Using a Dual Monitor Setup for Teaching Online

Dual Monitor Setup For Online Teaching
As online learning picks up pace, the demand for online teachers continues to grow. So will class sizes. This is where a dual monitor setup for teaching online can come in handy. Here's our guide to using - and choosing - two monitors while teaching online.

Why are more Online Teachers are Using a Dual Monitor Setup?

One of the selling points for teaching online is that you can work remotely, from practically anywhere in the world. However, most online teachers work from home, and have set up a dedicated space for online teaching. Online teachers use all kinds of equipment, such as green screens, props and teaching aids, and standing desks that enable them to move around and maintain a straight posture more easily. But one piece of equipment that is gaining popularity among online teachers is a second monitor. Whether using a desktop or laptop computer, online teachers are increasingly finding value in using a dual monitor setup for  teaching online. Let’s look at why you might consider going with a two-screen setup yourself, and how you can choose the right display for your own workspace.

As Online Learning Becomes More Popular, Class Sizes Get Larger

As online ESL learning becomes more mainstream, expect the number of students per class to increase. This is because one-to-one or small group online ESL lessons are relatively expensive in countries where there is a high demand to learn English. Bringing the cost of online education down can primarily be achieved by increasing the number of students per class.

This trend also lines up with meeting the demands of ESL learning in public school education systems. Currently, the majority of online ESL classes are scheduled during evenings and weekends, as supplemental lessons. The growing shift towards online learning means we can expect to see public schools introduce ESL lessons with a remote teacher conducting the lesson on a large screen. This is already taking shape, and teachers can expect to see more of these in the coming years.

So what does this have to do with using a dual screen setup for online teaching? If you teach a class of 15-30 students online, you will need one screen to display and interact with the courseware, and another to view and interact with your students. Up to now, most online ESL learning platforms have been designed to show the students alongside the courseware. That’s not easily achievable with larger classes. A second screen in this case won’t just be handy, it might actually be necessary.

Using Two Screens, You Can Multitask

Dual screen setups aren’t just gaining popularity with online teachers, either. People working from home and in the office are taking advantage of multi-screen setups, where they can have different applications running on separate screens. Many people have the specific apps they are currently working with on their main screen, and calendars and tasks displayed on the second screen. This can also be useful for teachers who have lessons throughout the day. You can have your teaching schedule open on a second screen while teaching students online using your main screen. Besides your schedule though, you can also have your lesson plans and notes on a separate screen, making it easy to refer to them while teaching online.

How to Choose a Monitor to use as a Second Screen

Dual Screen Workstation For Online Teaching

Setting up a dual screen work environment isn’t very difficult, and you can use either a computer monitor or a TV as your second screen. However, there are three basic considerations to make before purchasing a second monitor:

  • How much space is available on your desk or workstation?
  • Do you want to use the additional monitor as your main display, or as a second display?
  • Are you using a desktop or laptop computer?

Let’s have a look at each of these considerations.

Choosing the Right Screen Size for Your Work Space

Every teacher is going to have a unique work space. Some teachers have a dedicated room they use for working from home, while some work at their dining tables. We’re even aware of teachers that teach inside a closet – seriously! Given the diversity of setups, choosing a monitor size will largely depend on the space you have on your desk or table. But there are workarounds for this, too. For example, if you have limited desk space, you can still opt for a larger screen size by attaching the screen to a desk clamp, and placing the monitor either next to or directly above your main screen. This also gives you the flexibility to move the screen around depending on when and how you use it in various contexts.

What’s most important is that your additional screen should neither be too large nor too small, and cause eye strain. In the majority of situations, choosing a screen that is either equivalent in size to your main screen, or slightly larger, is the ideal choice. It provides a balanced view of your various applications and windows.

So, if you have a 17″ screen as your main monitor, something in the range of 17″ – 21″ would be a good choice. If you have a 13″ screen, then a 15″ to 19″ screen will be an ideal choice. It’s important to maintain some form of balance between the two monitors, so that your eyes (and brain) aren’t shifting between radically different screen sizes.

Of course, this won’t be true for all people and in all circumstances, so you should evaluate for yourself what is the best screen size for your unique situation. For example, if you are using a laptop computer with an 11″ screen, and want to use an additional screen as your main screen, you may indeed be looking for a larger display to use as a primary screen, and use the smaller laptop screen for lower priority tasks or references. Ultimately, you’re going to have to make a decision that’s best for the outcome you want.

