Virginia Western is committed to preparing students for today’s workforce and recognizes computers to be an important extension of the learning tools needed to be globally competitive. Online courses at Virginia Western require a significant amount of interaction with Canvas, and many require real-time class sessions using the Zoom web-conferencing tool. In order to be successful in online classes, students must have substantial access to a computer with hi-speed internet connectivity.
Students enrolled in online courses at Virginia Western are expected to have a laptop computer (or a desktop system with webcam and microphone) that meets the minimum specifications listed below and high-speed internet access at home or another readily accessible location. A list of recommended and preferred computer specifications for students can be found below.
Students do not necessarily have to buy a brand-new system. Most new computers purchased in the last three years should meet the minimum specifications listed below for completing coursework. (If students are unsure if a device will be adequate, please contact the Virginia Western Help Desk for further assistance).
If you determine you need to purchase a computer or laptop, here are some general guidelines:
- Mobile phones alone are not enough to be successful in online classes and do not meet these expectations. iPads are useful, but cannot replace a laptop or desktop computer for coursework.
- In some cases, a Chromebook may provide adequate access to the required technologies and can be significantly less expensive. However, some individual classes may require software that will not run on a Chromebook. (**See notes below for AST and ITE courses)
- Windows is the preferred operating system for Virginia Western students. If you wish to use an Apple machine, extra steps and costs may be necessary to install Windows alongside the Mac Operating System (OS) as some applications do not have a Mac OS counterpart. (**See notes below for Visual Design students and IST/ITE courses)
- You may be able to use financial aid funds to purchase a laptop or desktop though the campus bookstore. It is important to note that financial aid funds alone may not cover the entire cost of a computer. If you decide to use financial aid, we encourage you to purchase the most affordable option that meets the college’s requirements. Please see the Financial Aid Bookstore Purchasing Policy for additional information. If you have further questions, please contact the financial aid office.
- Unless you have specific needs, you don’t need to get the absolute highest level of current technology. On the other hand, buying the least expensive system will likely mean it becomes outdated sooner.
- If you are planning to transfer to a four-year college or university, do your homework. Some programs/majors may have specific computer recommendations or requirements.
- Technology continues to evolve at a rapid rate. Newer technology is always right around the corner, but this should not deter you from buying the system you need now to successfully complete your courses.
- Technical specifications are not the whole story. Make sure that you are investing in decent quality components and construction, and that you’ll be able to get service for your system from the manufacturer or vendor should the need arise.
- The specifications below should be used as guidance when making buying decisions. Because technology changes rapidly, these requirements are subject to change.
Recommended computer specifications for students in most academic programs
**NOTE: Some programs and courses may have special requirements; see below for more information.
(Estimated at $300-$400)
(Estimated at $550-$850)
|Reason for Recommendation|
|Processor||Intel Core i3 or AMD Ryzen 3||Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5||The latest Windows operating systems and applications written for it will require advanced processors to be used effectively.|
|Memory||4 GB||8 GB||Windows requires at least 4 gigabytes (GB) of memory.|
|Hard disk||128 GB SATA||256 GB SATA or SSD||This allows for storing of files from classes on the computer. A backup solution is also recommended for storage. A SSD will provide a faster overall system.|
|DVD drive||Not required||Not required||Not a necessity but can be helpful. Most new laptops do not come with a DVD drive.|
|Wireless networking||802.11ac||802.11ac||This allows machines to operate on the 5GHz wireless frequencies for increased throughput and roaming performance.|
|Bluetooth||Bluetooth 4.1||Bluetooth 4.1||Provides for greater accessory attachment.|
|Video RAM||512 MB||1 GB||Windows will require a more powerful graphics card.|
|Webcam and microphone||Required||Required||Required to use online proctoring, attend Zoom sessions, and have people see and hear you while online.|
|USB||Type A 2.0||Type A 3.0/Type C||Allows access to other devices such as external hard drives, older keyboards and mice, or USB thumb drives.|
|Video Output||Video out: HDMI or DisplayPort||Video out: HDMI or DisplayPort||Provides the ability to connect to an additional monitor for a bigger screen.|
|Battery||6-cell battery||9-cell battery||9-cell batteries provide optimum life for the laptop when students are in classes for long periods of time.|
|Warranty||1-year Limited Warranty||3-year Warranty with Complete Care ($350-$400 additional cost)||The warranty will cover the hardware in the laptop for 3 years in the case of any problems. Complete Care/accidental coverage covers accidental damage as well as defective parts.|
** Visual Design – Associate of Applied Science
Courses in this program use specific software and will require compatible hardware to accommodate instruction and completion of required assignments.
Minimum hardware requirements for Visual Design:
- Laptop Requirement: HP 15.6″ i5/8GB/1TB Non-Touch, OR
- Apple MacBook Air 13.3 Laptop with Touch ID.
Software requirements for Visual Design:
- Adobe Creative Cloud – All Apps for Students & Teachers Annual Plan.
Minimum computer and software packages for Visual Design are available in the bookstore.
** Engineering – Associate of Science
Transfer Engineering students at Virginia Western are encouraged to follow the guidelines published by the Virginia Tech School of Engineering found here: https://eng.vt.edu/admissions/computer-requirement.html.
** AST/ITE Courses – Additional software required
In addition to a windows-based computer, Microsoft Office 2019/365 (VWCC free full online version located here) is required to complete these courses. Chromebooks and Apple MacBooks are not compatible with the software required in these courses.
Note: AST/ITE courses are required in all Business and Professional Services programs.
** All Computer Science and Information Technology Courses
A Windows OS laptop/computer meeting the recommended computer specifications for students is required for all CS and IT courses.
Intel / AMD Processors are recommended. M1/ARM processors (M1 Macs, Surface Pro X) will work with most software, but are not guaranteed to run all software and may require additional software or support. Students are responsible for academic consequences of deviation from the requirement.
**All CAD Courses
A Windows OS laptop/computer meeting the recommended computer specifications for students is required for all CAD courses. Usage of Apple products is not recommended, including a M1 MacBook, Surface Pro X with ARM processor, or Chromebooks, which do not meet CAD software requirements.
Virginia Western Community College is an approved institution of the National Council of State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) a voluntary, regional approach to state oversight of postsecondary distance education. Click here to learn more about how VWCC’s participation in NC-SARA benefits you as a Distance Learning student.
We use the VW Mass Notification System to immediately contact you during a major crisis or emergency. Get more info and register!