A students needs a computer or mobile device and Internet access for online learning, at minimum. Other common hardware needs are speakers or headphones, a microphone, a webcam and a scanner/printer unit. Software needs include a current Web browser and antivirus software. Word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software are typical needs. Students may need to download the client portion of their learning management system software if it is not fully Web-based.
The computer, tablet or cellphone must have a keyboard or touch screen, a mouse or touchpad for input, and a monitor or screen for output. For most K-12 and college courses, any computer that can access the Internet through a current Web browser is sufficient, but higher math, science, computer programming and graphics courses may have special requirements related to the operating system, computer chip, memory and graphics card.
Much of the software used in online learning is Web-based, cloud-based or free to download. An email account is usually a requirement; students can use free email providers. Students also can use cloud-based word processors, create PDF files and slideshows on the Web, and use free plug-ins such as Java and Adobe Flash.
Students with special needs may need additional adaptive or assistive devices or software. Screen readers for blind and low-vision users are standard on most recent computers. Speech recognition software, special pens and electronic pointers are helpful for students with motor disabilities. The student's public school system may provide adaptive devices.