Best laptops for online teaching

These days you wouldn’t dream of doing any kind of teaching without some sort of technology - and if you’re creating an online course or teaching a course via Powerpoint, Moodle or video, you have no other option!

Choosing a laptop can be something of a minefield if you’re new to such things, but not to worry - with our buying guide, we’ve got you covered!

In a hurry?
This is our Winner!

Best Laptops For Online Teaching - Reviews

Our winner is just great - it has a nice big full HD 15.6 inches screen, and with its’ great display resolution, it shows crisp, true to life colours.  We also recommend keeping your eyes free from strain by using its’ Acer BlueLightShield when working for long sessions.

It has a cracking dual core processor which, although not an Intel one, goes up to 3.5GHz, so you can be sure with that spec that it can handle all of your videos and webinars!

This excellent processing power also means it has a great battery life of up to seven and a half hours.

It comes with a hard disk size of 128 GB - great for handing all your course content and videos.  The RAM memory size is good too, at 4GB, making switching between applications a breeze.

For such a good laptop, the affordability is phenomenal (some laptops you can expect to pay over $1000!)

It features Windows 10, which in our view is the best operating system for beginners, and has even has Microsoft Edge built in too.

Connectivity wise, this laptop is great, because not only does it have a variety of USB ports and a HDMI port, but it also has a 802.11ac router, which means, at 1300Mbps, it’s up to three times faster than the older 802.11n version, which is only 450Mbps - having a fast internet connection is imperative if you are delivering an online course.

It also features Acer Purified.Voice Technology with two built-in microphones, so if there are any recorded elements of your teaching, the quality should be good.

We also love the backlit keyboard which is ideal when you’re working in low light or when it’s getting dark.

It’s also very sleek with it’s aluminium casing and its light, coming in at only 3.97lbs.

Pros

  • Excellent processing power
  • Excellent screen size and display
  • Excellent connectivity
  • Great microphone system
  • Affordability
  • Sleek and light

Cons

  • This laptop is great, but if you have the money there are more powerful laptops out there

If money were no object we would have made this our number one!

In case you didn’t already know, Macbooks use the MacOS operating system, which offers seamless transition with the various apple devices, and comes with loads of cool apps already built in (check out Apple’s website for details).

It has excellent Intel HD Graphics 6000 - perfect if your online teaching is in graphic design or digital photography (or if you also wanted to use it for gaming or watching films when you aren’t teaching).

It also has a staggering 12 hours wireless web battery life (totally unparalleled)!  Great if you do lots of your course writing at local coffee shops.

Like our number one, it also features 802.11ac wifi wireless networking.  It’s really light too, coming in at just 2.96 pounds. 

It’s processor isn’t as fast as our number one, but on the other hand, it’s an Intel processor (some would argue that Intel are the king of the processor world).

Pros

  • Excellent graphics
  • Excellent battery life

Cons

  • Smaller screen
  • Expensive

Our number 3 is cheaper than both of our top 2, but that’s not all!  It’s 360 degrees convertible, which means you can use it in tent, tablet, laptop, or stand mode.

A Chromebook is a laptop of a different breed, and instead of Windows 10 or macOS, Chromebooks run Google's Chrome OS. These machines are designed to be used primarily while connected to the Internet, with most applications and documents living in the cloud.  

So, when you log in to the laptop, you log in to your Google account - which is great if you’ve got all your course content saved on Google Drive!

It’s very light, coming in at just 2.64 pounds, and has a hard disk size of 64GB.  It uses a Mediatek CPU processor which operates at a speed of 2.1GHz.

For the vain among us, the Lenovo Chromebook comes in blizzard white - great for those who like to be conspicuous.

Pros

  • Has touch screen facilities
  • Doubles as a tablet
  • Affordability
  • Built in virus protection

Cons

  • Small screen

Premium products tend to come with a premium price tag, and this laptop is no exception.

It has a fantastic processor - to not only allow apps to load much faster, but also to help allow multiple tasks to run simultaneously without lag - great if you have millions of tabs open when creating course content. Also great if you have several apps open which streaming to your audience.

