Top Five Tools for Remote Teaching and Learning

At the time of the new coronavirus disease outbreak, when schools and universities are temporarily closed to prevent further contagion, thousands of students have to abruptly switch to learning remotely to ensure educational continuity. 

To facilitate the learning process outside of school, it is possible to use different online platforms and tools. However, there are plenty of suitable solutions for remote learning, and teachers and students can easily get confused when trying to find a tool or platform for their educational needs.

This article is an overview of top five tools that can be used to take advantage of remote learning making it more efficient and seamless.

Moodle, a time-proved classic learning platform for creating educational courses

Moodle is a classic example of content management system for remote learning. It is a free open-source online platform that enables educators to create their own private website with dynamic learning courses. Moodle can meet various educational needs because it is highly customizable and comes with a lot of standard features. In other words, Moodle has almost everything you expect to see in an online learning platform.

Advantages:

  • The Moodle interface looks quite modern and user-friendly and is easy to navigate on both desktop and mobile devices.
  • Moodle provides users with a personalized dashboard designed for displaying details of their progress and upcoming deadlines, so it’s really easy to track activities and filter courses.
  • Moodle has a wide array of tools and activities so that users can work and learn together in forums, wikis, glossaries, database activities, chats, etc.
  • Moodle’s all-in-one calendar helps users keep track of their academic calendar, course deadlines, group meetings, and other personal events.
  • Moodle provides an easy way for teachers to present materials to their students. Using a convenient file management system educators can drag and drop files from cloud storage services including OneDrive, Dropbox and Google Drive.
  • Moodle’s easy-to-use text editor enables users to format text and add media or images and works well across all web browsers and devices.
  • Teachers and students may send and receive private messages and also receive automatic alerts on new assignments and deadlines, forum posts. etc.
  • Educators and learners can track progress with a set of options for tracking individual activities or resources.
  • The Moodle functionality can be considerably extended with plugins. For example, using the BigBlueButton you can add a web conferencing system for online learning, or you can download and install the plugin for creating dynamic PDF certificates with complete customisation via the web browser. 

Disadvantages: 

  • Moodle is not the most suitable solution for educators who don’t have a lot of experience in server administration. Basically, you need a web server with PHP and a database to install and deploy Moodle.
  • The free version of MoodleCloud, a cloud-based solution by Moodle, has reduced functionality (for example, no automated backups and extra plugins are available) and the number of users is limited to 50.

Nextcloud talk, a secure self-hosted audio and video communication platform for online classes

Nextcloud Talk is a fully self-hosted open-source audio/video and chat communication service. It features web and mobile apps and is designed to offer the highest degree of security while being easy to use. At first sight, Nextcloud Talk is not a traditional learning platform and is more likely to be helpful for small and medium enterprises. However, it can be suitable for remote learning enabling teachers to give online classes.

Advantages:

  • Nextcloud Talk is a free communication service that allows its users to stay connected anytime, anywhere and on any device via audio/video calls.
  • Users can make private, group and public calls, invite external chat participants with an URL into public rooms on the Nextcloud server.
  • While communicating via video/audio calls, users can easily exchange messages, links and notes.
  • Nextcloud Talk allows holding webinars and presentations with a great number of participants. During a webinar or a presentation, you can share the content of a single window or a full desktop screen. Managing participants by inviting, muting or removing them is also possible.
  • The platform can be closely integrated with Nexcloud which allows sharing documents and files directly into a chat and making them available to all participants, both users and guests.
  • Nextcloud Talk is a security-oriented service. All calls are end-to-end encrypted, so no communication can be intercepted. The privacy of communication and its metadata are reliably guaranteed.

Disadvantages:

  • The main difficulty with using Nexcloud Talk is that it requires a server for installation. Not all users have experience in server administration, so installation and configuration of this solution can be a challenge.

Continued on the next page ---> Educreations, an interactive learning platform for creating video courses 


Educreations is a unique interactive whiteboard and screencasting tool that's simple, powerful, and fun to use. It enables students to learn on their own terms, anytime, from anywhere. Today, more than 400,000 teachers use Educreations to reach millions of students inside and outside the classroom. The app is designed for teaching and learning on the go.

