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Getting to grips with which tools to use for your online teaching can be confusing. There are so many tools, software, and apps available that you might wonder how you are supposed to choose the most appropriate tools for teaching. Here are the 25 best online tutoring tools we have come across.
What Tools Can You Use for Teaching Online?
Here, I have listed a few tools that you might want to use, divided into four main categories:
- Web conferencing platforms
- Networking and sharing tools
- Content creation tools
- and learning management systems (LMS).
For each of these areas, I have given a few examples of specific tools you can use. However, please note that this list includes just a handful of the many programs and systems that are available. Also, new tools are developed all the time and it is difficult to keep up.
Nevertheless, I hope you will find this guide useful just to start giving you an idea of what you might be able to use for your online teaching.
How to Choose Online Teaching Tools
In order to choose your online teaching tools, consider the following:
- Your intended learning aims and objectives – whatever you choose must serve your teaching aims and objectives, not the other way around.
- The students’ situation – such as how many students there are in a class; their location; their level of knowledge (including IT knowledge); the reasons why they want to learn and their demographics.
- The requirement of the course – for example, do you need to share large files; are discussions involved; are you teaching in real-time or not; do you need collaborative tools etc.
- Your online teaching experience – if you are new to online teaching, it is better to start with the most simple tools and then experiment and adjust as you build up your experience.
- The requirements of the organization regarding the use of online tools – if you are working for an organization, you need to consider if they have any specific requirements, for example in terms of privacy, of tools that their staff are more familiar with etc.
- Time and money available – tools for online teaching range from the free ones to the affordable, to the very expensive. Also, some tools may be quicker to learn and use than others.
Web Conferencing Platforms
Web conferencing platforms are pieces of software that allow you to make video and audio calls using an electronic device and the Internet.
They are useful for synchronous (in real-time) teaching such as live webinars, virtual classrooms and for one to one teaching.
Some platforms allow you to create breakout rooms to separate your learners into small groups, so they can conduct activities in their groups.
Many platforms also include an instant messaging tool.
Some Examples of Web Conferencing Platforms
Skype – One of the most commonly used platforms for video calls. It can be used on any type of electronic device and is free to use.
Zoom – It is free to use for up to 100 participants and it includes some collaboration features that are very useful if you are teaching a group of people online, such as breakout rooms and an online whiteboard.
G Suite by Google – It has some paid-for plans and it includes sharing features for people to work together and collaboration tools.
Adobe Connect – It is the most expensive out the options listed so far but it has a variety of tools that are included and that can be useful, depending on your needs and budget.
Networking and Sharing Tools
When you teach online, it is important to create a sense of connection and community with your learners, to motivate them and so that they do not feel isolated.
You might also need to share files with your learners for them to study in their own time or to carry out activities. Last but not least, you might need to communicate with learners in writing, either to the group as a whole or to individual learners, to give feedback, for example.
Networking and sharing tools are useful both for synchronous and asynchronous teaching.
Some Examples of Networking and Sharing Tools
Social media – They are good for communicating, sharing files and also to create a sense of community. For example, you could use Twitter to send quick updates to your learners or Facebook to create groups.
Email – Emails are always useful for sharing information and for personal communication.
Video sharing sites – Sites such as YouTube and Vimeo are useful if you want to post and share videos with your learners.
Forums and chat rooms – chat rooms allow people to communicate in real-time, while forums are more suited for asynchronous communication, when not all participants have to be online at the same time. Also, forums are divided into topics (called threads), which are moderated.
Files sharing services that use the cloud – These are tools that allow you to share files with other people, which are stored over the Internet (in the so-called cloud). File sharing services are particularly useful for sharing large files that are difficult to send by email. These services include, for example, Dropbox, Amazon Drive and Google Drive.
Diigo – It is a Chrome extension that you can use to collect, bookmark, annotate, organize and share internet resources.
MS Teams – Microsoft software to share and collaborate.
WeTransfer – Useful for transferring large files securely.
Padlet – It is an online tool to create boards and share them. It works as a kind of online board and sticky note system. Learners can collaborate online, see the boards populate in real-time and share the content of the boards. The boards can be populated with text, images, videos, audios and web links.
Lino – It works in the same way as Padlet, above.
Evernote – This is an app for taking notes and organizing, archiving and sharing materials.
