Look closely at this photograph – it is a picture of the Girls School in Jaipur, Rajasthan – 1870-80’s. A blackboard, World and India maps, books, and benches – looks familiar? In 150 years, the tools for classroom teaching haven’t changed that much. This imagery is so engrained in our collective consciousness that any other method or tool feels inferior.
Teachers bemoan the constant connectivity problems, and the lack of attention and interaction in the online classrooms. Ever wonder how that compares with noisy classrooms, inattentive backbenchers, fidgety behavior, and whispered conversations in the physical classrooms?
Used effectively, online tools can be used to enhance the learning experience and give learners a richer palette of materials to learn from. Let us look at a few common tools.
Online Communication/Meeting tools
Meeting tools/apps are used by educators to conduct live online sessions and create a virtual classroom where students can interact in real-time with fellow students and teachers.
There are many apps that are used by teachers to conduct online classes; here are some of the best platforms currently in use:
Zoom is one of most popular meeting apps used by educators to conduct online classes. While the free version is limited to 40 mins, the paid plan has a wide range of features including webinars and video breakout rooms which lets students be grouped together for collaborative work.
The interface is simple, and works smoothly on all devices- mobiles, tabs, laptops, desktops. Screen sharing, file sharing, whiteboarding, and text chat are also available for users.
Meetings can be recorded to be used later for assessment and feedback.
Secure, dependable, and easy to use, Google Meet is also a popular platform choice among educators for conducting online classes. It is free, can host unlimited number of meetings, is compatible across devices and provides a high degree of control for meeting hosts.
The live captioning feature along with adjustable layouts and video/audio preview screens are some of the other interesting features. More updates from Google are expected in the coming year.
Some other tools that are used by teachers:
- Cisco Webex
- MS Teams
During online classes, it is imperative that the sessions are engaging and encourage participation from all the learners. This is especially important in an online setting because of a lack of F2F interaction, which could lead to distracted learners.
It is important that teachers can convey their message in an appealing manner that could include video clips, sharing relevant images or graphics to kindle interest among students and keep them engaged during the live sessions.
There are many apps and tools that can be used to create powerful presentations. Here, we discuss three apps that are highly popular:
Microsoft’s PowerPoint is arguably the most popular presentation program currently in use. It is widely used by educators, staff members and students. It is an effective tool to present material in a classroom discussion. It is simple to use and is available on most desktops/laptops and other learning devices.
PowerPoint is primarily used to present important information and/or data using text, images, audio, video, animation etc- in the form of slides. The presentation can be saved in multiple formats. It can be easily shared with a student group or among fellow educators.
Prezi is a well-known presentation software that can be used to create captivating presentations. It uses a single canvas instead of slides, which is the case in PowerPoint. The required information is embedded on a single page; the presentation can be arranged as desired by the user.
It has many interesting features, including the zoom in, zoom out functions, easy incorporation of audio components and vivid themes.
Google Slides is an extremely popular tool for creating presentations. Because of its appealing features and the support provided for presentations created using MS office and other services, it is one of the most used online presentation software. It allows the creation of online presentations in collaboration with fellow users.
It can be used to create compelling slide shows, has impressive shape tools, is mobile- friendly and does not require any special software since it is browser-based.
Assessment and Quiz Tools
Quizlet is a learning app that allows students to study science through learning tools and games. It trains students through flashcards, tests, and games. It possesses a lot of interesting features and can support images, diagrams, and audio files. It is suited for learners who prefer to direct their own learning journey.
Some other popular tools that can be used for assessments are listed here:
- Google Forms
- Poll Everywhere
File & Media Sharing Tools
A potent file and media sharing service is crucial in the teaching-learning process. Instead of clogging up the email boxes of recipients, this is a more efficient way of transferring large files across different content types. It helps teachers share syllabus, lecture notes, presentations, assignments etc with students. It also encourages collaborative work among students through shared online workspaces and feedback exchange.
Here, we discuss the features of some popular services:
Google Drive is one of the most popular file sharing services- it functions like a virtual cloud storage service allowing users to share, access files from multiple devices.
It offers 15 GB free cloud storage and top-notch security, encryption standards; users need to have a Google account to access Google drive. It supports storing, sharing of different content types through email and direct links.
Google drive also includes Docs, Sheets and Slides, which allow users to create documents, excel sheets and design presentations online.
Smash offers a file sharing service that allows users to transfer heavy files including videos and images over the web. It is a simple, easy to use platform with no registration required. There is no size limit for file transfer, hence users can transfer files of any size.
In the free version, the files are available up to 14 days; password protection and file previews are also available. Like most file sharing services, a link can be created easily and shared with others.
Here are some other commonly used file-sharing services:
- Send Anywhere
Video Hosting Tools
Vimeo is a professional video sharing platform. While it has limited features in the free version, the paid version comes with a lot of interesting features- higher upload limit and more control over published content. The uploaded videos can be restricted to certain domains, customised security functions can be enabled, and groups created to provide exclusive access to the content.
The paid version does not have advertisements, thereby making it ideally suited for use in higher education institutions.
YouTube is a well-known video-sharing platform with extensive integration on iOS and Android devices- this allows for easy upload of videos from any device. This video content could include lectures, tutorials, demonstrations etc.
Student Interaction/Parent- Teacher Communication Tools
Educators, teachers, and administrators use multiple platforms to interact with students and parents to manage daily activities in the teaching-learning process as well as track attendance and send notifications.
Some of the most common platforms are listed here:
- Google Hangouts
An effective LMS will be able to perform all the functions mentioned above along with excellent reporting capabilities that will allow institutions to develop key insights into the whole online teaching-learning process.