Distance learning is becoming more popular by the day. It is convenient, accessible, and many of the tools are free. It may not yet have attained the desirability of conventional educational institutions, but many English language teachers are taking advantage of available technology to improve the learning experience by integrating some type of distance learning. It is also rapidly gaining favor with many adult learners for acquiring new skills, getting an additional certification, or simply for personal development.
However, distance learning does have its challenges, chief among which is the lack of face-to-face interaction. This can affect the level of student engagement, motivation, and feedback. Here are 10 kickass tools to help maximize the benefits of distance learning.
10 tools to maximize distance learning
One of the problems of distance learning is the sense of isolation. Students, especially the younger ones, feel little motivation to work hard, or even show up. ePals is an online community where students in a particular course, as well as students in other courses, can get together and compare notes. It is also a good way to socialize on a platform with which many people are familiar. Teachers can also collaborate with other teachers to create joint projects or to join existing ones. It is free to join, so start connecting!
You can easily connect students and teachers using this online meeting solution, which allows you to do presentations, give and take quizzes, and collaborate on school projects. Teachers can also use this to track student progress and to get feedback in real-time. There is a free trial, but you do have to pay to use it in the long term. Pricing starts at $500 a year for Adobe Connect Meetings.
Students who don’t speak English have a hard time understanding the concepts you’re trying to explain. That’s why you should rely on visual aids. If you want something a bit more comprehensive, you can try Canvas, a learning management system that is simple to use and integrates tools most people are already using, such as YouTube and GoogleDocs. You can create courses, monitor activities, do assessments, add events, import contacts, and upload files and images. You can try the free version, and then you need to ask for a quote based on your needs if you want to continue using it.
Distance learning does not change the fact that some concepts are just too hard for most people to understand. The English language is not being taught through simple text; you definitely need visual aids, especially when you’re not directly addressing the class and you can’t use body language. Prezi is a great presentation building software, which you can use to create something more than a plain presentation. You can use it for ‘visual storytelling’. It’s like a virtual whiteboard that transforms the lectures into concepts that students can understand and remember.
Distance learning is just as hard as classroom learning, so your students may need a bit of help for some of the coursework. You can recommend this service when they need editing or proofreading of their work, or they need help to format their writing projects. When they work with professional editors, they will understand their mistakes and they will improve their writing skills.
You can be sure that the website is providing professional-quality work, which your students can use as a guide for future assignments. Prices start at £4.45 a page for formatting.
An easy and free way to connect with students and instructors for distance learning is to use this flexible social network. Anyone can sign up for an account to join a community of people that share your interests and concern. You can get all the help and support you need from student, teachers, and experts through chat, posts, and videoconferencing. You can even use the online video chat feature to deliver a talk, interview, or lecture.
A great way to connect to your peers and community is to use Skype. You only need to sign up for a free account and you can start using it immediately. Create a group for your class or community and invite members to join. You can group chat, share screens, videoconference, and share files. You can even record your sessions if you install a Skype-compatible recorder such as Supertintin Skype Video Recorder for a one-time charge of $29.95 per download (the free version limits recording to 5 minutes,). The service is free otherwise.
It may seem a no-brainer, but just in case you have overlooked the potential. YouTube is an excellent resource for uploading and broadcasting course content for students to view in their own time. You can sign up for a free account and create a channel for your course. You can also recommend students to use YouTube to upload assignments, such as presentations and videos, and send the link to you. It is a heck of a fine way to document their work!
This is a social media platform, but with a difference. Its main function is to connect and collaborate in an educational setting, which is why it has forged partnerships with top universities to expand its online resources for the benefit of the students.
You can create a free account whether you are a teacher, student, or parent, and use the site for course content, assignments, homework, assessments, events, and research. You can also reach out to its 48 million users for help or support in whatever you do. Parents are able to stay updated on what their children are up to, so there are no surprises.
Gamifying is a method of instruction that many teachers use to good purpose. It makes learning fun and engages students better than boring lectures, and there is no diminution of learning.
This site is a great tool for creating a variety of learning games (“kahoots”) in multiple choice format that participants can answer using a mobile phone, desktop computer, laptop, or tablet. The games are displayed on a shared screen for all participants to make it seem more like a real classroom. Students are also encouraged make their own kahoots for others to play.
Many other tools are out there to help the distance learner and teacher, and even students/teachers in blended classrooms. Learning is about the ends, not the means. Fortunately for you, the means are myriad. What do you think? Can you suggest a kickass tool to add to this list? Please feel free to comment below!