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Useful Tools for Virtual and Distance Learning

12. 08. 2021. 15 min

1935 Words

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the world worse than anyone could have ever imagined. The impact on people’s personal lives has been disastrous, and the economy is still suffering. However, the most difficult times are behind us. People are getting vaccinated, the number of affected people are gradually dropping, and the world is slowly healing.

One good thing that the pandemic has brought to light is the exciting prospect of digital learning. This concept has been around for a while, but it hasn’t been as prominent as it is now.

These days, not all people are going to the office or school – they’re handling their work and studies from their own homes over the internet. With that in mind, let’s take a more detailed look at the best digital learning tools that make getting proper education from home simpler than ever. 

 Undeniable Benefits of Distance Learning

Remote learning is just like real learning – you’re just not visiting an institution physically. Instead, you’re likely attending a digital class and presentation from your home office or even the dining room table. It’s a little bit different from conventional learning, but that’s not to say that it’s worse in any way.

Learning from home can be a blessing, as it allows people to engage with the process in the most comfortable way possible. Distance learning also allows people all over the word to access the best education. 

The benefits of digital learning are:

  • Added simplicity
  • Increased engagement
  • Improved learning methods
  • Software assisted learning
  • Innovative methodologies
  • More accessibility 

There is a wide selection of colleges worldwide, especially in the US, that offer digital remote learning – taking it from the classroom to the household.

Main Types of Remote Learning and their Pros/Cons

Not all distance learning is the same, as there are many different types with their own unique characteristics. Below, we’ll outline six different versions of distance learning, all of which come with their respective pros and cons. 

Synchronous learning

Synchronous learning is a special type of distance learning that allows students to attend live online classes. At the moment, it’s the most popular form of distance digital learning and is being employed by most universities and educational institutions around the world. 

Most of them will have a sanctioned software such as Zoom to help with “online classes” that enable synchronous learning.

Asynchronous learning 

Asynchronous learning is the complete opposite of synchronous classes. A student does not attend any online classes, though he gets the learning materials and is able to study at his/her own pace. Then such students are required to attend tests, most of which are either live or monitored to ensure no cases of cheating are taking place. 

Asynchronous learning has been available for a long time, just not in its latest digital form. People have been both homeschooled and received materials from educational institutions long before the internet was a thing. Still, by digitizing this type of learning, we’re heading into a new, self-paced era of education. 

Video conferencing 

Video conferencing is just what the name implies – you get new knowledge through video chat. It is another learning method enabled by software, but it requires a webcam. Video conferences are all the rage across all communication channels, business and education alike.

  1. Microsoft Teams – A free communication platform with screen sharing, whiteboards, assignment tracking, breakout rooms, data insights, and learning resources;
  2. Google Meet – A free video-conferencing tool with live captions, whiteboards, virtual hand raising, and breakout rooms; No downloads or plugins required;
  3. Webex – A video-conferencing tool with virtual classrooms, live and recorded sessions, automatic transcriptions, messaging, screen sharing, and breakout rooms;
  4. Adobe Connect – A virtual classroom with live interactive sessions, breakout rooms, polls, quizzes, annotations, messaging, LMS integrations, and support for students with disabilities;
  5. MegaMeeting – A video-conferencing tool with HD video, webinars, screen & file sharing, recording, breakout rooms, chat, and virtual field trip planning;
  6. TeamViewer – A remote access and collaboration platform offering live interactive sessions, audio & video calls, screen and file sharing, annotations, chat, and lesson scheduling;
  7. Blackboard Collaborate – A virtual classroom tool with interactive whiteboards, chat, polls, breakout rooms, recordings, LMS integrations, progress tracking, and real-time feedback;
  8. GoTo for Education – A web-conferencing solution with virtual lessons, webinars, polls, surveys, chat, file sharing, and cloud storage;
  9. BlueJeans – A cloud-based video-conferencing tool with HD video, dynamic content sharing, breakout sessions, interactive whiteboards, smart note-taking, polls, and school-wide communications;
  10. Whereby – A web-based video-conferencing tool with screen sharing, recording, chat, breakouts, live reactions, and brainstorming features; No downloads required;
  11. 8×8 – A cloud communication platform with audio and video conferencing, chat, messaging, screen and content sharing, cloud recordings, and analytics;
  12. HeyHi – A whiteboard app for creating interactive virtual classrooms, scheduling and recording classes, sharing content and screens;
  13. Jitsi Meet – An open-source audio, video, and messaging app for seamless online classes; It allows file sharing and requires no accounts or downloads;

In terms of education, video conferencing is imperative for things such as demonstrations and experiments. While you can learn theory remotely, getting an accurate representation of the practice is more challenging, but video conferencing makes it possible.

