Virtual classrooms offer many possibilities when creating effective distance learning programs, for secondary and higher education as well as corporate learning environments. Education technology tools are transforming teaching by allowing instructors to create more personalized and immersive learning experiences that are translating into better outcomes for students.
A recent review of EdTech trends for 2021 reveals that, “Educators are using the advantages of technology to make learning more effective.” What EdTech and digital tools do teachers need to provide a successful distance learning experience?
The best digital tools are those that meet specific goals to help create a successful learning experience for students and an optimal teaching experience for instructors. Specifically, to be most effective, virtual learning tools should:
- Provide enhanced communication and interaction with students and peers.
- Offer multiple opportunities for engagement.
- Allow teachers to create content, lessons, and media for students.
- Provide a reliable and easy to use platform for teachers to present curriculum, concepts, and content to students.
- Allow teachers to provide feedback to students.
- Allow teachers to perform assessments including tests, quizzes, exams.
- Assist teachers in evaluating student work.
Learning institutions and instructors will want to consider the specific characteristics of the digital tools they select. First, tools need to be versatile, flexible, and accessible from multiple devices, including smartphones and tablets. EdTech tools are also more successful when they are:
- Easy and convenient to use for both instructors and students
- Innovative, creative, and engaging
- Safe and secure with a focus on privacy
Core Tools to Create an Effective Online Learning Experience
In order to develop a superior online teaching experience, institutions and teachers should aim for a blend of software, apps, techniques. A learning management system typically provides the foundation for a complete virtual or distance learning program. Although a robust LMS includes many features and capabilities, it can be further enhanced by additional core digital tools that offer opportunities for communication, collaboration, and student engagement.
Perhaps the most vital of these core tools is an educational-specific video conferencing platform that allows for high-quality instruction and interaction using a live synchronous experience. Video conferencing provides many communication opportunities between instructors, students, and peers, including face-to-face communication, chat messaging, small group participation, and one-on-one interaction. Security must be a priority when selecting a video conferencing solution. Platforms should have private, reliable connections and protocols that protect identities and content.
Additional core tools that are part of a comprehensive digital learning toolset include:
- Digital collaboration tools such as whiteboard, animation and screen sharing. Whiteboard and screen sharing tools work from multiple devices and are effective for both virtual classroom sessions as well as collaborative work and projects.
- Document sharing is a must-have, versatile tool for distance learning. This tool is optimal when multiple formats can be shared.
- Engagement tools that allow instructors to create quizzes or games to provide various interactive and collaborative activities.
- Polling allows instructors to gather feedback and conduct quick spot assessments to find out how well the students are absorbing material. There are a number of popular quiz and poll creation software and apps available, for K-12 as well as higher education.
Some of the most highly rated, effective, and engaging online classroom tools include the following software and apps. These tools are generally easy to use for both teachers and students, and are versatile, flexible, and suitable for various education levels.
- Kahoot https://kahoot.com/schools/distance-learning/
- Canva for Education https://www.canva.com/education/
- MindMeister – mindmapping https://www.mindmeister.com/
- Pear Deck https://www.peardeck.com/
- Socrative https://www.socrative.com/
- EdPuzzle https://edpuzzle.com/
- Bulb Digital Portfolio https://my.bulbapp.com/
- Quizlet https://quizlet.com/
About the author
Allen Drennan, Principal, started Lumicademy in October of 2017, bringing together the team of senior engineers who created Nefsis, a cloud-based, video conferencing online service, which Frost and Sullivan cited as the first “conferencing service solution based on the technologies of cloud-computing, end-to-end parallel processing and multipoint video conferencing,” to create the next generation of virtual classroom technology.
Engaging students and educators alike, Lumicademy provides the ability to interact in a live video meeting and view presentations with screen shares, document shares, annotations and whiteboards, all within a tablet or phone experience.