Remote and online education is not something new, but it has spread slowly to universities and educational institutions. The reasons for this slow spread are many: lack of resources, lack of training, lack of motivation, ivory tower administration…
It took a rapid and massive virus spread to change mindsets, behaviors to finally shift to remote and accessible education approaches. Covid-19 pandemic situation has forced educational institutions to shift from one day to another to online teaching.
Many of us, teachers and professors, are left alone to figure out how to continue providing classes, students’ follow-up, exams, etc. All while we homeschool our children, deal with housekeeping and keep up with less rewarding tasks at home. So time and patience are big constraints.
Gladly there are plenty of tools and applications to use for free (or with a little budget) to help with this unsmooth transitioning. But one thing is having access to those tools and another thing is being able to use them properly.
So I decided to provide some help to those brave educators. Here is a short guide on how to use some apps that will enable you to shift to remote teaching in no-time and with great results. I handpicked for their flexibility, price (free mostly), user-friendliness and features.
1. Creative Content creation
Forget Powerpoint. Yes, I know this is your default application for creating lectures’ slides, but it’s far from being the most effective and engaging content creator for learning (or for anything else).
Nothing is worse than old-fashioned PowerPoint slides full of text and with outdated animations and slide transitions.
There are plenty of apps in the market that are more compelling than PowerPoint for creating beautiful content. Not only they are free and easy to use, but they also provide you with amazing ready-to-use layouts for your lectures, posters, course syllabus, learning cards, and many more. Most of the designs are free to use and you only need to put the text you want on it and that’s it. You don’t need to be a graphic designer to create beautiful and engaging content for your courses.
Canva : With a free account you can have access to more than 8,000 templates, more than 100 design types (social media posts, presentations, letters, and more) and hundreds of thousands of free photos, icons and graphics.What is more you can have forever free access as an educator just by applying to their educational program here. You can do a lot with Canva for education. Here are some helpful tutorials to get you started.
Crello: A great tool for creating graphic and video content that looks like a pro. Also, for free you get access to more than 30,000 graphic and animated templates and more than 140 million of images. This tutorial will help you to get started.
Prezi: is another great tool for creating animated and engaging presentations. With a Free account you can have access to unlimited content and to their latest products: prezi videos and prezi design. Also if you apply as an educator you can have a really affordable price (3USD/mo) for the features available on the premium version. what is awesome about prezi is that you can convert your powerpoint slides into prezi presentations in just one click. Some tutorials available here.
2. Animation tools and storytelling
Storytelling is a great approach to engage students and to enhance their learning experience. Storytelling is a technique that helps to create connections with the audience and involves them in an experience that may ultimately result in memorable moments. Storytelling help students to convey the content being taught, create emotional experiences, appropriate and exchange knowledge.
But good stories need good characters and the best way to create those when you are teaching is through cartoon animation.
There are plenty of fun and easy apps that you can use to create compelling characters and motion designs to tell your stories, without having designer skills.
Powtoon is a great tool for creating animated motion design videos. This is really helpful for explanatory videos. With a free account you can create up to 3 minutes, but they have also affordable plans for educators. For as little as 6 dollars per month you can get create 20-minute videos, up to 10GB storage, unlimited access to royalty-free music and objects and the possibility to export your videos to mp4. You can apply to educational access here.
Animaker is another platform that works great for video and animated content. You don’t need to have design skills to create awesome and beautiful videos. With a free account you can create and download unlimited videos, build up to 2 custom characters and access to some free music and gifs.
Toontastic is an app build by google. With toontastic you can draw, animate, and narrate adventures, breaking news stories, science reports, and all your other ideas completely for free. The app is available for iOS and android devices but not yet for desktop.
3. Voice lecture recording
Giving voice to your lectures is important when you are doing online courses. Since your slides presentation should be simple to be compelling, few words and a lot of images, you need a speech that goes with those visuals. Giving voice to your lectures ensure that you provide your students with all the knowledge they need without overwhelming them with slides full of text.
While Powerpoint and other default presentation software have the option to record your voice, most of the time is not high quality, and it makes the presentation heavy and difficult to share.
A great tool for voice recording and screen recording is loom.
Loom is a video recording and editing freemium application that you can download on any device (desktop, phone, tablet). With loom, you can record your device screen and record yourself while narrating your slides or content on your screen. With loom, you can also create and edit videos by adding filters or text. Loom is free for students and educators. You only need to have a valid institutional email address and you will have loom pro for free. Loom is also great for flipped classrooms, making students tutorials or peer learning and giving feedback to students’ work. If you want to know more about what you can do with loom for education you can read the guide for education here.
