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.

FeatureMinimum Recommended
(Estimated at $300-$400)
(Estimated at $550-$850)
Reason for Recommendation
ProcessorIntel Core i3 or AMD Ryzen 3Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5The latest Windows operating systems and applications written for it will require advanced processors to be used effectively.
Memory4 GB8 GBWindows requires at least 4 gigabytes (GB) of memory.
Hard disk128 GB SATA256 GB SATA or SSDThis allows for storying of files from classes on the computer. A backup solution is also recommended for storage. A SSD will provide a faster overall system.
DVD driveNot requiredNot requiredNot a necessity but can be helpful. Most new laptops do not come with a DVD drive.
Wireless networking802.11ac802.11acThis allows machines to operate on the 5GHz wireless frequencies for increased throughput and roaming performance.
BluetoothBluetooth 4.1Bluetooth 4.1Provides for greater accessory attachment.
Video RAM512 MB1 GBWindows will require a more powerful graphics card.
Webcam and microphoneRequiredRequiredRequired to use online proctoring, attend Zoom sessions, and have people see and hear you while online.
USBType A 2.0Type A 3.0/Type CAllows access to other devices such as external hard drives, older keyboards and mice, or USB thumb drives.
Video OutputVideo out: HDMI or DisplayPortVideo out: HDMI or DisplayPortProvides the ability to connect to an additional monitor for a bigger screen.
Battery6-cell battery9-cell battery9-cell batteries provide optimum life for the laptop when students are in classes for long periods of time.
Warranty1-year Limited Warranty3-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:

** 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 and ITE 115 is a required course in almost all Virginia Western transfer programs.