It also sports a nice big 15.6 inch high resolution screen. Important when you spend long periods of time at the screen.

Like our number one, it features the Acer BlueLightShield, so your eyes won’t strain when working for long sessions in front of the screen.  And also like our number one it features the backlit keyboard.

Pros

  • High speed 8th generation Intel core processor up to 3.9GHz
  • Nice big 15.6 inch full HD screen
  • Fingerprint reader for extra security
  • Huge hard disk size - 256GB
  • Extensive connectivity with various USB and HDMI ports
  • Up to 9.5 hours battery life
  • Features Acer Purified.Voice Technology with Two Built-in Microphones
  • HD Webcam (1280 x 720 resolution)

Cons

  • Expensive

There’s lots to love about this laptop!  The main plus points are that it’s convertible - you can either use it as a laptop, or make the most of its’ 14 inch touchscreen display, and use it as you would a tablet.  

You can use it in Laptop mode for everyday computing, Tent mode for sharing, Stand mode for Skyping students, or Tablet mode for more intuitive interaction. If you’re teaching online then the chances are that you probably pull together your course material as and when you are inspired. 

With its’ powerful 2.1GHz processor it’s great for teaching and collaborating online (and can even be used for gaming and streaming for favorite shows!)

With the included active stylus/pen, you can draw diagrams or take notes, or add comments on students’ work directly on the screen, anywhere you go.  This is the laptop to go for if you’re teaching digital animation.

It has a convenient true block privacy shutter which allows you to physically close your PC's webcam whenever you're not using it.

Pros

  • Convertible for use as a tablet
  • Huge 256GB storage
  • Up to 10 hours battery life, and only takes an hour to charge
  • Built-in, ongoing protection against viruses, malware, and ransomware
  • Powerful
  • Uses an SSD instead of your standard hard drive

Cons

  • Expensive

Best Laptops For Online Teaching - Buyers Guide

One of the first questions you need to ask yourself is which operating system is for you.  Choices include Windows, Chrome OS or MacOS. They each have their pros and cons, but we won’t dwell on that for the purpose of this buying guide.  

If in doubt, it may be best just to go with the system you’re most comfortable or familiar with, unless the software you want to use requires a particular operating system.

We like laptops with a big screen - obviously the bigger the screen size, the more you can potentially see in your tabs/screens at any one time.  This can come in handy when you’re skyping with a student in one part of the screen while you have their work in front of them in another part of the screen.

The most popular display size is 15 to 16 inches if you’re not going to be carrying the laptop too much and are working from a home office.  However 13 to 14 inches provides the best balance of portability and usability, if you expect to be on the go, since they can come in at under 4 pounds weight.

These days any new laptop will be adequate for standard documents, spreadsheets, web browsing and email.  But for creating an online course you will need a laptop with the best possible screen, and one that’s powerful enough not just for Microsoft Powerpoint but also for creating and editing videos and and for running a webinar.

The CPU, or processor, is the brains of the computer and has a huge influence on the laptop’s performance.  Intel is hands down the brand to go for. We recommend at least an Intel Pentium 4 Processor or higher.

For creating videos and webinars, you will also certainly need a laptop with a good webcam already integrated, and a good microphone.  These days laptops come with these features included as standard, but we insist that you check before you buy (or even consider buying something external).

Though you may decide you’d also like to purchase a headset if you need to Skype your students - essential if you’re offering a language course. 

The laptop will also need to be speedy - you’ll need a minimum of 8GB RAM.

In many ways which laptop is best for you is down to what you’re teaching, and how you choose to teach it:

If for example you’re teaching American sign language, pump for a laptop with a big screen and good HD display, and a good integrated camera.  For software you could use Skype for 1-on-1 sessions, and use Google Hangouts for group sessions.

If you’re doing videos demonstrating how to use a piece of software, again you will need a good integrated camera, along with a good audio quality microphone.  You may like to consider using the apps Screencast-O-Matic or Camtasia.

If you’re teaching a vocal language, make sure you buy a top rated headset.

