5-Step Guide: How To Be Online Learning Ready
While the Philippines goes on general community quarantine once more, schools and teachers are launching online classes to make sure education persists despite the pandemic. While educators prepare to hold online classes, students are also scrambling to prepare for school. However, unlike before where students prepare their uniforms, their school supplies and textbooks, preparation for online classes takes on a very different approach today.
Here are 5 steps to help guide students and parents of students to make sure they have all their bases covered to start their online classes.
5 Steps To Be Online Learning Ready
With so many gadgets in the market today, you can take a pick from a personal computer to a tablet or smartphone. Depending on your budget, there will surely be a gadget to suit your needs. But if you can afford it, we highly recommend you use a computer like a desktop or a laptop rather than a mobile device like a tablet or a smartphone because computers tend to have more features and provide better user experience for online learning.
If you do choose to use a tablet or a smartphone, however, that's also manageable since most online learning platforms can run on mobile devices. Just make sure to check whether your gadget can support the hardware and software needs of your online learning platform.
But if you plan to use a computer, note that it’s not necessary to splurge on the latest computer models available on the market. It is important, however, to have a personal computer or at least have a computer that is readily available at home so that you can use it anytime to attend online classes and to accomplish requirements for your online classes.
While borrowing is plausible, it can pose a danger to the students’ academic performance if the computer isn’t available when the student needs to write a paper, submit homework, or watch a lecture. So if borrowing a computer might mean that there will be times when you can't use it, then investing in a reliable computer can be a great investment.
But just because you need to buy a computer doesn’t mean you have to go all out and fork out a huge chunk of your savings! There are plenty of gadgets in the market these days. Though brand new is the way to go because gadgets depreciate and their functions slow down with time, there are plenty of secondhand and refurbished options one can choose from at an affordable rate. If you're thinking of purchasing a used laptop, you can check out platforms where people sell used items like Carousell and Facebook Marketplace.
Just make sure that you inspect the computer carefully before paying for it and taking the gadget home. It’s better if you can have someone you trust who knows more about computers with you when you inspect it before you purchase it to avoid being scammed.
Whether you’re in the market for a brand new computer or a secondhand one, knowing what features your computer must have is a must because it helps you identify which type of computer and under which price bracket of computers you should be getting.
Because Philippine private schools usually use Zoom, Skype, Canvas, and Google Meet to hold their online classes, we came up with a table that lists the minimum software and hardware requirements to run these online learning platforms. Although each computer has many more features that can influence your purchase, we listed the processors, operating systems, and RAMs that you should have at the minimum to help you decide which computer to buy for your online learning needs.
Single Core 1Ghz or Higher
*Preferably: Dual Core 2Ghz or Higher (i3/i5/i7 or AMD equivalent)
macOS X with macOS 10.9 or later
Windows 7 or later
1 GHz Intel processor (Core 2 Duo)
Mac OS X 10.10 or higher
At least 1 GB
2 GHz processor or faster
Windows XP SP3 and newer
Mac OSX 10.6 and newer
1GB RAM or greater
2.2 GHz Intel 2nd-generation i3/i5/i7, AMD equivalent or better
(Current version and 2 previews versions of Mac and Windows)
MacOS High Sierra and later
Windows 7 and later
To check your current internet speed, go to speedtest.net.
If you're considering acquiring new internet connection from a local internet provider, you first want to determine the internet speed you will need to effectively take online classes. To do this, consider the application or online learning platform you will be using for your online classes. While there are hundreds of programs people can use, we organized a table below of the 4 online learning platforms most private schools in the Philippines use to help you decide what internet speed you need to have in order to run basic functions such as conducting video calls and attending online classes.
Please note that the following internet speeds are the minimum speeds required to run the programs. For the video conferencing platforms, we used the minimum internet speed needed to run a group video call while for Canvas, it’s the minimum internet speed to run the program on your browser. However, for the best online learning experience, these internet speeds are insufficient. As a rule of thumb when it comes to internet speed, the faster the better.
Also, keep in mind that internet speed can fluctuate depending on the time of the day and sometimes even the weather conditions, so never go for the minimum internet speed and relying on data for something as important as taking online classes.
Minimum Internet Requirements
At least 800kbps/1.0Mbps (up/down) for high-quality group video calling
At least 4Mbps (down) / 128kbps (up) for a group video call
Minimum of 512k
At least 300kbps
Now, if you’re thinking of which internet provider in the Philippines would be best suitable for your online learning needs, we organized a table which you might find helpful when making a decision of where to get your internet. The table below shows the most affordable rates for unlimited internet use provided by the top internet providers in the Philippines: PLDT, Converge, Globe, and Sky Cable.
Up to 10mbps (With free landline)
Up to 25mbps
Up to 10mbps (with free landline and unlimited calls to Globe and Touch Mobile)
Up to 10mbps (comes with modem)
Please take note that these rates don’t include installation fees and lock-in conditions.
Like in any situation, having a Plan B is important especially when it comes to something as important is internet connection. While the internet providers we listed above are well-known and favored for a reason, internet can still act up and fluctuate in moments when you absolutely need it. So in those rare occasions where you need supplementary internet connection, here are some affordable data options for mobile internet you can explore so you can still be online learning ready even with a power shortage. With a smartphone, you can easily set up a hotspot and use data when your regular internet cannot provide you what you need.
