David Platt
Online Class Hardware and Software


Here's What You Need for a Successful Online Class Session

Each student needs to have his or her own PC. While you might wish you could plug one PC into a projector and have many people watch it, experience has shown that this doesn't work well. Each student needs to be able to browse through code at his own pace, or jump back and forth to different sections, which sharing doesn't allow. The audio doesn't work well in a shared situation either. Attendees hear and speak best through individual headsets. Plan on a separate PC for each attendee.

PC performance is not usually a problem. Any PC that can run Visual Studio with acceptable performance should have no trouble with LiveMeeting. To do lab exercises and to edit and run sample code locally, your PC will need Visual Studio and whatever add-ons are necessary for the particular class being taught. In other words, the basic hardware requirement is your regular developer PC. Laptops are usually OK.

You will require some sort of broadband Internet connection for GoToMeeting.com to run over. This is really the nub. Remote delivery takes a lot of bandwidth, about 5 Megabits per second or so. A consumer-quality DSL line usually is NOT sufficient. A consumer-quality cable modem sometimes is and sometimes isn't.  Ideally you want an industrial strength T1 line, of the type found in most software development companies.  My office has a fiber optic connection (Verizon FIOS, 25 Megabits/sec), and I've found that to be plenty. We'll do a test when the class is scheduled to make sure you have enough. .

The GoToMeeting.com software runs on your local PC. You don't need your own account; we use mine for these classes. I'll send you an email that contains a link to the meeting. When you click on the link to join the meeting, GoToMeeting will automatically download and install itself on your PC if it isn't already there. This download is considered benign by most enterprises, but sometimes shops with very tight desktop security (some financial industry clients, for example) have difficulty with it. GoToMeeting also provides a browser-based client for shops that don't allow desktop installation. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. If you are in any doubt as to whether your installation supports it, go to www.gotomeeting.com and try the download yourself. 

You need to hear me and I need to hear you as well. You'll need a headset/microphone combination plugged into the PC's regular audio channel. Nothing fancy, the $20 Logitech is fine. GoToMeeting uses voice-over-IP technology, and about three times out of four it works well. About one time out of four, the audio does not work acceptably, and we have to fall back on an analog (how barbaric!) phone conference line. So I strongly suggest that you have this ready as a fallback position: an analog phone line, ideally with a headset, or at least a speaker. Manually holding a phone to your ear for four or five days gets old really quick.


To summarize, you need:

1. Regular developer PC
2. Fast Internet connection
3. GoToMeeting software (free download, but check installation rules at your company)
4. Sound card with headset/microphone, analog phone line for backup