Tools to Enhance Online Learning
The IUA’s EDTL Student Intern, Ruairi O’Gallchoir (@tamingchance), explores the wide variety of online tools that can make online lectures more interactive, engaging and fun for both students and lecturers.
One of the great advantages of teaching online is that you can now take advantage of the great online tools that can enhance this whole experience for both you and your students. These tools can be great to make students feel more engaged and break up longer lectures whilst offering some semblance of what teaching in the real world is like.
By far the most common way to get responses from students during an online lecture is through the chat feature of whichever platform you are using. Whether it is Microsoft Teams or Zoom, the ability to type messages into a chat box throughout an online lecture can be a great way to get questions and comments in without interrupting whoever is speaking. But this is not the perfect approach. Most notably, chat boxes can get very messy very fast, making it difficult to sift through all the responses. There is also the issue of privacy, and some students may be more willing to contribute during class if they could do so anonymously.
Enter Mentimeter, which allows you to quickly and easily receive responses by just sharing a six-digit code. Mentimeter supports a variety of different forms of input, such as polls and word clouds, and we have even used it during our EDTL Webinars. It is as simple as generating a unique six-digit code for your Mentimeter which you can share with your students, and they can use their phone or laptop to contribute once they have entered this unique code on Mentimeter.
Many educators are probably already familiar with the wide variety of features offered by Google Docs when used in a personal capacity, but this is only scratching the surface of the capabilities offered. Google Docs really comes into its own when used as a collaboration tool, allowing everyone with the link to the document to add, edit and view in real-time.
The use cases with Google Docs are endless. For example, you could create a blank slideshow in Google Slides and ask each student to make a slide that shows their understanding of the topic at hand and present this at the end of the session. You could also use Google Docs as a collaborative brainstorming tool, providing students in the class with an opportunity to come up with new ideas and take inspiration from the ideas of others as they appear in the document.
Nothing grabs attention like some friendly competition, and Kahoot brings this into the realm of education. Kahoot lets you create free, online quizzes that can be accessed by just sharing a link. You set the questions in these quizzes, and it is a great way to gauge understanding among students whilst also having fun.
It only takes a minute to set up a Kahoot quiz which covers the topics you want it to, and once you have shared the PIN you will ready to go immediately. Points are awarded based on how fast the questions are answered, and at the end of the quiz those who have accrued the most points are given their moment of glory on the virtual podium!
If you want to create a more engaging and directed study experience for your student, then online flashcard generator Quizlet will be of great use. Quizlet works by letting you create a series of flashcards which allow students to test their knowledge based on the flashcards you create. Getting started with Quizlet is easy, and the team behind it have created a series of webinars on YouTube to help you get the most from Quizlet.
Quizlet utilises spaced repetition techniques popularised in software such as Anki, and the effective nature of this style of learning has been well documented over the years. By creating flashcards for your students, you will ensure they learn what needs to be learned and can do so in an effective and even fun manner.
The whiteboard usually is front and centre in a traditional lecture theatre, and for good reason. When it comes to explaining concepts simple or complex, a quick sketch can do the heavy lifting of hundreds of words when it comes to ensuring students gain a good understanding. Because of the ubiquity of the whiteboard in an educational setting, most of the main video conferencing tools used by universities have a built-in whiteboard feature.
If you are using Zoom , the whiteboard can be accessed through the ‘Share Screen’ menu, whilst MS Teams users can access this feature through the ‘Share’ button. These virtual whiteboards allow you to change pen size, colour and access a host of other options to make the experience as close to the real thing as possible.
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