Using an Additional Monitor as Your Main Screen

If You Have a Laptop Computer

If you’re in the market for a second monitor that you intend to use as your main screen, then your main priority will be where and how to position the screen for optimal viewing. Especially if you use a laptop computer, you want to take advantage of both the laptop screen as well as the external one. To accomplish this, we recommend the following:

  1. Place the laptop on a mounting arm, near or at eye-level.
  2. Connect the laptop to an external keyboard and mouse or trackpad. This will liberate you from having to place the laptop in the center of your desk. You can now position the laptop wherever you want on the desk.
  3. Place your second monitor in front of you, but far enough back that you can place your external keyboard and mouse/trackpad in front of it.

You now have flipped the script, so to speak, and can use your laptop computer as your second monitor. Magic!

Alternatively, you can opt for a portable monitor, though portable monitors are still relatively expensive. We only recommend portable monitors for online teachers who need to travel and work from different locations, and thus can benefit from the portability.

If You Have a Desktop Computer

The main reason we recommend online teachers invest in a desktop computer instead of a laptop is because desktops are much easier to upgrade, and thus, have a longer lifespan as well as a lower cost. But one other benefit that comes with using a desktop computer is that you can choose a screen size and resolution that suits your specific needs, whereas laptops with large screen sizes can get pretty heavy, not to mention, expensive. Desktops also keep your options open for changing monitors at a later stage. For example, if you originally bought a desktop with a 21″ screen, but now would like to upgrade to a larger screen size, you can easily achieve this by buying an additional screen. Bonus: Keep your original monitor and use it as your second screen!

Another great benefit of using two external monitors is that you can easily place them side by side on your desk or monitor stand, or attach it to a mounting arm. This gives you almost complete flexibility to position your monitors how you want, for viewing convenience and comfort.

Recommended Desktop Monitors

Our recommendation for most online teachers who want to use a dual monitor setup is to go with LED monitors with screen sizes between 21.5″ to 23.8″. This screen size should allow for two monitors to be placed neatly on most desks, or mounted on  mounting arms.

If you’re using a desktop computer, we suggest buying two monitors of the same model so that you only have to learn and remember how to configure and adjust settings for a single model, rather than two different ones.

If you’re using a laptop computer, and intend to use your laptop screen as one of your monitors, then you only need one additional monitor, we recommend getting a screen size slightly larger than your laptop screen, so that you can benefit from a larger screen size than your laptop screen. The laptop computer and additional screen can be used in conjunction with an external keyboard and mouse/trackpad, so that you can place your laptop computer at a distance on a stand or mounting arm.

Photo Title Price Buy
HP VH240a 23.8-inch Full HD 1080p IPS LED Monitor with Built-in Speakers and VESA Mounting, Rotating Portrait & Landscape, Tilt, and HDMI & VGA Ports (1KL30AA) - Black $124.99
Acer R240HY bidx 23.8-Inch IPS HDMI DVI VGA (1920 x 1080) Widescreen Monitor, Black $128.15
HP Pavilion 22cwa 21.5-Inch Full HD 1080p IPS LED Monitor, Tilt, VGA and HDMI (T4Q59AA) - Black $95.99

These are affiliate links, which means if you click through and make a purchase, we receive compensation at no extra cost to you.

Recommended Portable Monitors

Generally, we don’t recommend portable monitors for online teachers just yet, because they’re comparatively expensive. However, some teachers prefer the flexibility that comes with portability. For those who travel frequently or who want a monitor they can pack in their bag, a portable monitor can be a good option specifically for laptop computer users.

Photo Title Price Buy
Portable Monitor - Lepow 15.6 Inch Computer Display 1920×1080 Full HD IPS Screen USB C Gaming Monitor with Type-C Mini HDMI for Laptop PC MAC Phone Xbox PS4, Include Smart Cover & Screen Protector $188.98
UPERFECT Portable Monitor 13.3'' Computer Display [100% sRGB High Color Gamut] 1920×1080 USB C Monitor FHD Eye Care Gaming Screen IPS HD Type C OTG DP Speakers, Included Smart Cover & Screen Protector $169.99
4k Portable Monitor, EVICIV 15.6 Inch USB C External Monitor Portable Monitor 3840 x 2160 UHD Computer Monitor with Dual Type-C Mini HD Freesync VESA for Laptop PC Phone Mac Surface Xbox PS4 Switch $329.99

These are affiliate links, which means if you click through and make a purchase, we receive compensation at no extra cost to you.