4. Video recording and editing
Video recording and video editing is also an important step for making online lectures. There are default applications that are pre-installed in your devices, like iMovie and QuickTime if you use Mac. But many times these apps are difficult to use or provide little space for creative and original videos. Alternative and much more easy and fun apps are available on the web for free or for low budget.
Animoto is one of my favorites. It’s a free app for teachers and students where you can create amazing videos without any knowledge or skills on video editing and design. With the free version you can have access to more than 1 million ready-to-use video and image templates, more than 350 music tracks, 3 different fonts and 30 color swatches. Also, you can download unlimited videos of standard quality (720p), which is already pretty good. With Animoto you can also create accounts for your students and create a virtual classroom. For more information on how to use animoto for education, you can read the FAQ for schools and educators here.
There are other video editing solutions such as ligthworks , but these are less user friendly and are more suitable for people with editing skills. Then you have blender, an open source 3D animation suite, but then again you need to have good skills in design and editing.
5. Video conferencing and virtual classroom
Video conferencing is one of the best way to get in touch with your students remotely. Is a great tool for having engaging conversation and lectures where you need interaction and peer discussion.
Zoom is one of the most known and common software for videoconferencing used by business and educators. Zoom has a freemium service. It’s great for hosting webinars, meetings, group collaborations, and calls. With a free account you can invite up to 100 participants, have unlimited face-to-face interviews and up to 40 minutes group conference. With the current pandemic COVID19 situation, Zoom has removed the 40 minute limit for educators, you just need to create an account with your institutional email address.
BigBlueButton is an open source web conferencing system for online learning. The goal of the project is to provide remote students a high-quality online learning experience. What is amazing about BigBlueButton is that you can have the same zoom pro functionalities for free. The software is really user-friendly. with BBB you can have a whiteboeard that you can share with your participants, you can breakout rooms for team collaboration and you can create polls during your virtual lecture. Here you can find a user guide on how to use BigBlueButton for education.
Other quite good software is google meet, which you can access for free if you have a google classroom account. Also, you have newrow which offer pretty amazing functionalities in its pro version.
6. Teaching Platforms
Teaching platforms are great for organizing all your lecture plans, contents, assessments, feedback and tracking student’s progress.
While some universities have institutional licences to online platforms. Many institutions don’t have the budget to pay for it. Gladly there are some free software that you can use for that matter.
Socrative is one of the most used virtual classroom platform all over the world. With a freemium business model, educators can have access to socrative functionalities for free. With a free account you can have one virtual classroom for up to 50 students and launch one activity at a time, do on-fly questioning (quizes)and other assessment activities. You can also visualize results in real time and do reporting. Your virtual room is accessible in any device and students can join for free.
Easyclass is an open source alternative for virtual classrooms. By creating an account with your institutional email address, you have access to socrative Pro-like functionalities for free and more. With Easyclass ducators can create online classes whereby they can store course materials online; manage assignments, quizzes and exams; monitor due dates; grade results and provide students with feedback all in one place. here is a short explanatory video on how to use the platform.
Google classroom is also a good alternative for creating virtual classrooms, but in order to have access to your institution needs to create an institutional account.
7. Communication and visual collaboration
Visual collaboration and communication tools are also a great way to make your online classes more dynamic and to motivate your students to be more active. There are several apps for doing this, but Mural and Miro are my favorite.
Mural is a digital workspace for visual collaboration. As an educator you can apply for a free facilitator account and start collaborating with other educators and your students. With the educator account you can have up to 10 team members ( which can edit, facilitate and create murals) and 20 guests (only for collaborating to murals you give them access to) to your mural spaces. With mural you can conduct virtual brain-storming sessions, use canvas layouts and frameworks designed by experts for different activities (business model, mind-mapping, empathy map, an many other). you can break out your classroom in groups so that students teams can collaborate in different workspaces. You can apply for a Mural educator account here. Here you can find a tutorial on how to use mural for education.
Miro is also a similar app that acts as a virtual whiteboard for team collaboration. Educators and student can apply for a free education account that has the same functionalities as the pro version. Even if you don’t apply for the education account, you can create your free account and have up to 3 whiteboards to play with. You can invite unlimited number of viewers and have small teams collaborating in your whiteboards. Otherwise with the educational plan you can invite and collaborate with as many students as you want and create unlimited whiteboards. To apply for an education account, you just need to apply here.
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