Troubled times lead to all sorts of novel methods. If you suddenly find yourself without classes and unable to teach in your usual way, one option is an online learning platform. They are nothing new, different ones have been around and used for years for remote and web-based learning in different circumstances. The questions we are asking ourselves is what can we do to offer some form of education to the people, young and old who are missing out on their school classes or other courses. It’s not the same online, but it is an alternative.
So when time is of the essence, let’s offer up some useful and valuable insights into what online learning platforms are available, and how easy they are to set up, what skills you need and of course what’s the cost involved? This is not a prescribed science stating what is best for you, each will offer features and systems that are more or less appropriate for your particular needs, ages, specialisms. So whether you are a teacher looking after for your students or an educational institution looking on a grander scale, let’s work together and provide something that will benefit all sides.
Extremely easy to set up and use virtual classroom.
WizIQ has been around since 2007 and is a cloud-based learning platform, so usefully has no installation requirements. It contains a series of integrated features such as virtual classrooms, course management, content authoring, video streaming, tests, and assessments. As well as mobile and tablet applications. The virtual classroom feature includes the usual video/audio systems and live chat plus an online whiteboard. It also gives options to include youtube videos, files, presentations and screen sharing. It doesn’t take a lot of technical expertise to get you up and teaching. There are no limits depending on the package bought e.g. storage capacity, the number of participants, so it’s vital that you check out their site for your own specific requirements.
- East set up
- Virtual Classroom
- No installation requirements
- Live chat
- video streaming
- Shared screen
- Virtual Classroom – pay per minute version or subscriptions start from $25 per month. Two subscription versions professional for individual teachers or Enterprise for institutions.
- Learning Management System -two versions, Elite or Infinite
- Annual billing only
- Free 14 day trial option
A Great long term solution. Supports class recordings and video editing.
Echo360 is a different type of online educational platform one “Classroom Capture” that allows the recording of classroom lessons, lectures, meetings, speeches, and other events. These recordings can be made available for students to review on their own or shared with others. You can record any combination of audio, video, and information on your computer screen and easily publish your recordings to Moodle or Blackboard for review. This can be used with a “Universal Capture” that is a stand-alone application that can be downloaded and installed on your personal computer and is intended to be used to create a recording by capturing the audio and screen display (including webcams) on your personal computer in your own office or home. As such it is perhaps more for older students or universities, rather than individual or school teaching. (see prices) It’s great for catching up on missed lessons but not particularly interactive despite the efforts.
- Video capture including lesson capture and screen recording compatible with web, MacOS, and Windows
- Video editing and clipping tools for trimming and bumpers
- Interactive video tools and quizzes
- Discussions, commenting and note-taking
- The average cost to install the systems in five classrooms is approximately $20,000, plus $2,800 per appliance.
- Need to be contacted by individuals for exact prices.
Supports dozens of different apps and integrations.
The biggest advantage of google classroom is most people’s familiarity with the google suite, therefore it is user friendly from the off and the other great thing is it is free. The idea with Classroom is that educators can create classes, distribute assignments, grade and send feedback, and see everything in one place. As it’s linked to google you can sign in to your account and work from any device in any place and there are easy integrations with google drive and google slides for presentations file/worksheet sharing and link in videos, images etc. There are also youtube videos to guide you through the process, although it’s designed to be as straightforward as possible. However, Google classroom does not support video streaming of lessons or live chat for that you’d need to sign up to G suite Education. Google hangout integration is another option. As a school, you’d have to sign up for G suite Education anyway.
- Easy to use
- Quick set up
- Great integration -google suite plus thousands of other approved apps.
- No installation, use anywhere with google account
Classroom is free for individual teaching
G Suite Education for Free. The standard plan is completely free. It includes email accounts for your school, the full product suite, unlimited document storage, and video conferencing.
G Suite Education – an enterprise plan with additional features and security. (contact google)
Zoom is one of the most preferred platforms for online education. With high-quality video and great education tools – you can’t go wrong with it.
Zoom have taken their popular video conferencing platform and adapted it to education. With a secure high-quality video communication service alongside enhanced collaboration such as an included digital whiteboard and other integrations, for sharing files and documents. This online learning platform can work for one on one tutorials or whole classroom discussions and is easy to set up.
- Excellent video quality
- Digital whiteboard integration and other collaborative tools
- Easy setup
- Private chats
- Shared files
- Basic is free (1 to 1)
- Versions Up to $19.99 per month per host
- Demo available
LearnCube offers great features, that are specially made for online teaching – it’s one of the best options out there.
LearnCube is a purpose-built online learning platform directly from your browser so no downloading involved. It has various option you can opt-in or out off such as an interactive whiteboard, virtual classroom including usual features such as video/audio streaming, live chat, file and media sharing, and private room facility. The group classes are limited to 10 though (depending on package bought) so this isn’t an option for bigger classes. It is very intuitive and easy to set up and get involved. It is also brandable for your business or school.
- Excellent video quality
- Digital whiteboard integration and other collaborative tools
- Very easy set up and interface
- Private chats 1:1
- Shared files and other media
- Group classes up to 10
- Specific language school options
- Vary for different options (check for details)
- Free version limited 1 teacher account, (virtual classroom example)
- Paid versions from $14 to $26.6 monthly (virtual classroom example)
It’s easy to use and doesn’t need technical knowledge.