Recommended Single Monitor Mounting Arms

The greatest benefits mounting arms have to offer are that they free up considerable desk space, and they enable you to easily adjust your screen position on the fly. Single monitor mounting arms are a good choice for laptop computer users who want to use an external monitor as a second screen.

Photo Title Price Buy
VIVO Single LCD Monitor Desk Mount Stand Fully Adjustable/Tilt/Articulating for 1 Screen 13" to 27" (STAND-V001) $29.99
3M Dual-Swivel Monitor Arm (MA140MB),Black $91.99
NB North Bayou Monitor Desk Mount Stand Full Motion Swivel Monitor Arm with Gas Spring for 17-30''Monitors(Within 4.4lbs to 19.8lbs) Computer Monitor Stand F80 $27.90

These are affiliate links, which means if you click through and make a purchase, we receive compensation at no extra cost to you.

Recommended Dual Monitor Mounting Arms

Dual monitor mounting arms are great for desktop users who want to position both screens side by side freeing up desk space. They offer the best of both worlds – side-by side screen viewing and adjustability.

They can also come in handy for laptop computer users who want to place their laptop beside an external monitor. For this, you need to choose a dual monitor mounting arm that comes with a laptop tray.

Photo Title Price Buy
VIVO Dual Arm Monitor Desk Mount Height Adjustable, Tilt, Swivel, Counterbalance Pneumatic Stand, VESA Bracket Arm Fits Most Screens up to 27 inches (STAND-V002O) $44.95
viozon Monitor and Laptop Mount, 2-in-1 Adjustable Dual Arm Desk Mounts Single Desk Arm Stand/Holder for 17 to 32 Inch LCD Computer Screens, Extra Tray Fits 12 to 17 inch Laptops (Silver) $87.99
EleTab Dual Arm Monitor Stand - Height Adjustable Desk Monitor Mount Fits for 2 Computer Screens 17 to 32 inches - Each Arm Holds up to 17.6 lbs $59.49

These are affiliate links, which means if you click through and make a purchase, we receive compensation at no extra cost to you.

Recommended Monitor Riser Stands

For online teachers who prefer to place their monitors placed on their desks, monitor riser stands are your best friend. For a dual monitor setup, you can either choose a dual monitor riser stand, or two single monitor riser stands. The rider stands we recommend here are adjustable in different ways.

Photo Title Price Buy
Superjare Monitor Stand Riser, Adjustable Screen Stand for Laptop Computer/TV/PC, Multifunctional Desktop Organizer - Retro Brown $29.97
FITUEYES Computer Monitor Riser Stand with Height Adjustable Desktop for Laptop Dual Monitors Xbox One/Component/Flat Screen TV -2 Pack,DT103803GC $29.99
5Rcom Dual Monitor Stand 3 Shelves Desk Riser with Adjustable Length and Angle Computer TV PC Laptop Screen Stand,Multi Desktop Stand Storage Organizer for iMac,Printer,Notebook $29.69

These are affiliate links, which means if you click through and make a purchase, we receive compensation at no extra cost to you.

Using A Dual Monitor Setup: Up Your Game as an Online Teacher

Online learning is gaining traction in the mainstream, and with that means it will become more adopted and integrated into  education systems around the world. With that, expect larger classes having blended lessons with a remote teacher. A dual monitor setup is an inexpensive but highly effective way to step up your game as an online teacher. Even if teaching smaller groups or one-to-one lessons, having two monitors will enable you to be more productive and with the right setup, you can enjoy a more comfortable and convenient viewing experience while teaching.

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Adil Vellani
Adil Vellani
Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Adil Vellani is the co-founder of ESL Job Exchange. With more than 20 years of international experience in both the education and corporate sectors, Adil is devoted to sharing his knowledge and experience to help individuals and organizations connect and make a massive impact in the lives of ESL learners across the globe. Adil also lectures at the Sino-European Institute of Aviation Engineering, where he teaches aviation engineering students in an international degree program.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means if you click through and make a purchase, we receive compensation at no extra cost to you.
See our Earnings Disclosure.

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