Online teaching became the norm for around eighteen months, and video conferencing became the best way to communicate with students. When schools closed during the first lockdown, teacher, pupils and parents had little time to get used to working virtually, many for the very first time. Transitioning to online learning can be difficult, so we’ve put together a guide to help find the best video conferencing platform for what you need.
Three main platforms
When it comes to online teaching using video conferencing, there are three main platforms for you to consider.
This has become one of the most popular video conferencing platforms. It’s pretty simple to use and it’s free. There’s a 40-minute time limit for meetings, but you can upgrade if you want longer. As we write this blog, the time limit is waived for schools.
Due to its rapid growth during lockdown, certain security issues came to light, but now it has a variety of customisable options which make it a secure platform. There are useful restrictions you can place on your students which other platforms don’t have.
Teams is not only a video conferencing platform but also a way to effectively manage your classroom. You can connect and collaborate with students through files, chats, and posts at any time. For real-time engagement, schedule a video conferencing class with your students.
To use Teams, you have to register for an Office 365 account. If your school is a Microsoft-based institution, this platform will be perfect for you because Microsoft’s other applications can be used without having to leave the Teams interface.
If you have a Google account, then you can use Google Meet. Previously, it was only available if you were using GSuite. If you are already a GSuite user then there are extra features you can take advantage of, such as having more participants when using Meet.
Meet is integrated into all Google’s other applications, like Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Classroom. Google Meet is definitely one of the easiest platforms available and is easy to set up. The only downside is that there are some restrictions in place during calls.
Adapting to video classes
During lockdown, students had to adapt quickly into e-learning. Projects, homework and all other schoolwork was assigned via various online platforms. Schools had to move quickly and holding classes via video conferencing was the most convenient way of doing this.
There’s no denying that with live classes, teachers and students can connect with each other much easier – and on a deeper level. Students can ask their own questions and get an instant response, as well as having the convenience of one-to-one interactions and individual help.
With online video conferencing there are a variety of benefits. Teachers are able to share their screens to provide more information and some classes have even been taken on virtual field trips! Perhaps the best facility of online platforms is that lessons can be recorded and shared. Classes can then review them at any time.
How to engage students when online teaching?
When students are in the classroom, it is much easier to engage with them. But with online classes, teachers have had to take new approaches to the situation. Online classes are much easier when they are hosted live through video because you can communicate in real-time with students.
There is a large selection of annotation tools, such as lasers and pens, which can be used to create more interactive classes. Interactive whiteboards, interactive touch displays and other digital inking devices such as the Microsoft Surface touch laptop all make teaching online much easier.
Engaging with students
All the major online communication platforms have built-in features to help classes become more engaged. Each platform lets you share your screen and open up a chat so that students can collaborate with you as their teacher and all their peers. Besides the standard features, each platform has extra features which are unique to them:
Zoom has what are called ‘Breakout Rooms’ where students can enter into groups to discuss a project. They are also able to react during lessons by sending quick emojis to show that they understand what’s happening. Another feature is ‘polling’. This allows you to ask students multiple choice or true-false questions to get instant responses.
With Teams teachers can open a digital whiteboard page to collaborate with students. When students want to interact, they can have an emoji appear on their screen.
This platform has a Live Captions facility so that students can read what the teacher is saying. With Google Meet, you can collaborate with other Google applications through GSuite, such as Google Classroom.
Google Classroom is a free blended learning platform developed by Google for educational institutions that aims to simplify creating, distributing, and grading assignments. The primary purpose of Google Classroom is to streamline the process of sharing files between teachers and students.
Teams, Zoom and Google Meet are the three main online learning platforms, and all of them are available for Android and iOS-based mobile devices. However, both Microsoft teams and Google Meet can also be accessed directly through other search engines such as chrome or safari without any requirement for additional plugins.
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