If your course is largely voice recording and written content and questions, you’re less likely to need a top notch laptop, you can make do with something much cheaper.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most popular software or apps for making online courses, and what are the system requirements for them?

If you specifically plan on doing lecture-style teaching rather than anything more demonstrative or interactive, you could do a lot worse than going for your classic Microsoft PowerPoint.  

Sure it’s not as flashy as some of the other apps out there but it still holds its own, is readily available, and comes with plenty of tricks.  A Microsoft Powerpoint presentation can easily be converted to a video if you download the software to do it.

The system requirements for Microsoft Powerpoint are minimal.  You need A 1-GHz x86 or x64 processor, 1GB of RAM for 32-bit systems or 2GB of RAM for 64-bit systems, and 3GB of hard drive space for Microsoft Powerpoint 2013.

Screencast-O-Matic is a great screen recorder and video editor.  You can choose whether to video yourself, your screens, or both at the same time.  It’s available as freeware, or you can pay a small charge for the Pro recorder version.  It’s available on Windows, Mac and iOS, Android, and Chromebook.

Screencast-O-Matic works on Windows versions 7 through to Windows 10.  It needs at least 4GB of memory, and a 2.66Ghz Intel processor.

Camtasia is another classic editing and capture tool with a great platform and very interactive and easy to use user interface.  It’s great for all your advanced editing as well as your recording needs.

To run Camtasia you need Windows 7 SP1 or newer, and a Windows compatible sound card, microphone and speakers.  It needs a 2.0 GHz dual-core processor minimum, but a 2.8 GHz is recommended. You will also need 2GB of hard disk space to install it.  It accepts any Intel and AMD integrated graphics but it will also need display dimensions of 1024x768 or greater.

Moodle is an online learning management system which allows bulk course creation into which, once a course has been made and uploaded, allows the learner to submit and upload their answers to your questions.  Moodle is available on Windows and MAC.

In terms of hardware, you’ll need at least 200MB for the Moodle code, plus as much as you need to store content (5GB is probably a realistic minimum.) For the processor you will need 1GHz minimum, but 2GHz dual core or more are recommended. For internal memory: 512MB is the minimum, but 1GB or more is recommended. They also recommend considering separate servers for the web "front ends" and the database.

All of these apps can be installed using the on screen instructions once downloaded, and you can find good tutorials for these apps on youtube.

What should I consider if I am travelling or on the go?

If you find yourself travelling to meet students, you will be more focused on a laptop that’s light and very portable, under 4 pounds in weight, and preferably coming with a good laptop case or bag.

Similarly, if you are on the go, you’ll want a laptop with a good battery life, say 7-8 hours (or even more).

Connectivity has relevance here too, since at the time of writing not all public transport links have wifi facilities, and when they do they are often spotty.

Do I need to back-up my work?  What’s the best way to do it?

We strongly recommend that you back-up your work.  The safest way to do so is by purchasing an external hard drive that you can connect to your laptop, save everything across onto it, and pack away safely.

Another good idea may be to also save your work onto cloud storage, which can allow you to access your work from other devices if needed.  Examples of cloud storage include Microsoft’s One Drive, Google’s Google Drive, or Dropbox.

Can teachers get discounts for laptops?

There’s an organization called Club O, which is free for teachers to join, and you’ll get five percent back on your purchases, including on laptops.

What if I want my laptop to double as a laptop for gaming?

If you want to use your new laptop for gaming, you will be looking for a bigger screen and a good graphics card such as the XFX Radeon RX 580 GTS XXX Edition, which has an AMD Navi 10 graphics processor.

What software and hardware should I recommend for my students?

First of all, unless you’re teaching media studies or digital arts, your students won’t need as powerful a machine as yourself - they won’t be editing videos.

If your students are doing group work together, we recommend Google Docs for document collaboration.

Where can I sell my online course?

If you haven’t heard of Udemy - where have you been?  It’s the world's most dynamic eLeaning platform, featuring over 100,000 courses.  Anyone can create a free course on Udemy, but if you want to charge students a fee for your courses, you will have to apply to become a premium instructor.

Last update on 2020-02-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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