Verdamo e-learning suite has two options. The virtual classroom or learning management system. The virtual classroom needs little technical know-how to get up and running, containing interactive whiteboard, live streaming, screen and file sharing plus a useful breakout room option and templates (helpful to get started) The learning management system has all the above feature plus is designed to run and manage full course including records, attendance, etc.
- Virtual classroom (one classroom at a time, limited to 25 learners in a session)
- Learning management System (management of courses)
- Little technical knowledge needed.
- 30 day free trial – 1 participant
- Virtual classroom – $25 per month -up to 25 learners in a session
- Learning Management System – $43 per month -more than 25 learners
Microsoft Teams is a free to use platform, and supports integration of Office 365.
Microsoft teams in part of its Office 360 package. It has a fantastic free package for your whole school, all you need to do is verify you are an accredited academic institution (see site for details on how to do that). It includes all the usual Microsoft Office features, (handy as most people are used to them already) and crucially even the free version has unlimited users and storage plus online teaching tools. It also gives you the opportunity to set you different teams, students, classrooms, staff, an entire school, etc. so you can control and communicate with your whole school not just give lessons.
- Familiar applications -Microsoft Office
- Unlimited users
- Unlimited cloud storage
- Prerecording or live lessons
- Online tools
- Paid versions $3.25-$8 per month per user ( addition analytics etc)
If you are looking for a free option, ezTalks is definitely one of the best alternatives.
A cloud-based video conferencing platform that can be used to give online lessons. Like most platforms, it offers HD video and audio, screen sharing, interactive whiteboard and has a free version. however, it isn’t a specialist educational site by any means.
- High-quality video audio
- Integrated tools
- Free – up to 100 participants, 40 min limit on groups)
- Paid version from $10 -$50 per month per host ( unlimited meetings, greater storage, greater participants)
Specialized in creating online courses.
LearnWorlds is more a course platform for designing courses than a purely delivering site. If you’re an individual or enterprise who’s looking to create and sell courses online, LearnWorlds is decent. If you are looking at options to teach classes remotely it’s not for you.
- Specialist course design platform
- Demo available
- Free trails available
- Subscriptions $24 -$249 per month
A lot of integrated tools, that will help you while teaching for sure.
A custom design educational software platform with a virtual classroom with video, messaging, PDF uploads, whiteboard tools and more. It comes with a basic learning management system, giving greater control. A choice for private tutors – you can accept payments or whole schools, as you cans set up different accounts.
- Specialist Educational Site
- Virtual classroom
- Online payments
- Online courses
- Demo version
- The virtual classroom pricing – $1 per a two hours class in the form of pay as you go.
- VIP IT support for $120 per month.
You will find any feature you need, but the free option is very limited.
An online e-learning platform with four fully integrated products; virtual classroom, online course, online testing, and Content management. The virtual classroom has all the usual tools and tricks, live streaming, etc. but there are limits depending on the package. The free starter pack is only for one to one live classes (limited to 60 minutes), for bigger classes you need to subscribe to paid versions increasingly expensive depending on size and class duration.
- Virtual classroom
- Content Management System
- Screen sharing and recording
- Chat features
- Free Starter package -very limited
- Paid packages from $39- $259 per month (increased number of teacher accounts, storage, students per live class, etc.)
Different plans depending on your needs, plus free 24/7 support.
Electa Live is a Virtual classroom with an integrated Learning Management System (in the more expensive options) – Electa Live allows you to create online courses and tutorials, arrange live online classes, online lectures, online meetings, group live classes, individual one–on–one tutoring sessions. It’s suitable for individual or small schools but can get expensive as a whole school solution.
- Integrated Virtual classroom and Learning Management
- Free 24/7 support
- Numerous plans available
- Free trial period of 2 weeks for any package
- Starts from $29.90 to $399.99 per month (depending on the number of rooms and teachers.)
13. Adobe Connect
No free option, but supports great integration of other Adobe software.
Adobe Connect is really a web conferencing solution, although it does have the usual virtual classroom and LMS and additional tools form Adobe. Rooms can be setup ahead of time and re-used over and over. Room templates make it fast and easy to setup new rooms. Whilst there is no free option it is possible to trial it.
- Adobe tools
- Virtual classroom
- Room templates
- Free Trial and demos
- Specific prices you need to contact
- Starts at $50 per month
ItsLearning offers great tools, which you won’t find on other platforms.
Another specifically educational online learning platform is itslearning. They have prepared an extremely useful Starter Kit to support schools and teachers to transition smoothly to remote learning for whatever reason. These solutions have been compiled from best practices from schools that have already implemented online learning. There are tools for individual and group messaging, group projects, tests, classroom competitions. This is specifically school or higher education software designed for lessons, pupils interaction and school management as well as grading, parental meetings, and school admin, etc.
- Specifically designed for education
- Full school control management system
- Resource heavy
- Time-saving tools
- Video tutorials
- Free demo
- Prices on contact (depending on institution type, number of learners, etc.)
The important thing to note here is that there are any number of suppliers doing very similar things and this is a brief rather than a comprehensive guide. There may be time constraints and you may be in a rush but it’s well worth researching the site in detail and not just taking the plunge. There are plenty of comparative and review sites to check through, and each learning platform has specific pros and cons for you to choose whether or not it’s the right one of you as an individual or as a school. Ask colleagues, ask other schools, look at the costs, do the background. You wouldn’t choose a teacher without closely interviewing and following up the CV. This choice could be just as important. It may be a short term solution but it could well be an opportunity for the future so give it some serious thought.
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