Best Online Tools For Distance Learning
Distance learning may be the only opportunity for your educational needs. It is true that online distance learning courses are on the rise. Distance learning is actually on demand education. If you are interested in taking up distance learning, there are quite a few channels available to help you out.
What is distance learning and why is it important?
Distance learning encompasses any student learning that doesn’t take place in an in-person classroom. Whether it’s video lessons, online lectures or asynchronous learning activities, distance learning helps students and teachers stay connected through digital tools and virtual learning platforms.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, online learning has helped limit the spread of COVID-19. It also allowed students easy access to their courses from the comfort of their homes while saving time travelling to school.
What are virtual learning tools?
Virtual learning tools for teachers include a combination of helpful programs and online learning platforms. For example, learning platforms like Zoom or Google Classroom and apps such as Duolingo make learning anywhere an efficient and enjoyable experience.
Both “virtual learning tools” and “distance learning tools” are interchangeable terms.
Types of distance learning tools
Not all remote teaching tools are the same, and that’s a good thing! Each one has its own unique quality to enhance learning. Some tools handle communication better than others, while games are great for increasing students’ understanding of specific subjects. Each tool helps make learning easy and fun.
There are four main types of online learning platforms:
- Communication tools — There are several tools at teachers’ disposal, including email, discussion boards, chats, classroom websites and video conferencing. Many learning platforms include most of these features, such as Zoom and Google Classroom.
- Learning management systems (LMS) — LMS are software application programs designed to produce functional and interesting online classes. Create, manage and deliver course content while tracking students’ performance. LMS are a cost-effective and consistent way to teach students regardless of class size.
- Digital learning games — Kids love playing games, so why not give them educational ones to support their love for learning? National Geographic Kids offers fun science, geography, and adventure quizzes and games to entertain and inform kids. If you want your students to read books online and play educational games, Funbrain has countless goodies for them to enjoy. Are your students struggling with math? Help them boost their math knowledge with Prodigy Math Game and unlock hours of math learning enjoyment!
- Online learning resources — When the pandemic forced students to stay home, teachers began using various online resources to keep kids engaged and focused. Some of these tools include online lessons and activities, such as Sesame Street and PBS Kids.
No matter which tool you choose, your students receive tremendous benefits from each learning environment.
Top 20 distance learning tools to accelerate virtual learning
There are so many wonderful interactive tools available online, and many seamlessly integrate with other applications. But which tools should you choose for your classroom?
Our list should help teachers make the right decisions on which applications suit their various online subjects the best.
1. Google Classroom
Created for teaching and learning, Google Classroom is an all-in-one tool that makes learning flexible and accessible from anywhere in the world. Teachers save time when creating lesson plans, tracking student performance and using several creative tools to make course material more exciting.
Currently, there is a free version of Google Classroom. However, a paid version is on its way with add-ons and easy integration with other educational tools.
2. Prodigy Math Game
Prodigy Math Game is an adaptive learning platform for grades 1 to 8. Aligned to curriculum across the United States and around the world, you can be confident that students will stay engaged and learning no matter where they are.
Use your free teacher dashboard to easily differentiate math practice, send home assessment and get real-time insights into how students are learning — no grading required.Sign up now
3. Pear Deck
Pear Deck is a Google Slides add-on that helps teachers create engaging slides and support student interaction. Teachers can create presentations from scratch or add interactive questions to existing presentations.
Pear Deck has amazing features including a dashboard that’s available on a phone or tablet, the ability to show or hide student responses, features that let you send personalized notes to individual students and fun audio files to add to presentations.
Flipgrid is a fun way to get a conversation started. Simply post a topic and foster discussions within your learning community. It’s a great way to get students interested in new ideas, excited to learn and engaging with their peers!
Edmodo’s series of tools enables teachers to share course content, inspire collaboration and build an energetic and positive classroom. Parents can also receive updates about their kids’ progress.
Edmodo has free accounts for teachers for quick and easy sign ups.
Canva’s online graphic and publishing tool allows teachers to create stunning, professional-quality presentations, posters, infographics, social media banners, videos, Zoom virtual backgrounds, and more. Sign up for the free version or purchase one of their plans geared toward teachers and students.
Canva easily integrates with your preferred learning management system, including Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams.
Zoom gained popularity during the pandemic for its versatility as a presentation tool and webinar platform while students learned online. Its security, live video class functionality and chat feature for social interaction make Zoom a useful distance learning tool.
Blackboard is an advanced LMS tool perfectly suited for kindergarten to high school. This platform works on any device and it’s easily accessible to all students. Blackboard Learn also gives teachers access to several third-party tools.
ClassDojo’s communication tool brings families, students and teachers together to create a supportive online community. Teachers can develop a fun learning experience with downloadable resource kits and ideas. They can also find resources that help integrate ClassDojo with their preferred learning management system.
10. Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams brings the best of several worlds together under one roof. You can share your screen or notes, conduct presentations, promote chatting and bring everyone together through video conferencing.
Nearpod is a fantastic add-on for Google Slides and PowerPoint presentations. Teachers may use their own presentations or select from lessons and videos in their impressive template library. Build polls, games and collaborative boards to keep your students interested to learn. Nearpod promotes healthy social interaction between students.
Nearpod includes free accounts for teachers!
Buncee makes it easy to create interactive course content that students love. Create presentations, lessons and many customizable virtual school activities from Buncee’s Ideas Lab template library. Teachers can easily share links, downloadable files and group projects with students.
The Buncee dashboard can be accessed from Microsoft Teams, which makes it easy to open discussions, share resources and communicate with kids and their parents.
Hapara is an organizational tool that allows educators to make learning workflows in Google Workspace. You can also use other edtech tools such as Pear Deck, Kahoot and EDpuzzle with Hapara to enhance the quality of course content.
It’s no wonder that teachers embrace Hapara for its accessibility to curriculum-aligned lessons, privacy and security features.
14. Explain Everything Whiteboard
The Explain Everything Whiteboard app is one of the top digital whiteboards. It’s a fabulous offline and online tool perfect for traditional and hybrid class environments. It also encourages collaboration between teachers and students.
Bloomz is a one-stop platform that eliminates the need for multiple apps and concerns surrounding security.
Bloomz allows teachers to connect, organize, and stay in touch with students and parents. Parents and teachers won’t have to open and close several apps, making it simple and stress-free for you to communicate and share information.
Teachers have the option of selecting the free or premium upgraded classroom plan. The premium subscription comes with more features and benefits for $7.99 per month.
16. Khan Academy
As a non-profit organization, Khan Academy boasts a list of subjects for teachers and students to choose from including math, science, reading, language and life skills. All courses are suitable for students in grades 1 to 8 and beyond.
Khan Academy is free for students and teachers. Donations are welcome and encouraged to keep the platform accessible to everyone.
Seesaw provides a great alternative for creating learning loops that connect teachers, students, and parents. It provides a meaningful way for teachers to observe student performance and encourages the use of creative tools such as draw + record, video, creative canvas and more.
Teachers and students can sign up for free!
Kahoot!’s online game quizzes gained popularity with students and teachers during the pandemic. Kids can access countless games from Kahoot!’s library or they can even make their own game.
Teachers can also distribute Kahoot! challenges to students for learning outside of the classroom. Kahoot! challenges integrate with Google Classroom and make it easy to track missed questions and scores to help determine where students may need more help.
Slack puts organization and communication together into one platform. It’s easy for teachers to file course content related to individual topics, connect with students one-on-one or in groups, and send out relevant class material. Slack helps students get involved and remain engaged during online learning.
A mom who understands what it means to limit the time kids spend on social media created Habyts. This platform puts teachers in control of screen time, ensuring kids stay motivated and focused.
Habyts helps teachers and parents curb excessive screen time while promoting fun activities and learning for kids.
How to monitor student performance effectively in distance learning
When students are learning online, it can be tricky to find meaningful ways to oversee student progress. The good news is that most online software tools allow teachers to track and measure student responses.
Here are three constructive ways to assess and supervise student performance:
- Keep the lines of communication open. Unlike traditional school settings where students can talk with teachers in person, online contact is necessary to keep kids motivated to hand in assignments on time and stay on track. As well, holding daily office hours with email, phone and chat capabilities can help prevent kids from falling behind in their studies.
- Curriculum-based testing. Teachers may find curriculum-based testing is a good way to ensure students can apply what they’ve learned. Frequent evaluations help teachers determine where students struggle with lessons and make plans for addressing unfinished learning. Formative assessments such as quizzes, short evaluations, and conversations with students can help them correct mistakes.
- Set up learning targets. Learning targets help students to reach specific goals in each lesson. For instance, if a student struggles with subject-verb agreement, teachers may consider breaking down lessons into smaller targets to make it easier for the student to to apply proper grammar to their writing.
Realistic expectations for virtual learning
Virtual learning isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution — challenges exist because of technological limitations and access for some students. School districts should anticipate and devise plans to circumvent these problems during school closures and continue building equity in (and out) of the classroom.
Although online teaching benefits student learning experiences, most kids prefer the traditional school environment for its social connection with other students and direct communication with teachers.
A wealth of learning tools makes it easier for teachers to address many challenges associated with virtual learning. Each tool contains benefits and solutions for challenges faced by students and teachers, so you can make sure that learning is effective no matter where you are!
