Student Resources for Distance Learning
In general, you will need the following resources at home in order to take online classes:
- A computer
- A webcam and microphone (almost all webcams have mics built in)
- Internet access
Not everyone has those resources at home, so here's some quick information for how you might gather them.
We have a good-sized pool of laptops, primarily PCs, available for checkout from the Solutions Center in Tutt Library. Due to the pandemic, the normal rules on checking out these laptops for 2 weeks can be altered so you are able to keep them much longer.
- Please only check out a laptop if you need one at home to take online classes - there are only so many to go around and we want to make sure we meet the needs before the wants.
- If necessary, we can ship you the laptop.
- If you are a Senior, we'll make arrangements for you to ship the computer back to us.
Webcam and microphone
Most laptops come with a built-in webcam / microphone combo. You may need to enable it or remove your security strip of tape from covering it to use it. If you have a desktop computer at home or otherwise need a webcam and microphone, here's the one we recommend (relatively cheap but good quality):
Note that if you plan to join class sessions from a place with a lot of background noise, you may wish to invest in a headset, which will help with both hearing and other people hearing you in those situations. Here is our recommended headset (cheap but good quality):
If you're having trouble with slow internet at home, start with our home internet issues page.
Most cell phones (and plans) have the option to turn your phone into a "mobile hotspot." Once turned on, you can join devices to that wireless network put out by your phone and use the cellular plan for internet connectivity. Note that this option depends on good cellular signal and it will use more data than usual - if you use this option, we recommend you keep an eye on your data usage so you don't have an unexpectedly large charge for data overage.
Most cellular providers also provide a device that serves as a hotspot - they have plans which go with them, but those plans are cheaper than a cell phone plan. In these cases, you'll also have to buy the device, which is usually around $80. This option also depends on good cellular signal.
- AT&T: https://www.att.com/shop/wireless/devices/modems.deviceListLineView.xhr.html
- Verizon: https://www.verizonwireless.com/internet-devices/
- T-Mobile: https://www.t-mobile.com/phones-devices/t-mobile-4g-hotspot-z915
- Sprint: https://www.sprint.com/en/shop/hotspots/netstick.html?ensembleId=ANSGTC1000KT&contractName=0-yr-ib&deviceQuantity=1&plan=pln10780002prd&tep=true&protectionPlan=1100264
Internet providers have started announcing various packages to help with those who don't have internet or have slow internet at home. Here's a list so far of what they're doing
- FCC agreement stating that providers will waive late fees, not cutoff service for lack of payment, and open hot-spots.
- Charter Free Internet offer for 2 months
- AT&T COVID-19 response: offers open hot-spots, unlimited data to existing customers, and $10/month plans to low income families
- Verizon COVID-19 response: no special offers, but following the FCC agreement.
- Sprint COVID-19 response: follows FCC agreement, provides unlimited data to existing customers, and, starting Tuesday, 3/17/2020, will allow all handsets to enable hot-spots for 60 days at no extra charge (I expect others will follow).
- T-Mobile COVID-19 response: follows FCC agreement, plus unlimited data to existing customers, and, coming soon, will allow all handsets to enable hot-spots for 60 days at no extra charge (I expect others will follow).
Comcast has developed a comprehensive COVID-19 response to keep individuals and families connected to the Internet, including:
- Internet Essentials Free to New Customers: Speeds will increase to 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream for all new and existing customers. New families who connect will receive 60 days of Internet service for free. The Internet Essentials program is normally available to all qualified low-income households in Comcast’s service area for $9.95/month.
- Xfinity WiFi Hotspots Free for Everyone: Xfinity WiFi hotspots across the country will be available to anyone who needs them for free – including non-Xfinity Internet subscribers. For a map of Xfinity WiFi hotspots, visit www.xfinity.com/wifi. Once at a hotspot, select the “xfinitywifi” network name in the list of available hotspots and then launch a browser to connect.
Comcast is also pausing their data plan for 60 days to give all customers unlimited data for no additional charge, committing to no disconnects or late fees, providing 24x7 network monitoring, and making current movies from Universal Pictures available at home the same day as their global theatrical release.
For a full list of Comcast’s comprehensive response, please visit www.comcastcorporation.com/COVID-19/
If you don't have access to a printer at home and prefer to read on printed pages, you can print on campus before you leave if you can get access to some or all of the class materials before you head out. Otherwise, we'd recommend checking with public libraries - they will often let you print a certain amount for free and/or charge a minimal fee for printing.
See our page on connecting from off campus for more information and instructions on how to use VMWare to connect to virtual lab resources. Depending on your course, you may need to do this in order to access specialized software that is not installed on your computer.