Essential Technology for Students


The Grainger College of Engineering is preparing for a variety of scenarios for Fall instruction.  To be prepared for any potential learning scenario, each student will need:

  • The ability to view lectures and supplementary materials online
  • The ability to use specialized Engineering software packages for coursework
  • The ability to interact and collaborate digitally with professors, TAs, and peer students
  • The ability to take an online exam and interact with course proctors on a separate device

Essential Technology

The following essential technology allows for flexibility and usability across disciplines within Grainger College of Engineering. These will serve a student well both on campus and in a hybrid or remote learning environment.

While less flexible and fully featured, Grainger College of Engineering students can complete their educational experience by purchasing at minimum a budget Windows 10 laptop for online participation and notetaking, a smartphone, and headset.

Essential Technology Laptop Tablet or 2-in-1 Smartphone
Function & Features
  • Daily coursework
  • Campus resource connectivity
  • Facilitate group work
  • Digital inking and annotating
  • Note-taking
  • Extensive battery life
  • Photo/video creation
  • Use in place of a webcam
  • Use to support remote exam proctoring
  • Use as a document camera with an inexpensive phone mount
Recommended Models Windows
Dell XPS 13
Dell Inspiron 14 7000
Apple iPad
Samsung Galaxy S6
13"MacBook Pro
13"MacBook Air
Microsoft Surface Pro Bundles
Microsoft Surface Laptop 3
Dell Inspiron 14 5000 2in1
Dell XPS 13 2in1

Laptop Specifications

Students should choose a model that has enough memory and hard drive storage (see below), and is powerful enough to provide satisfactory performance over a three-to-four year lifespan. For maximum flexibility consider a 2-in-1 style laptop that folds into a tablet for digital inking.

Feature Recommendations
Memory (RAM) 8GB minimum, 16GB recommended for visualizations
Storage 256GB minimum, 512GB HDD/SDD or greater 
Processor 64 bit, Core i5 or i7, 1.7GHz dual core or better
Operating System Windows 10 or MacOS 10.12
*A Chromebook or tablet alone will generally be insufficient.
**Some applications are not usable with Windows 10 Home. In this case, a free upgrade to Windows 10 Education is available from the UIUC Webstore.
Camera 720p (1280x720)
Backups External drive or cloud based subscription such as Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive highly recommended
Warranty Most new computers come with manufacturer's warranty, recommended increase to 2 years or greater.

Windows or Mac?

Many courses use software applications that run on Windows operating systems. Mac users will need to run applications by dual booting or a virtualization utility such as Parallels or VirtualBox

The Illini Union Tech Zone provides educational discounts on purchases. They are also an authorized Apple repair center.

Network Bandwidth Requirements

Broadband wired or wireless is recommended for video. Below are minimum requirements for typical video conferencing functions. The Technology Loaner Program includes internet hotspot technologies to support online learning and work-from-home activities for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis.

  • 800kbps/1.0Mbps (up/down) for high quality video
  • For Zoom gallery view and/or 720p HD video: 1.5Mbps/1.5Mbps (up/down)
  • Receiving 1080p HD video requires 2.5mbps (up/down)
  • Sending 1080p HD video requires 3.0 Mbps (up/down)

Other Recommended Options

We recommend a USB headset with microphone or bluetooth headphones with mic. Internal laptop mic and speakers may not be satisfactory for online meetings or calls, especially in a shared workspace.

Logitech H390 USB Headset  
Microsoft LifeChat LX 3000
Plantronics Voyager 4220 UC

If your system does not have an integrated camera, consider an external webcam (or your phone...effective!)

Logitech C920
Microsoft LifeCam

Adapters for connecting to external displays or projection devices (USB-C and HDMI are the most common).

Apple USB-C Multi adapter
Startech USB-C to HDMI adapter

Grainger College of Engineering Software for Students

Engineering WorkStations (EWS) labs maintain a large number of installed software packages requested by faculty that teach in our labs and are available to Grainger College of Engineering students.

EWS also offers Remote Access to engineering software applications outside the lab made available to students for Windows, Mac, and Linux environments.

Visit the UIUC Webstore for other software available to students.

Technology Loan Program

Visit the COVID-19 Technology Loaner Program page for technology loan information.

The Technology Loan Program is a partnership established across the campus IT community to loan technology hardware to eligible students who have unmet needs. This includes the loaning of computers, peripherals, and internet hotspot technologies to support online learning and work-from-home activities for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis.

Student Assistance Center

If a student does not have access to functional computers or internet connectivity, they can contact the Student Assistance Center at 217-333-0050 or The Center serves as the first point of contact for students who contact the Office of the Dean of Students. The Assistant Deans help students understand university policies and procedures, educate them about and connect them to campus resources, and support students in crisis.