Video Conferencing and Communication Tools
- Zoom is a video conferencing software typically used by those in the corporate world. The program allows users to schedule conference times then send out invites to others who then log on at the designated time. This gives the teacher the opportunity to schedule class times or office hours. They can be ready when students log on. From the student perspective, they can choose to share video and/or audio as well as being able to type and share. I have also seen some very creative teachers that have incorporated multiple devices into their Zoom sessions. These involve setting up on their laptops/computers so kids see their faces. Then logging on again with their phone which is positioned to view their work (typically a lapboard or piece of paper). This duality allows the students to see their instructor, something I think we all take for granted. Kids like to see those who care about them. For most of us, we didn’t get to tell our kids goodbye, they left us one day and we’re told not to return the next. For some of these students, we are the only bright spots in their tumultuous lives, and they are being told they can’t see us. Having a zoom session even if it’s just to check in with them, will go a long way.
- Remind — A communication app that allows teachers to securely message students and their parents with important updates without giving out personal information .
- Pear Deck — Google Slides add-on that allows teachers to make their GoogleSlide presentations interactive. Fantastic for presenting remotely because it gives real-time feedback while you advance through the presentation.
- Class Dojo — Communication and classroom management app geared toward younger students. It allows students to earn points but also creates a feed similar to Facebook that allows teachers to update their students’ guardians.
- Class Craft — Communication and classroom management app similar to ClassDojo geared toward upper-middle and high school students. Graphics compare to World of Warcraft making it a hit with the older age group.
- SeeSaw — Recording website that makes it easy to share videos with students. It allows students to create digital portfolios of their own learning.
- JamBoard — Digital whiteboard app that is shareable through the Google Platform.
- Glide — Create your own app that you can share with your students. Easily done through a spreadsheet. This would be great for uploading assignments.
- Skype — One of the most popular and well-known VOIP (Voice Over IP) solutions. Skype has a video conferencing feature that allows you to contact anyone with the app and a WiFi signal.
- Google Hangouts — Another Google product that allows you to video conference with your students by giving out a specific code.
- Playmeo — Interactive group games database. Groups are assigned by the teacher. This would be great to build class culture even though we are social distancing.
- Post It — An app allows you to post digital sticky notes. This would be a great discussion board type activity.
- Flipgrid — Create short videos that will engage students with their learning. Students can then create videos to reply. You’re able to add stickers so the videos are more fun.
- Insert Learning — An app that allows teachers to insert annotations in any online text. This would be awesome for text-based questions. Math teachers could also use this to insert equation steps.
Progress Monitoring and Data Management
For younger grades, I found EasyCBM to be especially helpful. It gives you data on fluency and lower level math skills. Students can log on from home and take the assessments needed. The teacher then receives the score and it is graphed for easy comparison. For middle school, try Avenue PM. It takes a few days for accounts to be approved on this website but the program is worth the short wait. For highschool, TeacherEase seems to be the best for upper levels. It is a straight forward LMS system that is free to use. ReadTheory also has features to track students’ progress and generate reports about the entire class. It also automatically grades every quiz and provides teachers with information about current Lexile levels. Read this article to learn how to ideally use ReadTheory for remote teaching.
Other recommended tools for (or with) progress monitoring and grading:
- Edulastic — Provides assessment feedback and data tracking. They also offer technology-enhanced assessment tools that provide student data for analysis.
- MasteryConnect — Benchmarking and progress monitoring site that integrates with Socrative
- Parlay Ideas — Inspire meaningful discussions and access usable data .
- nearpod — Formative assessment coupled with digital media.
- Mangahigh is a mathematics specific tool that is offering free access for schools affected by the Coronavirus outbreak. As an English teacher, I have never used this program, however, from what I have researched, it is targeted for all age groups (K-12). Teachers can dictate which activities their students need the most. Then Mangahigh tracks and incorporates into a variety of data charts and tables. They support standards from around the globe making the program usable in various countries.
- ReadTheory — a free, online, adaptive reading comprehension program.
- Green Brothers — Green brothers, John and Hank, make short videos on a variety of topics for each subject area. Quick videos that are engaging and informative.
- The Smithsonian Museums — The US Smithsonian Museums offer various interactive features from their exhibits. This would be great as a virtual field trip opportunity.
- PBS Learning — Public Television offers various digital activities for the arts. Music and visual arts lessons that are accessible.
- Jumpstart — Geared for preschool-aged children, this offers activities to help build foundational skills. This would also be great for special education.
- Energize Schools — Curricula developed to center around the sciences. It offers interactive experiments to help engage.
- Great Minds — Free resources for all subject areas available for download for non-commercial use.
- Experiments With Google — Digital experiments using art, music, ect. Highly engaging activities that cross curricularize.
- TED under 20 or ED-TED — Videos on various topics. These are very thought-provoking and would be great as a choose your own activity, let students decide which topic they are interested in and then respond.
