Recommendations for student IT equipment: home and college use

For more general help with IT at Oxford we strongly recommend you bookmark central IT Services’ Getting Started page.

Recommended equipment

A computer

Either a Windows or Mac laptop is generally the recommended equipment, although for some subject areas Linux is preferred. Although tablet computers and smartphones offer web browsers and Microsoft Teams applications, the small screen and keyboard are generally limiting when working online and with documents for long periods.

It is generally a good idea to consider a mid-range model with adequate memory (RAM) and plenty of USB sockets.  Cheaper models tend to have poor battery life and should be avoided. The independent review site Which has advice on buying a student laptop here.


The University has two related centrally supported teaching systems that don’t require you to download any additional software and are accessed through a standard web browser using your University username and password:

  • Canvas – a virtual learning environment (VLE), sometimes known as a learning management system (LMS), which is used for online course activities.
  • Panopto – online lecture recordings which are accessed through Canvas.

For online teaching, conferencing calls and meetings the University centrally supports the Microsoft Teams application, again linked to your University username and password. Although Microsoft Teams can run through a web browser the experience is much better and more reliable by downloading the standalone Teams application. Microsoft Teams is a free download, and is available for both desktop, tablet, and phone (Mac/PC/Linux).

A mobile device

E-mail and other forms of digital communication are central to both academic and social life at Oxford. You’ll often be notified of changes to rooms or tutorial times by e-mail, and many social events are organised through Facebook. So, you will probably want to have a smartphone or other digital device to hand during the day.

Some students take their laptops out and about with them, while others prefer to keep them in their rooms. All libraries have plugs where mobile devices can be charged and used.

Additional accessories

Make sure you bring all the adapters and power supplies you need and make sure you have plenty of chargers and phone cables. If you are still unsure of what IT to take to university and whether you need to buy anything beforehand, consider going to university with a very light load. This will make certain you don’t buy anything useless – after all, it will be just as easy to buy what you need once you’re settled in, and you can ask for advice from your college IT staff.

Some suggested items:

  • Mobile phone cables and chargers.
  • Electrical extension cables.
  • USB memory sticks and/or portable hard drives for backing up work.
  • SD/microSD storage cards for camera or tablet.

Other considerations

Wi-Fi is available across the University and Colleges, but you may wish to purchase an ethernet cable for a wired network connection, as these are generally faster and more reliable than wireless. Many laptops (including all Mac laptops) do not come with an ethernet socket, so you may also need to purchase an adaptor; seek advice from your college IT staff if you need to.

If your subject involves specialist applications that need a lot of computing power you may wish to purchase a higher spec laptop, or alternatively your department is likely to have a computer suite which you can use.

Online Teaching

Most laptops have an in-built webcam and microphone which will suffice for teaching via Teams, provided the space is quiet and adequately lit and the laptop is close to you. To improve quality, consider using the following:

  • A webcam - if your laptop does not have an in-built camera, or the quality is insufficient, you may need to buy an external USB webcam. We recommend the Logitech range – ideally the Logitech C920 / C920s or C922, but similar models are functionally fine if those are unavailable.
  • A headset with a microphone if the quality of your laptop microphone is insufficient, or you are learning in a noisy space, consider purchasing a wired headset. Inexpensive models include the Logitech H340 or H570e, or the Jabra headset range. These are also extremely useful for Teams Meetings and Zoom calls. A list of headsets recommended for Microsoft Teams Meeting can be found here.

If in the rare situation that you do need to purchase an external standalone microphone, then the desktop USB microphones such as the Blue Yeti Nano USB (£99) or Rode NT-USB (approx. £100) are recommended for personal use.

Using Microsoft Teams for meetings

To ensure your microphone and camera are set up correctly for using Microsoft Teams we recommend checking your settings and make a test call: select your profile picture then choose Settings > Devices. Choose "Make a test" call under Audio devices.

In a test call, you'll check that your microphone, speaker, and camera are working. Follow the instructions from Test Call Bot and record a short message. The message will play back for you. After that, you'll get a summary of the test call, and you can go to your device settings to make changes.

In a Teams meeting you have a main toolbar that appears if you rollover the bottom of the screen – this has all the main options for your video and audio. It’s generally best to mute your microphone during a meeting if not speaking as this makes to call better for everyone. Equally you can turn off your camera if you want and this helps in very low bandwidth calls or if the application is giving you a warning that the network quality is poor. You can also turn off the incoming video of call participants and just use audio, this again will help conserve bandwidth if you’re experiencing dropouts in video or audio.

General Tips & Notes


Whether you are using a USB webcam or the built-in webcam on your laptop, as far as possible try to make sure that the camera lens sits at or slightly above eye level, no higher than your hairline. If you are using a built-in webcam on a laptop placed on a table, you may need to place it on a stand or on some books to make it higher. Ensure any support is sturdy to avoid camera shake when you tap the keyboard. Do not sit with your camera facing a window or with a window directly beside you as your face will be silhouetted. If using a tablet or phone purchase a stand or try and prop the device up to keep the image stable.


Do not place your microphone close to your computer if the fan noise will be picked up. Try to sit or stand within 0.5m of the microphone or better still use a headset with a built-in microphone. Use your computer OS sound settings to ensure input volume levels are high enough, but not so high as to cause distortion. Using a carpeted space will help to improve sound quality and reduce echo, conversely talking in kitchens or tiled laboratory rooms will cause unnecessary reverberation. If using a headset microphone, try to position the microphone stem to the side of your face to avoid pops and speak slowly, clearly and at a steady volume, perhaps regularly checking people can hear you ok.


It’s a good idea to restart your computer every day. This can often improve the memory performance and makes glitches less likely to happen. Online video sessions can be processor-intensive so use a laptop stand to allow airflow beneath the laptop to avoid overheating and related fan noise. Keep the computer away from direct sunlight.

Network connectivity

It is always best to use a wired direct connection to your network hub. In most college rooms there will be a socket that allows a wired connection to your local network. You may need to purchase a standard long ethernet cable and usually the college will have some to buy. If this is not possible, try to make your wireless connection as fast as possible by reducing activity across your shared network and not running too many video applications in parallel or on multiple devices.


All cameras capture better-looking video when there is a good light source. The room should be well-lit with natural light where possible. When selecting a place to make a call, avoid locations with low light or too much backlighting, such as windows in the background or a light directly behind you.

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