Advantages:

  • The Educreations interface is really simple and intuitive. You don’t need to spend a lot of time getting familiar with all the available features and options.
  • Teachers can record their voice and iPad screen to create dynamic video tutorials that their students and colleagues can access any time.
  • Educreations allows importing documents and pictures from Photo Library, Dropbox and Google Drive. Users can also display a custom map, insert a web page and snap a photo or search the web for the perfect image right within the app.
  • In addition to sharing videos with other Educreations users, it is possible to send videos over email, post them to YouTube, Edmodo and Twitter or save them to Dropbox or Google Drive.
  • Users’ videos are automatically saved to their Educreations accounts and are instantly ready to be viewed online and shared with others.
  • Teacher have the possibility to share their video lessons with students in a safe and private classroom environment. Moreover, they can have their students show what they know by creating their own videos.

Disadvantages:

  • The Educreations app is only available on the App Store for iPhone and iPad.
  • The free version lacks some key features. For example, using the free version, you can’t export documents and presentations and get only 50 MB of storage space.

ONLYOFFICE, a multifunctional online office for collaborative work

ONLYOFFICE is an open-source office suite integrated with a multifunctional platform for collaborative work. It comprises powerful online editors for editing text documents, spreadsheets and presentations and several collaboration tools that make it possible to share documents with different permission levels, use different co-editing modes, keep track of all the changes made to documents and communicate in real time using the built-in chat. This solution comes as a SaaS (software as a service) or can be deployed locally on a private server.

Advantages:

  • The ONLYOFFICE online editors are highly compatible with Microsoft Office formats and support other popular formats including the Open Document Format for Office Applications (ODF). The editors allow creating, viewing and editing text documents, spreadsheets and presentations of any size and complexity.
  • The online editors make it possible to collaborate on documents in real time. It means that several users can edit the same document simultaneously making changes, leaving comments and communicating via the integrated chat.
  • ONLYOFFICE offers two co-editing modes. Fast co-editing is designed to show all the changes while typing, and strict co-editing allows showing the changes after saving only.
  • The editors have various styling and formatting tools, allow inserting different objects and are equipped with plugins that provide additional features (for example, EasyBib, thesaurus, translation of any word or sentence, etc.)
  • The document management module is designed for creating, editing, sharing and storing text documents, spreadsheets and presentations in one place using the integrated ONLYOFFICE online editors. Moreover, users can store and play video/audio files and music, and also view images of all popular formats: BMP, JPG, JPEG, PNG, GIF, TIF, TIFF, AVI, MPG, MPEG, MP3, PDF, etc.
  • Apart from the online editors that are also available for iOS and Android, ONLYOFFICE has a desktop version for Windows, Mac and Linux that are easy connectable to the cloud. 
  • The ONLYOFFICE online editors can be easily integrated into collaboration platforms like Moodle, Nextcloud, Confluence, etc. to enable document editing and collaboration.
  • The ONLYOFFICE online editors can be deployed together with a collaboration platform that consists of several modules (document management, mail, CRM, projects, calendar, community) that can be used for various purposes.

Disadvantages:

  • The existing functionality is not enough to give online lessons due to the non-availability of a video conferencing tool.
  • The free versions of ONLYOFFICE doesn’t have some key features. For example, the document comparison option is not available for free use.

Zoom, a simple but powerful video conferencing and messaging service

Zoom is a video conferencing service with real-time messaging and content sharing. It is designed for simplifying video conferencing and messaging across any device. Despite the fact that there are plenty of similar solutions suited to every fancy, Zoom has a lot of useful options that make it special and worth trying. In other words, Zoom has plenty of helpful features you expect to see in a video conferencing platform.

Advantages:

  • Zoom provides HD video and audio with support for up to 1000 video participants and 49 videos on screen.
  • The built-in collaboration tools enable participants to share their screens simultaneously and co-annotate for a more interactive meeting.
  • Video conferences can be recorded locally or to the cloud, with searchable transcripts.
  • Zoom supports end-to-end encryption, role-based user security and password protection.
  • Zoom provides messaging streamlines workspace collaboration across the desktop and mobile clients making it possible to create private or public groups, share files and search content.
  • Expanded integration possibilities: Zoom can be easily connected with some of the most popular applications (for example, Slack, Okta, HipChat, etc.).
  • Zoom has clients for all popular platforms  including Windows, Linux, Mac and mobile apps for iOS and Android.
  • The Zoom Extension for browsers allows starting or scheduling Zoom meetings with a single click from a browser or within Google calendar.

Disadvantages:  

  • 40 minute limit on group meetings in the free version.

All the above mentioned tools and platforms have different functionality, are designed for different purposes but they have one thing in common. Teachers and students can use them to make remote leaning and teaching as productive as possible.

About the Author
Author: Sergey Zarubin
I'm Sergey. I'm 29 years old. I come from Russia. I used to teach foreign languages at a university but now I'm a freelancer. I find students on the Internet and give online lessons using different online tools and platforms.

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