- OER Commons — Open Educational Resources compiled in a central location. Free to use in most cases. Check the Creative Content license to verify usage stipulations.
- Khan Academy — Curricula for all age groups (currently offering schedules for each level for homeschooling). Amazing review activities that are engaging.
- BrainPop — Videos and activities uniquely targeted for various age groups and subjects. Highly informative and engaging especially for younger students.
- Learn American English Online – A tool for ESL with a huge content library serving beginners to advanced English learners.
- Numerade — Offers videos from professors and TAs on a variety of STEM subjects. Content on Numerade is broken down by both subject matter and by textbook, providing students with support for studying and for specific homework questions. It is updated regularly to add to their 300,000 current videos.
- Brainly – Peer-to-peer platform designed to help students and teachers solve questions together.
Homework Management and Online LMS
- The best homework management tool is Google Classroom. This free platform for Google districts allows teachers to create virtual classrooms and share curriculum while also assigning work. Google Classroom is great because it not only timestamps when it is submitted but you can also view when the assignment was edited by the student.
- Edmodo — Online program similar to Google Classroom, allows teachers to post and grade assignments. A bit more basic in design but still effective.
- Moodle — Online program similar to Google Classroom, allows teachers to post and grade assignments via modules. This is used by a lot of higher education institutions so it’s geared to older students.
- StartMe — Collective organization for students and teachers to keep websites saved for quick and easy access.
- Webjets — Curate collections that fit and focus on your content. Allows students to produce their own documents and share with the teacher.
- Equity Maps — Visual representation of who does the most talking. This is especially important when video chatting with students because you can’t “see” who dominates as easily.
- McGraw Hill — Online textbooks and remote learning resources for all grade levels and subjects.
- Discovery Education — Videos and supplemental materials on a variety of subjects. These activities are great and can be assigned to classes.
- Clever — Single sign-on access to a variety of sites (including ReadTheory), eliminates the need for multiple passwords.
- Wakelet — Can be used as a custom curricular curator that allows teachers and students to save videos, articles, and other web files to a central location in a collection.
Teacher Aides: helps assist teachers in the transition to remote learning
- Hapara — Helps teachers using Google Classroom by offering training webinars from other educators.
- Genially — Offers infographics and interactive photos online for lessons. For a limited time they are offering various free templates.
- CK12 — This is an open source interface that allows for easy distribution of online materials including textbooks, flashcards, videos, and activities.
- Charts Bin — Create your own digital maps and share them with students.
- Tableau — Make your data charts come to life by using Tableau’s tools.
Digital Field Trips: Travel the world without ever leaving home
- We Are Teachers- Slime in Space — Making at home slime is a great science experiment for students. Take it a step further by seeing how that slime would behave in space.
- Atlanta Zoo — See the adorable pandas at the Atlanta Zoo when their live feeds are on.
- San Diego Zoo — The San Diego Zoo has a variety of videos for their exhibits. See how their keepers care for the varying species.
- Georgia Aquarium — The Georgia Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the US. They offer rotating exhibits and offer a webcam for those who cannot attend the aquarium in person.
- Monterey Bay Aquarium — See the jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. This is a live camera so you can view their adventures in real time.
- US National Aquarium — The National Aquarium offers self-guided, interactive, virtual tours of their exhibits, including one on American Samoa and it’s unique wildlife.
- Seattle Aquarium — Seattle Aquarium offers virtual tours of their marine exhibits. They also offer various live webcams so students can view harbor seals and sea otters in real time.
- Farm 360 — Ever wonder how your food is grown? Take a tour of a variety of farms and see how food is grown, processed, and packaged for your consumption.
- Nature Lab — Over 500 scientists have created a virtual lab to help students discover how nature works.
- US Census — Research population distribution through the US Census website. Great way to tie in the importance of completing the Census for American teachers.
- World Cities — International cities ready for students to immerse themselves while at home. They also offer VR tours making the experience even more realistic.
- Alice Keeler — Alice Keeler is the Queen of Google, anything you need to know about the platform you can find on her site. She has documents and videos with instructions as well as unique assignments.
- CommonSense — Central location to search for EdTec apps and tools. If you need something specific that’s not listed here check out this site.
There are many kinds of distance learning programs in the world today. Whether you are considering this format of study, are enrolled in an online program or just want to discover options that will fit your needs, there is no better place than the World Wide Web to find it. It is important to remember that distance learning is not just online education; it can also be taking many forms of traditional teaching and making them available to students who may not be able to attend classes in person on a regular basis. Some students might need to take certain programs during odd hours while still holding down a job or working on family matters. These students can use distance learning classes at their convenience�?rather than having to adhere to the hours established by the school. There are numerous.