Computer distance learning

Computer distance learning is one of the most popular and primitive ways of eLearning that has been around ever since students started using the internet on a daily basis. This type of remote learning encompasses all academic activities from getting the learning plans beforehand and studying them to attending university through a digital medium. 

 

Online courses with an open schedule

Online learning really exploded onto the scene with the rise of online courses. Courses and seminars have always been a huge part of traditional learning, and bringing them into the digital world made things a lot easier and more convenient for students. 

Online courses with an open schedule mean you can attend fully certified remote online courses at your own pace, on your own time. Usually, they have a deadline that you’ll have to fully finish the course by, but how you organize your time is entirely up to you. 

Hybrid Learning

Hybrid learning is an experimental concept that combines both digital and in-person learning. By all accounts, hybrid classes will likely become the standard in the future. The Main idea behind this practice is to supplement real-life learning with digital materials, tests, and content – while handling in-person class-based learning on a semi-regular basis. 

Perhaps the most popular type of hybrid classes are hyflex classes, which are the next step in the evolution of education. Hyflex classes are hybrid learning classes that present flexible hours that allow students to schedule and change their attendance every week from in-class to online learning

Useful Tools You Will Definitely Need While on Distance Learning

There are more distance learning tools than one can list in a single article, all of which vary widely in quality. Some you can’t live without – others are just a burden. In this section, we’ll outline seven different categories of digital distance learning tools and list our top pick for which tool might be the best for the job. 

Communication Tools 

Learning material is communicated through different channels, and the way the process of delivery is performed influences the information retention rate. It’s used to educate and inspire, so it should have a top-tier tool to accompany it.

The two useful tools in the digital world for communication are Zoom and Discord. While Discord has changed its image to fit more professional environments, Zoom still dominates the education communication space. 

Whether you’re using Zoom or Discord, you’ll find that aside from both tools being completely free, they’re also equally easy to use. Using these tools is effortless, as they’re made to fit the broadest possible demographic. 

Progress Tracking Tools

Tracking your progress while studying can be a nightmare. Thankfully, these days, you don’t need to do it on your own, as there are numerous tracking tools available on the internet, and most of them are free. These tools are useful when you want to monitor your accomplishments, what you’ve done, and what needs to be done.

The premiere progress tracing tool in the digital distance education world is Podio. It includes all functions required to index and track your education progress. Furthermore, Podio is straightforward to use, making the whole progress tracking process a breeze.

  • Formative – A web-based app for real-time progress tracking, automatic grading, feedback sharing, and getting actionable insights; It has a free resource library and allows content uploads;
  • Quizalize – A quiz platform for tracking progress and performance, identifying knowledge gaps, assigning personalized follow-up activities; It features thousands of curriculum-aligned, ready-to-use quizzes;
  • Socrative – A classroom app for monitoring student progress, creating quizzes, assigning activities in virtual rooms, grading, reporting, and sharing instant feedback;
  • Top Hat – An active learning platform for student assessment, progress tracking, instant feedback, and content creation with interactive features;

 

Content Creation Tools

Content creation is one of the biggest things in modern education – and that’s why you’ll need a whole range of content creation tools. The best on the market is also the most all-encompassing solution – Google. 

Google Docs, Google Slides, and Google Sheets are the most popular content creation tools for educational purposes, used all across the internet. Since they’re effortless to use and can be used to create virtually anything and save it in a vast range of formats, that makes them very popular with many remote education specialists and students alike.

