Could a student use a tablet instead of a laptop for school? That's a question I'm hearing frequently now that elementary, middle, and high school kids will be going to school from home and attending classes virtually.

Buying every student in your house a new laptop will cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars (depending on how many kids you have and which laptops you choose). iPads are a good alternative but even the most basic iPad costs hundreds.

I searched for a cheap alternative for families and found the Onn tablet sold by Walmart. Could this be an answer?

The Onn tablet is very basic. Rugged and the one I tried is a 7" tablet. It runs on the Android platform so students can download any app from the Google Play Store. They'll be able to use the tablet for most of their schoolwork and can access Google Docs, YouTube, Google Meet, Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Classroom. For those things, the Onn tablet will be an OK choice. It has two cameras, one on the back and a front-facing 'selfie' camera.

I tested it out on a Zoom video meeting, yes students will be able to Zoom on these tablets. But should they? The selfie camera is one of the worst I've seen in years with just .3 megapixels. On a Zoom call, the picture quality that others would see was dim, blurry and choppy.

Even with an external light aimed at my face, the video quality is not one I'd ever want to use or see someone else using. If a student was only joining Zoom or Google Meet video meetings to watch and not be seen, I suppose the Onn tablet would be okay.

The processing speed is simply not high enough to stream the camera to a video meeting. It's fine to stream videos on YouTube though. Those videos appeared just fine. You can add Bluetooth headphones or even earbuds with a cable since the Onn has an earphone jack.

The positive to the Onn is that it runs Google or Android apps natively while Amazon's Kindle Fire tablets are tied only to Amazon's app store.

So can the Onn tablet be an option this fall?

If the student will be accessing Google Docs, Gmail and only watching or listening to classroom instructions or if you have a younger child in the house who'll need to be entertained while everyone else is using the laptops, desktop computers, tablets and phones, an Onn tablet will be just fine.

If you're looking for something more, you'll need to find a laptop or an iPad.

If money is a big concern, the $40 Onn tablets might be an option worth trying. A word of caution though, these are popular tablets and many Walmart stores have sold their entire stock.