Technology for online learning
Here you will find technology recommendations for accessing Ulster systems to support your study in a blended learning environment.
Accessing our systems
All of Ulster’s teaching, learning and assessment systems are accessible through a standards compliant web browser such as Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Edge.
Our recommendation is Google Chrome.
You will need access to a reliable internet connection to help with your study in a blended learning environment.
There are many things that can affect your internet speed including your geographical location, your distance from infrastructure and indeed other users in the household who might be sharing your internet connection.
You can run an internet speed test which will give an indication of the speed of your connection. Whilst you may manage with less, you should expect to have at least 4Mbps download and upload speed for a good quality experience.
Your internet company – Internet Service Provider (ISP) - usually has a page for tips to improve your internet connection. For example:
To improve your experience if your internet connection is slow, try turning off video in live sessions and participating with audio only.
If you live in a rural area, with poor connectivity, some students have successfully used 4G hubs, or tethered their computer through their mobile 4G network.
A good 4G connection may be reliable enough to use if you are the only person in the household using it, but it's a good idea to run a speed test first to ensure you have adequate connectivity.
As an Ulster University student, you automatically have access to Office 365 Apps as part of your studies. This means that you can purchase a computer without an Office licence, saving you a substantial amount of money.
Although students are responsible for all software, including virus protection on their personal devices, as an Ulster student will alsohave access to multiple free software downloads such as:
Students new to Ulster will be provided with a Student ID, Email and password to enable access to these downloads, after enrolment. Current students can manage their password using the Self-Service Password Reset.
Whilst it is possible to access materials on a smart phone, or tablet on the go, we recommend it is essential to have access to a desktop PC or laptop to support your studies. This will ensure that you have the ability to author content in a variety of formats such as documents, video or audio files.
The computer you use does not necessarily need to be a high specification. If your computer was bought new within the last three or four years, it should be adequate for your studies. Most companies that sell computers will have specialist sections of their websites for computers suitable for study and most modern laptops will be adequate for accessing Ulster systems.
Whilst a variety of devices are available, all with varying functionality, including basic devices such as tablets and chrome books, we do recommend that you consider a Windows-based laptop, due to the additional functionality that may be required.
Whatever brand you choose, for example Dell, HP, Acer; as a minimum specification we would recommend the device you opt for has:
- Intel i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 Chipset
- Minimum of 4GB RAM (you will have a better experience with 8GB RAM)
- Minimum of 128GB Hard Disk Drive (Consider a Solid State hard Drive, and larger capacity such as 256GB or 512GB) although you will have access to 1TB of online storage with your Ulster Account.
For computing and engineering studies, and some built environment programmes, we recommend the following higher specification:
- Intel i7 processor
- 16Gb RAM
- 512Gb SSD
- 2Gb graphics
Further details on the programmes that would benefit from this higher specification can be found in the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment.
Your choice of screen size is a personal preference, the larger the screen – the heavier the device, making it less portable; however, you may have a better user experience with a larger screen.
Microphone and speakers
To participate in online sessions, you will need a microphone and speakers. Whilst the onboard microphones and speakers may be adequate on a laptop, think about features such as an In-Built Webcam, and a headset to use with any online classes, and to be able to interact fully online with academic and support staff.
A headset will also give you a better audio experience when working or collaborating in groups to cut down on background noise. Logitech USB Headsets are a reliable choice, but Bluetooth earphones that come with mobile phones, are also a popular choice.
Our lecturers are currently supporting students who do not have access to good internet connections or technology, and they will be sympathetic and provide inclusive material for you to access at your own pace, if you have problems.
However, accessing the recommended specification of internet and technology will enhance your blended learning experience.