slow down the performance.

As a general note; besides the limitations of a smartphone, working or studying for hours on such a device is not comfortable and can even cause health issues. Therefore, we recommend using a dedicated computer or tablet for longer sessions.

If you do not own a computer or tablet but you have to move your teaching and learning activities online, you might consider acquiring additional equipment. Staff, students and teachers of the Royal Conservatoire receive an educative discount when buying computers, laptops and tablets via SurfSpot.

But keep in mind that you do not need the most expensive computer on the market in order to have a pleasant, well-functioning e-Learning experience!

Information

Naturally, a good e-Learning experience depends mostly on a good internet connection. This is especially the case for video-meetings and uploading media of significant size.

For MS Teams videomeetings you will need around 2 mbps download/upload bandwith. You can safely check your internet bandwith here: speedcheck.

Below you will find some useful tips to enhance your internet connection.

Tips:

  • The best network performance of your computer can be achieved by connecting the computer with a cable (cat5) to your network-router/WiFi modem.
  • If you do not have the possibility to connect a cable (cat5), make sure you are as close to your wireless (WifFi) acces-point as possible. The more distance there is, the worse the connection will be. Walls also impede the connection so try to be in the same room as your WiFi modem as well.
  • You can use the powerlines of your household to get better WiFi in separate rooms. With a powerline adapter (also known as a homeplug) you can turn every power socket in your house into a network connection or a WiFi hotspot. You do this without pulling cables: you connect 1 powerline adapter to your router and plug it into a power outlet, the other adapters you place where you need a network connection or WiFi hotspot. A starter kit with 2 or 3 adapters can easily be expanded with individual adapters.
  • Make sure not everybody in the household is using the internet during video-meetings. Your modem can only communicate a certain amount of data at a time.
  • If you still have trouble getting a good connection you could try to change the frequency channel of your internet. Most people use the default channel which can make the 'internet traffic' on that particular channel busy and therefore slow. Type in the IP address of your modem in the internet browser and log in (these credentials are found on the back of your modem/WiFi device). Go to settings to change the channels. Usually channels 1, 6 and 11 are best. You can also change the frequency band here. Choose 2.4ghz for slow but far-reaching WiFi and 5ghz for faster internet but with less physical range.

Information

There are different ways that video can be used in e-Learning: to have video-meetings, to record lesson materials, built up your portfolio and etc. For different types of uses there are different hardware requirements and options. See below more information on these types. Don't forget that you can rent equipment from the EWP before considering acquiring additional equipment yourself. Students, Teachers and staff from the Royal Conservatoire can borrow equipment for educational purposes from the EWP. Various equipment is available: microphones, recorders, cameras, sound cards, speakers etc. Student can borrow equipment free of charge to use in rehearsals, recordings, recitals, concerts which are part of their curriculum.

Video-meetings

Video-meetings don't require that much dedicated hardware. You can join a video-meeting with your smartphone or with the built-in webcam of your laptop. However, if you have lot of meetings and/or online classes you might want to acquire some additional hardware to enhance the experience for yourself and your attendees. Note that video and audio quality in video-meetings is also depended on your internet connection. A bad/slow connection will result in lower video and audio resolution. If this happens, you can choose to close the video connection and only use the audio connection. This way less data has to be shared and the meeting will be more stable.

Usually built-in webcams of the average laptop are of poor quality. Consider an extra dedicated external webcam to overcome this. There are numerous options and price-ranges. But don't go for the cheapest one as this will be a minimal upgrade to your already existing built-in webcam. You might want to opt for webcam that indicates when your camera is on to remind you that people can see you. You can find some options here.

If sound is equally/more important; consider getting a dedicated microphone that you can connect easily by USB. The Blue Snowball microphones for example are easy to use and have great audio-quality. See here for the numerous other options.

Dedicated video and audio recordings (for teachers)

If you want to record and edit videos of high quality for your online classes you will probably need some extra hardware and software. This means that you will need a decent computer, video-camera, software and expertise to make it all work. Recently the EWP, in collaboration with the e-Learning coordinator Thomas Vorisek, has set up a team to help teachers create their own high quality content for e-Learning. We give advice, lend out equipment and can help with the editing if necessary. You can contact us here.

Video record for your portfolio (for students)

As a student you might get a video assignment or need to video record your work to place in your digital portfolio. Most of the time you can do this with your smartphone. If not, make sure you contact the EWP to rent some additional equipment like video-cameras. Below you will find some useful tips to enhance your recording regardless of what hardware is being used:

  • When you use your smartphone, hold it horizontally when recording. This will create a better proportion for larger (HD) screens.
  • Do not place a light source behind you. This will cause your own face to be darkened and not visible. Always make sure the light source is in front you. Windows in your house are especially something to pay attention to. Always face the window when recording.
  • Make sure you settle yourself in a quiet room. Background noises can be very distracting and might deter from your performance.
  • For the audio quality try not to be too far away from the camera or smartphone.
  • Do a test run first and see if the video and audio quality is alright before recording longer sessions.