What equipment do I need to start tutoring online?

Having the right equipment ensures that you can give a smooth and professional lesson online. Here is a rundown of the equipment needed:

Webcam

You can either use an inbuilt webcam in a laptop or buy an external webcam. Our recommendation is to purchase an external webcam as it gives you flexibility in where you position it for the best view. For most tutors the position won't be too much of a concern, but if you teach a musical instrument, you will find that the position of the webcam makes a massive difference. For example if you teach piano, positioning the webcam so the student can see your hands is crucial.

An external webcam will generally produce a superior quality image to most inbuilt webcams.

Recommended webcam: Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920

There are plenty of options available and almost all of them will achieve the quality needed for a lesson. The Logitech webcam above is the most popular webcam we could find at a good price. While there are webcams at a far lower price, remember that the quality of your video can have a big impact on your perceived credibility. So paying a bit extra for good equipment is a worthwhile investment.

Microphone

Good quality audio can make you a look more professional as well as make it easier for the student to hear you.. There are two main options to consider depending on your situation.

  • External microphone - For most situations, a decent microphone place near you is all you need to produce great results. You could either sit a microphone on your desk or use a headset with an inbuilt microphone. External microphones produce far superior quality compared to internal microphones and are highly recommended.
  • Internal laptop microphone - this option isn't recommended but if you are on a budget and don't want to deal with extra equipment, it can work. Keep in mind that if you teach a musical instrument, you may have trouble getting the internal microphone to pick up your instrument clearly. For academic tutors this won't be a problem.

Whichever option you choose, keep in mind that the audio will be compressed as it is sent to the student so aim for a high quality audio signal on your end to avoid problems. There's nothing worse than a student not being able to understand you due to poor quality audio.

Internet Speed

Streaming audio and video around the world takes up bandwidth so it's important you have a fast and reliable internet connection.

Take a Internet speed test here: http://www.speedtest.net/ then compare it to the following suggested speeds (from Skype's website):

  • Minimum speed: 300kbps download/upload speed
  • Recommended speed: 500kbps
  • Recommended speed for HD video: 1.5mbps

If your internet speed doesn't meet the recommended speed listed above, you might want to look at other options or locations.

A decent PC/Mac

This is important equipment but very hard to define a minimum standard. Basically, if your PC/Mac feels sluggish during normal use, then it will struggle with Skype video callin or other video applications. The best way to find out if your computer can handle video streaming or not is to do some test calls with friends or family. See how well your computer can handle it and whether you notice it slows down or not.

We generally don't recommend using a tablet device such as an iPad as you're far more likely to experience issues. Of course newer tablet devices which have been designed to give a full PC experience (such as Microsoft Surface) may provide enough power to give a trouble-free experience. Again, test your equipment with test calls to friends before you start paid lessons.

Lighting

The lighting in your room can make a massive difference to the quality of your video. Poor lighting can make it hard for the student to clearly see you - especially if you want to give lessons at night.

Want to see how important lighting is? Check out the two photos below (source):

webcam-video

Both photos use the same webcam. The only difference is the lighting used and having a background sheet.

Set up an external lamp rather than relying on the normal lighting in your home. Also avoid sitting near windows as natural sunlight can be very hard to control (eg: clouds).

Software

There are many different options available for tutoring online so it depends on what your needs are. Check out this article on Online Tutoring Platforms to get an idea of what type of options are available.

Once you have all of the above sorted, you can start tutoring online. Check out this article for more details: How to start tutoring online