What keyboard should I use for the Chinese course?
If you're on Windows the usual way is to use one of the built-in pinyin methods: https://www.pinyinjoe.com/windows-10/windows-10-pinyin-setup.htm
As garpike says, some people prefer the Google one, but I've had no problem with the Microsoft one personally.
The Google IME also allows one to switch between traditional and simplified character sets at the press of a button, whereas with Microsoft one must install two separate keyboards. This might be of no consequence to many people, but I thought I should point it out. Language exchange websites abound in people from both the ROC and the PRC, so I find being able to switch easily is handy.
It depends on how easily you can memorize characters. You should use the one with the drawing pad if you have a hard time writing and memorizing stroke order, but if you really memorized the character and you believe that you will never forget it, then you should use the typing one. I use both so that I can squeeze in some practice writing while on my phone. : )
I used to use the Microsoft Pinyin IME. It was about as good as I expected. Recently they've made some key changes that honestly drive me crazy. Specifically, they have changed so that instead of navigating potential characters with arrows, or just hitting enter if the first option was what you wanted, now you have to enter a number, and use the mouse to scroll through other options if it doesn't show up on the suggestion bar. This massively slows typing. I've also felt that they have dramatically scaled back their predictive software, so the ordering of the selections is not terribly useful, meaning you'll have to scroll deep every time.
This is actually a pretty big problem for me because I use a lot of fairly obscure terms related specifically to anthropology and minority languages in my day to day correspondences. Most people don't need these terms handy, but I do, and it should know by now and adapt. It doesn't.
Google has been the most obvious solution for this, and I use it whenever I can. There are a lot of ways you can configure the Microsoft IMEs so they are less aggravating if you don't want to go the google route, if you are willing to dive into the menus. It usually isn't worth the time for me, but the option is definitely out there.
What I've come to love, though, is using Chinese on GBoard on my phone, because it switches effortlessly between pinyin input and the ability to draw characters with my finger, which really makes my life easier. If I'm just doing emails in Chinese or other short responses, I tend to just do this to take advantage of GBoard.