As a member of the school board, the buck stops with you. You’re responsible for making sure that your teachers have the tools they need to help students succeed. It’s a challenging job because the people relying on you are under enormous pressure to get it right. And so are you.
Budgets in education aren’t infinite. You have to walk a fine line, balancing priorities. So if you want to help teachers create the best remote classroom possible, you’re going to need the right tools at the right price point.
That’s why we’re going to open up our virtual education toolbox and share some fantastic resources teachers can use to deliver a great learning experience outside the classroom. It’s time to build your (virtual) schoolhouse.
1. Mimic face-to-face with virtual classrooms
One of the most powerful tools for teaching remotely is a great webinar platform. Webinar software makes it possible to teach students anywhere in the world in real-time. You can run class polls, take questions, work through group projects, and even record lectures for students who can’t attend live. While there are plenty of great options, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of three popular platforms.
EzTalks has a robust suite of webinar tools designed to support everything from small huddle groups to multi-presenter online workshops. Teachers can use this software to run live webinars. They can also use it to create automated presentations that are recorded in advance but feel like a live event.
But what about the cons? EzTalks has a tiered access model. There are great features like cloud recording and online storage, but they aren’t available without upgrading to a paid subscription, which starts at $10 a month per teacher. You can still vote and poll in the free version, but webinars are limited to 40 mins and no more than 100 participants.
Zoom uses mobile platforms in a way that’s awesome for students and educators who may not have a dedicated space to meet remotely. Their platform offers extensive smartphone support for students whose main computer might be in their pocket.
Zoom shares a lot of features with ezTalks like polling and a digital whiteboard but also some of the same drawbacks like their pricing. They do focus a little more directly on education though this doesn’t necessarily mean they will be a better fit for your remote classroom.
Google is a fantastic option if what you’re looking for is the ability to deliver live webinars without too many bells and whistles. Hangouts have a fantastic live webinar format, and you can broadcast your lectures directly to YouTube.
There are a lot of good things about Google’s approach. The platform started as a social network, so it’s very easy to continue group discussions once a webinar has ended. The platform runs through Google’s web software, so a software download isn’t required. Hangouts is free, however it makes it difficult to schedule events and record them. And it doesn’t have a lot of education-centered support. Plus, students need a valid Gmail account to access features like chat.
2. Use collaboration tools to create a great learning environment
There’s a reason people gather together to learn. Collaboration helps students understand subjects through teamwork and discussion. Let’s take a look at some great tools that can help students and teachers collaborate online.
AWW Board is a feature-packed remote learning tool built specifically for teachers. Teachers can use it to set assignments, track students’ progress, and give immediate feedback on projects. The software even has a built-in anonymity tool to give shy learners confidence to ask for help.
Stormboard lets your students work on multiple whiteboards in one window. This is fantastic for tasks that have more than one step or projects with several groups working together. The program allows collaboration at any point before, during, or after class so students can contribute when inspiration strikes.
Limnu is incredible if you’re looking for a realistic whiteboard experience. This software does a great job of imitating the function of a physical whiteboard that’s accessible from anywhere. It’s perfect for subjects that require students to sketch their solutions like design or math. Aside from cost, the main problem with Limnu is that it works best with touchscreens which some students may not have access to.
3. Store lessons, worksheets and homework assignments for later
With students working on multiple projects in your school’s online curriculum, they need storage. Teachers need a place to archive lesson plans, upload worksheets, add quizzes and grade tests. And this place needs to be accessible no matter where your teachers and students are. Let’s take a look at two options.
Teachable lets faculty create engaging lessons, store work plans, and even create a unique website for their subject. The software can be integrated into your school’s homepage, or you can build a standalone site for your remote classrooms.
WizIQ wants to be an all-in-one classroom solution. Its features vary from lesson creation to building group workshops. It even has its own whiteboard built into the platform. You can create live or self-paced learning modules, so this could be a fantastic all-in-one solution.
4. Don’t forget about quizzes, tests, and assessments
Quizzes and tests are a great way to see how your students are getting to grips with the course material. This is important in remote classrooms where teachers may find it more challenging to see exactly how some students are developing. One of the best tools for this is Socrative.
Socrative lets you create quizzes and tests in virtual and local classrooms on the fly. Teachers see students’ answers as they make them and can grade both individual progress and how the class is learning as a whole.
5. Keep everyone motivated and on the same page
One of the hardest parts of education is keeping students and teachers motivated. If the students aren’t engaged, it won’t be long before the results show it and everyone suffers.
ClassDojo has an innovative approach to keeping students and faculty motivated. The software acts as a communicator that lets teachers share encouragement with students who can earn points for school activities at any skill level. Students can then share photos and memories from class with their parents and friends. This creates the social environment people miss, virtually.
Personalizing the virtual classroom
No classroom, student, or teacher is exactly alike, and as the person responsible for equipping your school to succeed, you may find you need to experiment. Test the different software – and ask teachers to test them – before deciding what to invest in.