  1. PlayPosit – A web-based tool for creating and editing interactive videos for knowledge assessment;
  2. Adobe Spark – A free media creation app for creating flashcards, infographics, video presentations, and other visuals; A template library is available;
  3. Prezi – A tool for creating interactive presentations with charts, maps, infographics, and more, which you can present over your video, both live and in a recording;
  4. Nearpod – An all-in-one platform with interactive videos, slide-based interactive lessons, gamification, formative assessments, learning activities, resources, and virtual field trips;
  5. ClassFlow – A lesson delivery platform for creating interactive activities, quizzes, and polls and sharing real-time feedback;
  6. Flipsnack – A drag-and-drop editor for creating presentations and online flipbooks from scratch or by converting PDF files;
  7. Visme – A visual content creation platform for creating presentations, infographics, documents, charts, graphs, videos, lesson plans, and interactive assignments;
  8. Edpuzzle – A platform for creating interactive video lessons that you can integrate into your LMS;
  9. Quizlet – A free web-based app for creating flashcards featuring millions of ready-to-use study sets;
  10. Planboard – A free online lesson planner for creating lessons, tracking student progress, and grading students with summative and formative assessments;
  11. Wizer – A platform for creating interactive worksheets from scratch or pre-built templates;
  12. Piktochart – A web-based app for creating presentations, infographics, and reports; It offers templates, webinars, resources, and video tutorials;
  13. Haiku Deck – A platform for creating presentations, offering thousands of templates and free resources for teachers;
  14. Teacherly – A collaborative lesson planning platform with ready-made lessons; It comes with collaboration and progress tracking features;
  15. BetterLesson – A platform with professional learning solutions, lesson plans, student-centered learning, virtual workshops, and an instructional resource library;

People use all the Google tools for both education and business, and that’s because they’re very easy to use and one of the most powerful distance learning tools on the market. Depending on your tool of choice, you’ve likely come across something similar, as it’s very similar to the MS office package. 

Homework Management

Managing homework is not only tricky, but it can also get pretty annoying at times. The more schoolwork you have to do, the more it tends to stack up, especially when you’re not attending the classes themselves. While some students find that digital learning on their terms boosts productivity, others tend to think that it’s a great way to enable procrastination.

Luckily, certain types of software can help you manage the workload, especially when it comes to homework. There are more than a few, in fact, with the most popular one being Kami. It is a fantastic software that lets you organize and do your homework in an achievable and realistic manner.

  1. Clever — Single sign-on access to a variety of sites (including ReadTheory), eliminates the need for multiple passwords.
  2. Wakelet — Can be used as a custom curricular curator that allows teachers and students to save videos, articles, and other web files to a central location in a collection. 
  3. Schoology – An LMS for K-12 education, pre-integrated with 200+ educational tools and platforms; It allows personalized learning, assessments, performance tracking, and collaboration;
  4. Kiddom – A platform for delivering curricula, hosting virtual classes, assigning lessons based on mastery levels, and generating performance reports;
  5. Showbie – A free educational app for sending assignments, sharing notes and feedback, and creating portfolios that you can share with parents;
  6. PowerMyLearning – A platform for creating interactive homework assignments and inviting parents to participate in their children’s learning; It features hundreds of standards-aligned assignments;
  7. MindTap – An online learning platform for delivering homework enriched with assessments and videos;
  8. Teacher Dashboard 365 – Integrated with Office 365, it lets teachers assign homework, track student progress, and create custom marking formats for assessments;
  9. Canvas LMS – An LMS for K-12 and higher education for creating a custom online learning environment;
  10. PowerSchool Mobile – A mobile app for managing assignments and grades, tracking real-time performance and attendance, and involving parents;
  11. Show My Homework – A homework solution for assigning, monitoring, and grading homework online, facilitating distance learning, and involving parents;
  12. MyClassCampus LMS – A mobile LMS for creating and giving assignments, holding live classes, sharing content, assessing students, and more;

Digital Field Trips

Digital field trips are an increasingly popular way to experience far away places without ever leaving the comfort of your own home. With distance learning tools such as Google Earth, you can explore every nook and cranny of the world just with your computer.

Google Earth is not the only tool on the market, but it is by far the most elaborate and well-developed one, allowing you to visit any place you’d like in a couple of clicks.