Content Creation Tools
Content creation tools allow you to create your teaching materials, particularly if you would like your learners to have materials that they can study in their own time.
Also, depending on what you are teaching and the skills of your learners, you can ask them to produce content (either individually or in groups) as part of an activity and then share it with you and/or the other learners.
Some Examples of Content Creation Tools
Microsoft Office – This is a software package that many of us use to produce teaching materials that you can use whether you teach online or in person.
For example, you can create charts and graphs with Excel, written documents with Word and presentations with PowerPoint. You can then use any of these files for your online teaching and share them with your learners.
With PowerPoint it is also possible to make videos, just using PowerPoint. However, I prefer to use some type of screen recording software for making videos using my PowerPoint slides, as it gives me greater control.
Video making – Videos are very useful for asynchronous teaching. You can film yourself speaking in front of a camera, or capture what is on your screen and record it (this type of video is called screencast).
Audio recording – Sometimes you might want to just share an audio file with your learners. If so, there are several voice recording apps that you can download to you on your smartphone or tablet such as Rev Voice Recorder or Voice Record Pro.
Audacity is a free recording and audio editing software.
Visuals – Visuals are very helpful for teaching as sometimes an image can have more impact than many words. Visuals include photos, graphs, mind-maps, and infographics.
An online tool that is very user friendly and good for creating all types of graphics, including infographics is Canva, of which there are free and paid-for plans.
You can also create visuals with MS Office programs. For example, PowerPoint can be used to create infographics, charts and a variety of visuals with its shapes and SmartArt functions.
Blogs – these may not be the most obvious tools for creating content. However, they can be used in various ways.
You could create a basic blog with information for your learners to read; you could ask your learners to create a basic blog as part of an activity or you could ask your learners to go online and research blogs about a certain topic.
FREE Online Course à How to Start Your Own Blog
Wikis – Online wikis are platforms that allow people to build content together. They are good for group activities. Slimiwiki, for example, is a free wiki builder.
Online whiteboards – These are tools that allow people to collaborate visually online, as if they were writing on a real whiteboard. Ziteboard and Aww are two examples of virtual whiteboard online tools.
Quizzes, flashcards, mind maps and polls – There are online tools for creating and sharing this type of content.
Learning Management System (LMS) and Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)
You can use the tools mentioned so far separately, and then keep track of your learners (for example, their names and contact details, communications you had with them, course completion rate etc.) manually, maybe using a spreadsheet.
If you do not have many learners, this method will be fine, as you do not need to overcomplicate things. However, if you are teaching or planning to teach a higher number of people, you might want to consider using a learning management system or LMS.
An LMS allows you to create teaching content and manages its delivery to your learners for you. It also keeps track of all your learners who registered on the system; it allows you to communicate with them; to create reports and to manage payments.
You might have also heard the expression virtual learning environment or VLE. A VLE includes an LMS (as in, it does everything that an LMS does) plus a lot of additional features that allow a much bigger degree of interactivity. A VLE can support a variety of activities for learners; it allows learners to submit assignments and teachers to mark them and it has a lot more advanced features.
Unless you work in a university, you do not need to worry about VLE. Universities use VLE as they require a high level of complexity and interactivity, given the number of courses and students that they have. Two of the most commonly used VLE in universities are Moodle and Blackboard.
The expressions LMS and VLE are sometimes used interchangeably though. In truth, some LMS also include interactive features, such as quizzes and more.
There are many LMS available on the market, with different levels of complexity and a wide variety of price ranges. Whatever the size of your company and depending on what you want to achieve, there is something suitable for everybody.
LMS for Freelance Trainers
Teachable – This LMS is suitable for teaching asynchronously. It allows you to create and sell online courses and to add files such as videos, text, PDF etc. There are different price ranges, starting from a free plan, and each contains a variety of features.
Thinkific – Very similar to Teachable and it includes features such as quizzes, surveys and discussion boards.
Electa – This LMS is suited for teaching live classes and it is used both by schools and by individual teachers. Electa offers three pricing plans, which are quite affordable for a freelance trainer.
LMS for Companies
If you run a bigger company, you need more complex features and you can afford to pay more, I have listed some solutions below just to give you some examples (although there are many more to choose from if you search online):
Paul Symonds PhD
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