Best online tools for distance learning

Distance learning is changing from a “back-up” choice to the preferred way for modern students to study, thanks to better e-learning technologies. Online educators need to learn new digital and media skills. For many longtime educators, this can be a steep learning curve.

Fortunately, many online tools make life easier for remote educators. You don’t have to be an expert technologist or media expert to be an effective online teacher, just the right online learning tools to get the job done right from your laptop.

Generic Tools Online Educators Should Know

This article is about the best tools specifically designed for online learning, but most of the tools used in distance education are generic. It’s a long-standing tradition to turn tools with business or entertainment features into powerful teaching tools. There are several solid digital tools without which online teaching would simply not be possible:

  • Video conferencing and webinar applications. For example, Zoom, Skype, Teams, etc.
  • Video editing applications: for example, LumaFusion, Adobe Rush, Adobe Premiere, etc.
  • Screen recording tools: e.g. Nvidia Experience, Open Broadcast Software, etc.
  • Social media platforms: e.g. Facebook, Twitter, messaging apps, etc.

Online teachers should never ignore any tool or app because it is not explicitly designed for educational use. Try thinking outside the box a bit and you might find software that improves your students’ online learning experience.

Even if you’re just an individual Google Account holder, you have access to many online tools that make it easy to create, collaborate, and distribute content. For example, Google Docs is the main word processor and it’s a fast way to generate documentation in collaboration with other team members. Learners can also use these Google apps to collaborate and even submit work for comments or edits.

Google Drive makes it easy to store and share files with your students. The Google app suite has great access control settings, so you won’t accidentally give students access to your private documents or allow them to edit what they shouldn’t.

While Google’s suite of online apps is perfect for teachers who need a few informal tools to enhance their online teaching practices, Google Classroom offers a purpose-built learning environment that integrates many existing Google tools ( such as Google Calendar) in something aimed at students. and use by teachers.

Available as a website and mobile app, Google Classroom provides all of the following for online teachers:

  • General class management.
  • Create class templates by copying a class.
  • Organize videoconferences.
  • Track student progress and feedback.
  • Create and share learning materials and lesson plans.
  • Create virtual lessons, assignments and assessments.

The classroom can be used to supplement in-person classes (the hybrid classroom model), or it can act as a streamlined LMS (learning management system) for fully online teaching and learning.

Digital whiteboards are an essential tool for live video conferencing and pre-recorded content. It’s a great way for teachers to illustrate lessons in real time using natural whiteboard skills.

There are plenty of paid and free options, but we think Google’s Jamboard is the best. This free tool enables real-time collaboration and works on any device via browser or mobile app.

Khan Academy is a free online learning resource that covers all public education through high school and some college-level subjects. Subjects are taught in unique ways, progress is recorded using a game-based system, and learners choose to follow unique paths through subjects such as math to learn only what they need for specific purposes .

Khan Academy for Teachers allows you to enroll your students and act as an online teacher using the brilliant content developed by Khan Academy. This is the most impressive personalized learning tool available today, especially since it’s free.

OER (Open Educational Resources) are learning resources that are openly licensed so that anyone can use them in their programs. According to the exact license, you can use them for commercial purposes, but not in case (for example) it is licensed under Creative Commons Noncommercial.

Finding high-quality OER can be daunting, but the Open TextBook Library lets you quickly find the best open textbooks for any subject you want to imagine.

If you can’t find what you need in the Open Textbook library, your next stop should be LibreTexts. This is an exciting project supported by several leading institutions to provide quality textbooks on OER in subjects ranging from social studies to business or engineering.

Edpuzzle takes the modern pivot of online video and allows online educators to add their educational layer on top of that video content. You choose a video clip that you want to assign as learning content, then add questions to that video using Edpuzzle.

You can then track how students interact with the video and answer questions. Edpuzzle can integrate with traditional LMS products such as Moodle, Backboard, Canvas, Google Classroom, etc.

SmartBuilder is an e-learning authoring tool that allows teachers to quickly create rich, engaging and interactive scenarios without any programming knowledge or multimedia skills. Check out their examples page to see the fantastic things you can do using SmartBuilder. You can also sign up for a free trial to see how well you get along with their tools.

You may have heard of MOOCs or Massive Open Online Courses, but you know you can easily make your own? Udemy is one of many platforms to offer MOOCs, but what sets it apart is that virtually anyone with something valuable to teach can create and upload a course and earn some extra cash! Whether you want to create something for school districts or want to sell professional development courses, Udemy is a great choice.

EdModo is a platform like an LMS and a bit like a classroom management system, with some aspects of a social media platform. It also includes all the tools you’ll need to create programs, lessons and assessments and have engaging remote conversations with your students. If you don’t like the bric-a-brac approach to building your distance learning arsenal, EdModo is a great one-stop-shop.

Flipgrid is a smart video chat tool from Microsoft. What sets it apart from the likes of Zoom or Skype? The idea is to create an open video discussion platform appropriate for pre-K to PhD. More importantly, it is not a live video tool, but a tool where students can pre-record their responses.

The role of teachers in Flipgrid is to act as facilitators. Students can be organized into groups and given specific topics to discuss. Students then use Flipgrid to save and edit their case responses. The reaction can be recorded as many times as the student wishes before submission, removing any pressure to respond in a real situation.

You may have heard of terms such as ‘gamification’ or ‘game-based learning’, but using game elements or creating game-like educational experiences is a formidable technical challenge, unless you don’t have a tool like Kahoot. Kahoot is designed to let you create quizzes and allow students to approach them as a form of game-based learning.

There is fierce competition in the LMS industry to be the platform of choice. But even there, Moodle stands out as both a cutting-edge online learning solution and a free, open-source product.

Moodle is a fully-fledged online learning platform used by some of the biggest institutions in the world. According to Moodle itself, 25% of the world’s top 200 universities are on the forum.

So it’s amazing to consider that you can set up your server, install Moodle on it, and run it like your own college or university. If you are not technically inclined or cannot afford to set up your infrastructure, you can pay for a managed instance through third parties or the official MoodleCloud service. MoodleCloud comes with a 45-day free trial, so you can safely evaluate the LMS to see if it will work for you.

Pear Deck is a cool add-on for Google Slides (an alternative to PowerPoint) that lets you use Google’s cloud app to create educational content from the Google Slides interface. You can drop formative assessments directly from the Pear Deck sidebar. You can create custom questions, add audio, etc. They also have a great onboarding tutorial, so you can get started right away.

Near, far, wherever you are!

Armed with these remote learning tools, no student is beyond your reach. This is the most exciting time for education since Socrates invented his method!

Melvin G. Rodriguez