  1. Google Arts & Culture – It features artwork from 2000+ museums and other cultural organizations from all over the world;
  2. Learn Around the World – It offers free virtual field trips, where students can enjoy live, interactive events;
  3. AirPano – It features 360° videos, photos, and virtual tours that can take students on a virtual journey around the world;
  4. National Geographic Education – Apart from classroom resources, National Geographic offers various student experiences, including live interactive virtual field trips;
  5. 360 Cities Schools – Offering hundreds of thousands of immersive 360° panoramas, this platform allows students to visit cultural, historical, and otherwise mesmerizing locations worldwide;
  6. Hall of Planet Earth – Designed for students in grades 6-8, this virtual tour helps students learn about Earth formations and features various learning activities;
  7. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum – The museum offers many online experiences that come with engaging learning materials;
  8. Metropolitan Museum of Art – The Met has many online features, such as the virtual Met 360° Project and the MetKids feature that offers videos, an interactive map, and countless fun facts to explore;
  9. Exploratorium – The museum of science, technology, and arts offers engaging videos by educators, exhibit developers, and scientists;
  10. Ford’s Theatre – This virtual tour takes you to the Peterson House, the President’s Box, and two museum exhibits, where you can learn about various artifacts on display;
  11. Apprentice Architect – Fondation Louis Vuitton – Perfect for young aspiring architects, this app helps children learn how the museum was built and ignites their creativity;

Navigating google earth is simple – all you need to do is visit the website and turn around the virtual globe. Once you’ve found somewhere you’d like to go – it’s as easy as dragging the little character and placing him on the street, allowing you to view a fully 3D realistic version of the world. 

Other Effective Tools for Your Studying

Now, not all education is the same. Some people are pursuing a specialized education and need specialized tools. Since the evolution of eLearning and the prospect of digital distance learning, many useful tools have come out for both broader and more specialized applications.

Screencastify

Screencastify is a web app for chrome that allows you to record what you’re doing on the browser. It’s an essential digital education tool that allows you to create quick videos or video assignments, as well as track your progress. It’s both free and easy to use and is sometimes required by professional education institutions for tests. 

Edpuzzle

The gamification of learning has long been a popular prospect, and Edpuzzle is one of the more interesting SaaS providers that enables that. Edpuzzle allows for the seamless creation of digital puzzles and interactive lessons, allowing remote educators to teach more effectively and students to interact with the learning material.

  1. Explain Everything – An online interactive whiteboard app for creating whiteboard explainer videos;
  2. Educreations – A platform for creating, sharing, and storing video lessons in the cloud;
  3. Padlet – A digital notice board for sharing notes, images, videos, documents, links, and other resources with students or teachers;
  4. Teachers.io – An app for staying organized; It lets you upload attachments and resources, create and share your syllabus, organize lessons, assignments, and tests, and send out announcements;
  5. LearnZillion – A platform for delivering curricula, generating insightful data reports, and enjoying built-in support for meeting students’ needs;
  6. ReadWriteThink – A collection of lesson plans, classroom materials, and professional learning resources for English Language Arts teachers;
  7. Coggle – A collaborative tool for creating and sharing mind maps and flowcharts, with real-time collaboration features; No installation or download required;

GIMP

We’ve talked about documents, tables, and spreadsheets – but what about art? When it comes to actually designing something, there is no better free tool on the market than GIMP. GIMP is well known in the designer world for being a great and free alternative to other software such as Photoshop. 

In Conclusion

There are a lot of distance learning tools that help digital education and eLearning reach mass adoption. We’re slowly but surely transitioning into a new, more refined way of learning through the combination of cutting-edge software and new education methodologies.

The world slowed down during the pandemic, and there was a rush to find a quick and efficient solution. However, the pandemic has been here for a while now, and developers have had time to refine these solutions.

One good thing that came out of this global tragedy is the prospect of digitization, bringing traditional tasks such as learning and business to the digital world. The post-covid world will allow us to return to normal, but not the day-to-day life that we once knew – we can look forward to a new “normal”, which will heavily emphasize digital solutions, remote work, and distance learning

 

 

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