OPINION: Stock up on gear for online classes

Fall semester will look very different; be prepared ahead of time



WSU’s distance learning requires a whole new set of skills and equipment.


Online education is not for everyone, nor is everyone adequately prepared for it. It’s a different beast, there’s a lot more accountability and — unsurprisingly — a lot more gear involved.

I want to first say: you can do it. You made it to WSU this fall, whatever that looks like, so now you have no choice but to do it. And you can. Trust me.

Spring semester was a shock, but I learned quickly what would and wouldn’t work for entirely distanced learning and found that the distanced part of the learning wasn’t so bad after some adjustments.

The very first thing I want to share is WSU’s hotspot and Chromebook program, an incredible thing WSU is doing to assist students in their transition to online learning. All you have to do is apply.

“We don’t ask you why you need it, we don’t ask you to provide economic need … No questions asked,” said Craig Parks, vice provost for system innovation and policy.

If you’ve been considering upgrading your current WiFi or laptop situation, this may be a good time to do that.

This past spring, I was ridiculously thankful to have an external computer monitor my apparently-genius freshman self bought; it’s obviously entirely optional, but I would strongly recommend getting one. These do not have to be expensive or fancy as they’re frequently at Goodwill. They need to be just enough to help you take notes, interact with documents or fill out a worksheet when you’re in a Zoom meeting.

Next, you’ll want a planner that works for you. My first experience with online courses several years ago made one thing painfully clear: it’s much easier for due dates to be forgotten. Save your grades now and invest in a planner. There are online planners and an insane array of paper planners including kits you can buy and download from Etsy, customizable disc-bound planners and super basic ones. Trust me, it’ll help a lot.

Find – and I cannot stress this enough – a desk organizer. Your desk, table or lap will be your entire school life for the next five (possibly more) months, so finding a place for your notebooks, papers, your new planner and textbooks will help keep you sane.

I’m not sure how many people own printers, but if you’re not on campus, you’re going to want to plan ahead to find where you’ll print. Most libraries offer printing for a small price per sheet, or local office supply stores like Office Max and Staples may offer something similar.

With distance learning comes a lot of downtime, so you may want to consider picking up a new hobby. Musical instrument sales have increased during COVID-19, which means more people are finally following that desire to learn guitar or piano. This is a time to pick up something new.

This semester’s education will be wildly different from anything we’ve experienced before, but we do have an advantage: we know ahead of time that it’s coming.

“Think about those items you have in your current living situations,” said Dean Luethi, director of the WSU School of Music. “If you know it’s coming, you’ll be prepared … [if nothing happens], you’ll have a welcome reprieve you didn’t know you’d have.”

The biggest step anyone could have taken this summer was deciding to continue attending WSU this fall no matter what, and you’ve done that. The rest is cake.