Here is a table of the most affordable prepaid and postpaid data options from the largest network providers in the Philippines, Globe, and Smart.
GIGA STUDY 99 -- Google Suite, Google Zoom, Youtube, Microsoft 365, Microsoft Teams + 2GB for 7 days
P99 for 7 days (P14.14/day)
Signature SIM-only 999
10GB Open Access Data
Unlimited texts to all networks
Unlimited calls to Smart
150 min. Calls to all networks
GoSURF50 -- 2GB for 3 days
P50 for 3 days (P16.67/day)
ThePLAN PLUS 599
-- 3GB + 100 mins. All net calls + 1GB Facebook
Please note that these are only backup options and are by no means a replacement for your primary source of internet. Not only is internet data more limited, it is also subject to signal availability which is even less reliable than a regular internet connection.
Photo by Kevin Ku from Pexels
Although the online learning environment is very important for effective online learning, the ones responsible for cultivating it are educators and institutions. What you can do, as parents and students, is supplement whatever the school or teacher provides by making sure that you are taking online classes in a physical environment that is free from distractions so that you can devote all your energy and focus on learning.
To do so, make sure that there is sufficient lighting in the room where you’ll be taking online classes. This is important because lighting helps your teacher and your peers see you well through the webcam. More importantly, good lighting prevents eye strain.
With online learning, students will be staring at bright blue light screens for at least hours at a time. While staring at screens in the dark will not seriously damage eyesight, it can cause eye strain. Some symptoms of eye strain are dry, irritated eyes, headaches, feeling of pressure behind the eyes, and blurry vision (Bad for Eyes to Use Computer in Dark?). To avoid experiencing these problems, use your computer in a well-lit environment.
Besides good lighting, it is also important to pay attention to the noise in the room where you’ll be taking online classes. While living in the city makes the occasional noise inevitable, you can take some steps to minimize noise while taking online classes:
Hans Olav Lien / CC BY-SA
Because Philippine weather is perpetually humid and hot, electric fans are a Filipino household staple. Unfortunately, turning them on while on a video call can lead to crunching sounds in the audio caused by wind blowing against the microphone. This can be very distracting for the other people in the video call because they cannot hear what you’re saying properly.
An easy solution to avoid this problem is to make sure that the microphone is facing away from the fan or the fan is facing a different direction from the microphone. If you have the liberty, choose airconditioning over a fan since this will produce less noise.
Another alternative for people who like to minimize noise is to use headsets. While you don’t need to go out and purchase the best headsets with active noise cancellation features, investing in a pair that is comfortable to wear for hours at a time and one that is durable enough to sustain some tugging will prove to be a great investment in the long run.
(For affordable quality headsets, please check this out.)
A pair of headsets comes with earpieces and a microphone that is held closely to one’s mouth. The earpieces prevent the student from being distracted by noise in the environment and the proximity of the microphone to the student’s mouth minimizes the noise captured by the microphone.
On a side note, for the people who would prefer not to showcase their homes during online classes, a great alternative is the use of virtual background functions in order to conceal one’s video background. Zoom, Skype, and Google Meet have this function so that one can benefit from this if he or she is working in a messy environment or a private space that one would rather not reveal to everyone else in their online classes.
Shine joachim / CC BY-SA
While there are many criteria that can go into the selection of a good study table, here are some criteria you can observe when choosing a table based on its size and structure.
To begin, determine the size of the room where you will take online classes. If the room is small, opt for a linear table that can be pushed up against the wall or a corner. If the room is bigger, then you can have more freedom to choose the shape and size of your table (Buying Guide | How To Choose The Right Study Table).
Secondly, you want to select a table that is “between 26 to 30 for a comfortable seating position”, better yet, “test the seat and see if the desk height is comfortable” (Buying Guide | How To Choose The Right Study Table). This is important because most, if not all, of your time taking online classes will be spent seated behind the table. If the table was of an uncomfortable height, it can lead to back problems and muscle pain in the neck and shoulders which can be really troubling over time.
Image by F.D. Richards
Although there are many chairs available in the market, it’s important to take into consideration that you will be sitting on this chair for hours at a time every day for at least five days a week. This means that the chair should be comfortable and healthy for your back so you can focus more on your online classes.
If you are thinking of buying a chair to use for taking online classes, a good option is an office chair. While these are pricier and not absolutely necessary, office chairs are designed for long hours of sitting and have taken into account the comfort of different users. That’s why most office chairs are adjustable to suit each individual’s needs and should be the best option for prolonged sitting.
When considering an office chair purchase, pay attention to lumbar support and the adjustability of certain features that will contribute to customized seating comfort.
Image from Gear Patrol
Lumbar support: one of the most important elements of a good chair is the support it provides the lower back. This prevents back strain and can help prevent back-related problems (Jobin)
Adjustability: “Important features that should be adjustable include lumbar support, arm width and height, seat back width and height, seat and back angle, and tension control. Many of the supports are dial controlled while a few are controlled with a hand-held bulb pump, similar to a blood pressure cuff pump” (Jobin).
Got these ready? You’re ready to learn online!
Check out these online learning services to help you get started!
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