Technology Requirements and Support

Students will need a computer device and internet access for class. If you don’t have your own device or access, the University has resources to assist.

male student using computerIf you have questions about the requirements for technology or are not sure about your technology needs, contact the IT Service Desk. If you do not have the minimum technology needed, please complete the Penn State Mobile Technology Request Form prior to committing to Summer Start and we will follow up with you.

Minimum Hardware Needs

The availability of tablets, touchscreens, and powerful mobile processors has changed the way we think about “computers.” However, there are several things to consider with the minimum technology requirements:

  • You will be typing—a lot. Full-size physical keyboards make this much easier.
  • Chromebooks, iPads, Android, and Windows tablets generally perform well as a more portable “secondary” device rather than as your primary computer.

Operating System

Our courses are designed for use on one of the following well-known operating systems:

  • Windows 7
  • Windows 8/8.1 or higher
  • Mac OS X 10.5 or higher

We cannot guarantee that applications Penn State supports will work on other operating systems such as Linux and Chrome. We recommend not using a Chromebook as your primary computer.

Check with your academic program or college for specific recommendations. If you are using your own computer, make sure it meets these minimum recommendations:

Laptops or Chromebooks

    • Processor: Intel Core m5 or i5
    • RAM: 8 GB
    • Hard Drive: 256 GB+ SSD
    • Video Card: Integrated
    • Display Resolution: 1920×1080

Desktops

    • Processor: Intel Core i5
    • RAM: 16 GB
    • Hard Drive: 256 GB+
    • Video RAM: Integrated

Tablets

    • Capacity: 32 GB+ Flash Storage
    • Resolution: 1200×800

A camera is needed (in-computer, cell phone, or attached)

Internet

You will need access to high-speed internet. If you lack an internet connection, you can also use your phone as a hotspot. Penn State IT has provided instructions on how to set up hotspots on SamsungPixel, and iPhones. If you use a personal hotspot on your device, you may also need to secure additional data from your wireless carrier. The following providers have information readily available on how to upgrade data: AT&TCharterComcastSprintT-Mobile, and Verizon. Find more providers and information on the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected page.

If you do not have access to a computer and/or the internet from your location, you may log in to the IT service portal and fill out the Penn State Mobile Technology Request Form to make a computer/access request or call 814-865-HELP (4357).

Software

If you are buying a laptop, do not purchase Microsoft Office. Penn State provides Office 365 at no charge for students. Generally, if there is specific software required for a class, it is provided so that you don’t need to purchase it or install it on your own computer. Visit the Penn State WebApps portal to view the extensive software Penn State provides.

Penn State offers a wide array of online collaboration tools that you will use to interact with your instructors and classmates and complete assignments, including Canvas, Zoom, Office 365 (including Teams), and Kaltura. Access to these systems is provided to all Penn State students. Your instructor will provide you with additional information.

Training is available to help you use the online systems. You can access online training for Canvas, Office 365Zoom, and Kaltura.

Email

Penn State provides all students with an email account which is the preferred method of communication for the University.

Technology Help and Support

Penn State offers 24/7 technology support and many ways to connect with someone who can help you.

Penn State also offers several resources to help you with your computer and other technology needs, including:

  • The Connect to Tech Guide explains the technology resources available to you and introduces important IT resources, ranging from how to access free software downloads to connecting to wireless.
  • Technology Resources for Students provides a menu of the resources that Penn State can provide to you.

You can also reach out to your instructor to ask about specific requirements.

Connecting to campus and courses

Canvas

Canvas is Penn State's official learning management system. Through Canvas, you can access course information online at any time using a computer or mobile device. Some of the most common ways students interact with Canvas include:

  • Course navigation: Click on modules in the course navigation menu to see an overview of the entire course.
  • Announcements and notifications: Choose how to receive course notifications (email, text) and how often you would like to be informed.
  • Syllabus and course schedule: The course schedule (at the bottom of the syllabus page) will be updated throughout the course. Use the "jump to today" button to see deadlines for the current date at a glance.
  • Canvas calendar: The calendar automatically shows due dates for assignments and other activities across all of your courses.
  • Assignments and quizzes: All assignments and quizzes included in Canvas should include clearly stated due-dates and instructions for submitting your work.
  • Discussions: Post to discussion boards in your courses to engage in class conversations
  • Groups for collaboration: Access your course groups to collaborate on projects, engage in group discussions, and share files.

Zoom

Zoom is an easy-to-use video conferencing service that allows you to engage in multi-person video or audio meetings using software installed on your computer.

Accessing Zoom meetings
It is strongly recommended that you download Zoom to your laptop and/or cell phone for easy conferencing. You can then dial into a Zoom meeting with one of the provided numbers. Using Zoom will incur no cost or charges. It is recommended that your device has a microphone and a camera to take advantage of Zoom’s features. If you have further questions or need assistance, contact the IT Service Desk. Although you can call into Zoom using a landline, it is discouraged and may result in long-distance costs due to Zoom’s use of toll calls.

Storing Zoom recordings
All Zoom recordings are automatically uploaded to Kaltura, which provides unlimited storage. Your instructor can edit, embed, and share Zoom recordings within Kaltura. Detailed instructions for accessing Zoom recordings in Kaltura are available.

Library Resources

Penn State Libraries is committed to supporting teaching, learning, and research. Explore the Remote Resources for Penn State Library Users to see what is available.

Accessing ebooks for free
You have access to the program VitalSource Helps that can provide you with free electronic textbooks via an app called Bookshelf. Through this program, you have access to up to seven ebooks. If you think you will need more than seven, look into other textbook options before using these seven ebooks.

Visit the University Libraries website for more information about ebooks and other course materials.

Conserving Bandwidth

If you have an internet connection but are experiencing spotty or slow service, it may be your bandwidth. Penn State IT has provided tips on conserving bandwidth.

One quick tip is to turn off the wireless on your phone if you are using your computer or tablet to connect to class. You are likely to consume bandwidth without knowing it. Some additional tips are:

  • Turn off video unless necessary
  • If you can use a wired connection, opt for that as it will be more reliable.
  • If not, be as close to the wireless router as possible.
  • If possible, ask others who share your Internet service to limit their bandwidth consumption during your class session.
  • If you are using your computer or tablet to connect to class, turn the wireless off on your phone. You are likely consuming bandwidth without knowing it.

Your local internet provider (e.g. Comcast/Xfinity) may have advanced tools for managing devices connecting to your home network. Please see your internet provider’s customer support pages for more information. Many “smart” appliances and devices consume bandwidth. Disconnecting these devices for a short period may improve your online experience.

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