10 Virtual Classroom Tools that Connect You to Online Education
The WizIQ Virtual Classroom is a great place to teach online. Education online, really good education online, depends on building a vibrant, excited, motivated learning community that encompasses the learners and the teacher alike. The Virtual Classroom has the tools that make that possible. Here are my 10 favorite Virtual Classroom Tools!
1. The Video Feed and the Chat
The WizIQ Virtual Classroom can display up to six video feeds from the teacher’s and students’ webcams. Great online education really thrives when there’s a visible way to get to know the teacher/facilitator and the other learners in the course you’re taking. The WizIQ video feed provides a great way to get to know each other, see each other’s offices and homes, and feel so much as if you were right there with all your colleagues in the class.
The chat box is easy to use and includes an emoticon list that helps learners communicate their enjoyment of the class, as well as to vote “yay” or “nay” on issues that are raised as a presentation rolls out. The chat also includes a feature you do not see with many other webinar systems. You can copy the chat! With just the click of a button in the live class, you can copy the entire chat content to your computer’s clipboard, and then paste the chat record into a word doc.
So many WizIQ teachers give lots of URLs in the chat, pointing students towards articles, websites, and videos relevant to the class material. Learners can contribute relevant links as well, and sometimes the chat discussion can get very useful; full of other students talking about their experiences with teaching, sharing tips and techniques, or just personal learning stories. With the “Copy Chat” button, you can archive all that goodness on your own computer!
2. Presentation Tools
Not only is it super easy to upload a PowerPoint presentation or Prezi into the WizIQ classroom, but you can load up several. Each new presentation will have it’s own tab in the viewing frame. Great online education gives learners a chance to build artifacts and share them with the entire class; giving presentations or just running through a series of photographs or other work to illustrate how they have dealt with the course materials.
For the teachers, the handy tabs at the top allow one to find the appropriate presentation quickly, whether they are uploaded prior to the live class launch, or uploading as the class proceeds. In addition, thanks to all the mark-up tools along the left hand edge of the presentation frame, learners and teachers can highlight, extend and otherwise creatively add to the presentation slides in the classroom frame.
3. Whiteboard Tools
Speaking of the mark-up tools, technology-loving teachers and learners want to be actively involved in their online classes, and the WizIQ Virtual Classroom provides so many options. Teachers can hand out drawing, writing, and other tools that allow individuals and groups of learners to interact with the Whiteboard. Documents can be pulled up on the Whiteboard and annotated. Questions can be copied from the chat so that nobody forgets what needs to be answered.
Whenever I do a live class that includes a guest speaker, I also schedule a practice session for the speaker and myself. It’s wonderful how often — when we’ve finished the business of getting used to the live class frame —my otherwise pretty serious invitees just want to play with the Whiteboard tools. A planning session some years back with colleagues from Brazil ended with all of us uploading photos, drawing faces, and littering the Whiteboard with clapping hands.
The Whiteboard tools are very practical and enhance active learning in live classes, but they also have the potential to build community and connection just by providing the opportunity for creativity and play.
The WizIQ Virtual Classroom has a polling feature that can be used to take the pulse of the learners. Are they all on the same page? Is there something else they need or want? Did everybody get the point of the lesson? Creative teachers routinely use the polling feature for informational purposes, to test knowledge, or just sort everybody into breakout rooms.
5. Break-out Rooms
Speaking of break-out rooms, these “rooms” allow smaller segments of your class to get together and talk about a particular part of your lecture, or complete a discussion assignment and nominate one of their number to describe their conclusions when the class is returned to the common Virtual Classroom.
This is also a very useful feature for further customizing your class and helping students to have a more useful, more personalized experience. This type of personalization is so important for effective online education: groups can be divided by skill sets, needs, or just to make sure that everybody has a say in some topic or other.
6. Video Playlists
These days the internet is full of great videos on every topic you can imagine. In the Moodle MOOC that has been running on WizIQ all this month, we have had a number of great videos in every live class. Effective online education is varied and interesting; presentations and discussions punctuated by relevant video and audio material adds to the excitement of a live class, not to mention to the value of the content being presented.
WizIQ teachers can upload videos on the fly as a live class proceeds, but they can also build a video playlist for the live classes before the session begins. This allows the teacher to test the videos before the class, and then play them at the appropriate moment with ease. Videos that are embedded in the live class are also captured by the recording process so that learners who can’t attend the live class get the full experience.
Effective online education, especially if there are skills involved, often require step-by-step modeling of a particular process. The WizIQ Virtual Classroom’s screensharing tool can provide the environment for teachers to show learners how to do something. I’ve been in a number of WizIQ live classes where we have been expected to set up an account on another technology site, such as Second Life, and our teacher has been able to share her screen, go to the Second Life website, and show us how each of the steps will look in real time. Recent improvements have put buttons to restore the video feed, chat, and attendee list down at the bottom of the screen sharing frame, so that you can pop up the chat to make comments, or watch the teacher as they describe what you’re seeing.
8. The Coursefeed
Feeling a sense of connection to the teacher and the other learners in your class helps build that sense of community that is so important for effective online education. The coursefeed is where discussions happen, where learners are notified of the upload of new tutorials, where links to other videos for the learners to expand their knowledge of the subject matter at hand can be uploaded and so on. The Coursefeed is the beating heart of a WizIQ online course, and using it to its best advantage is a great tool that connects everyone to each other and to the flow of the course.
9. The iPad app
A recent addition to the very high end (but totally affordable) features of the WizIQ Virtual classroom is the iPad app. Once I got my iPad, I just fell in love it, with its features, the apps, its portability, just the pure fun of being able to curl up on a sofa with this wonderful light tablet and read. And then WizIQ debuted the iPad app and now I can learn and teach curled up on the sofa! What a treat!
The WizIQ iPad app is beautifully constructed and the classroom has all the important features. The WizIQ logo displays beautifully on what looks like a deep blue linen background. You can sign in or enter a class link to get to your classes. Upcoming classes and past classes are both available, and the classroom looks gorgeous on the iPad display, clear and very inviting. And if that’s not enough, WizIQ has now provided an extremely exciting new feature. You can now write on the Virtual Classroom whiteboard using a digital pen. How amazing is that! Interactivity is the name of the game in the WizIQ classroom.
10. WIZIQ and Moodle
The WizIQ Virtual classroom can be embedded in a learning management system such as Moodle using plugins or API. I’ve never used WizIQ with Blackboard, but I can tell you that the Moodle plugin works perfectly. Once you’ve set up a live class, you have a widget that you can embed in the classroom page. It shows the live class name and the schedule, and counts down until the class goes live. After the class has finished, the widget automatically links to the recording, once it’s available.
Because of this close connection between the WizIQ Virtual Classroom and learning management systems like Moodle, your students never have to move out of their classroom frame to get to the WizIQ Virtual class. However I always find that’s better to encourage learners to use WizIQ’s features, such as the Coursefeed where you can set up discussions or upload tutorials and quiz links. I like to make sure students have both the Moodle classroom and the social environment that WizIQ provides. Working on the WizIQ Coursefeed can expand the sense of community your learners build while they are in your class. Better still, when your Moodle classroom is closed, your students can continue to meet up on WizIQ.
So That’s My List!
That’s my favorite list! I can’t imagine teaching with anything other than WizIQ. I have had to when I’ve worked for other people, but even the super high-end webinar systems fall short in the classroom tools department, not to mention the social media and customer service environment of this wonderful online education teaching hub, WizIQ. So what are you waiting for? Take the 30-day FREE trial and experience teaching online like never before.