We’ve touched on this before, but the technology is what many stress out about the most. There are actually quite a few technological options out there that teaches can use to build their virtual classroom. One way to do this is through OSS or open-source software. There are two reasons why OSS is a great option.
One is because of its speed. OSS is able to roll out quickly and in large numbers. That means it can be sent to an army of assistants for several tutorial sessions, all without licensing issues and in a decentralized manner.
The second is the cost. OSS will not cost you anything upfront, which is very important for financially burdened schools and universities that need a solution to a complex challenge on short notice.
With everything that is going on, teachers need to know how to engage with their students. We’ll go over a list of tools that are useful that you can use with your own classes.
Create Live Streams, Podcasts, and Videos with OBS
OBS, Open Broadcast Studio, is a professional, open-source video and audio recording tool that gives you the ability to record, stream, and much more. OBS works on all major platforms, so working with your colleagues across various devices is possible.
Even if you already have online conferencing software that you have been using as a recording system, OBS can be used as a backup solution. Since the recordings are local, you are protected from any type of network disconnections or lags. You will also have control over your data, so there are some educational institutions that could find this a more secure solution than other options out there.
Compatibility is also great. OBS will store your recordings in a standard, intermediate format, and you can transfer that to MP4 or any other format. Also, OBS has great support for Nvidia graphics cards because the company is a big sponsor for the OBS project. This gives you the chance to make full use of your hardware, and it speeds up your recording process.
Sound and Video Editing
After you have recorded your video, you might find that it could use some editing. There are different reasons why you might have to edit your audio or video. For example, some online university platforms restrict the size of your files that can be uploaded, so you might have to cut your longer videos. You may also find that the sound was too quiet, or the audio is too noisy, so that you could make some adjustments.
There are two open-source choices for this, Shotcut and OpenShot. Shotcut is more advanced, which means that there is a steeper learning curve. They are both cross-platform and provides full support for hardware encoding using Nvidia and other graphics cars, which can help to lower the processing time.
Both programs also give you the ability to extract a soundtrack and export it to an audio-editing program. Audacity is a great open-source, cross-platform audio tool that works really well and isn’t that hard to use.
If you would like to annotate your slides or develop your ideas using an electronic blackboard, you are going to need note-taking software and a device that has a graphics tablet or touchscreen. A good open-source option for that is onboard. This is another cross-platform app, but it was first only available for Linux on Ubuntu. It’s a good tool, but it doesn’t do well with annotating slides.
A better option for a blackboard tool is Xournal++. Just like with all of the other tools mentioned before, it is also available on Windows and Mac.
Built-Ins Have Limits
You may be wondering why you should bother using alternative recording software. After all, most modern computers will have built-in screen recorders that also capture the audio. However, these built-in options tend to have limits. One of the main limitations is that you can’t usually capture more than one video source at a time. This means that you can’t record a webcam video of your face along with some slides and a whiteboard.
Being able to use several video sources is extremely helpful because it can get quite dull for the students if all they get is your voice over a bunch of slides. Face-to-face interactions, even when virtual, will help keep your students attention.
We’re going to move away from the open-source options and look at a paid option that you might find helpful. The WizIQ online classroom platforms is a great software to use for online teaching. Good online teaching will depend on building a vibrant, exciting, and motivating learning community. WizIQ has lots of tools that will help to make that possible.
- Video Feed and Chat
The virtual classroom with WizIQ can show six video feeds from the students’ and teacher’s webcams. Great online teaching thrives when there is a visible way for the teacher and students to get to know each other. The video feed provides a great way to do this, see each other’s homes, and feel as if you are in a class.
There is also a chat box that is easy to use and also includes an emoticon list that can help the students communicate and improves their enjoyment, as well as gives them a chance to “vote” on issues that are raised as you teach. The chat also has a feature that you don’t normally get with other webinar systems. You are able to copy the chat. With a click of a button in class, you can copy the complete chat content to your clipboard and then past it into a word document.
Some teachers may want to provide their students with URLs during a chat so that they can point their students towards videos, articles, and websites that have relevant information. Students can also contribute some relevant links as well, and sometimes the discussion can be useful. Being able to copy the chat will give you the ability to archive all of the goodness that came from the chat.
- Presentation Tools
Not only does WizIQ make it super easy to upload a PowerPoint or Prezi into the classroom, but you can load several. Every new presentation will have a different tab within the viewing frame. A great online education will allow your students to build artifacts and share them with the entire class. It gives them and you the chance to give a presentation or to run through a series of pictures.
For teachers, these tabs will give you the chance to find the appropriate presentation quickly, whether they were uploaded before the class or uploaded during the class proceedings. Plus, thanks to the markup tool located on the left-hand side of the presentation frame, students and teachers can highlight or markup the presentation slides.
- Whiteboard Tools
On the subject of markup tools, teachers want to be actively involved in their classes, and WizIQ provides a lot of options. Teachers are able to hand out writings, drawings, and other tools that give students and teachers the ability to interact with the whiteboard. You can pull documents up on the whiteboard and annotate them. You can copy questions from the chat so that nobody forgets what they have to answer and place them on the whiteboard.
The tools for the whiteboard are practical and enhances the active learning in the class, but they also give you the chance to build a community and connection just by having the chance to play and get creative.
WizIQ also has a polling feature that teachers can use to get an idea of what students are looking for. Are they all on the same page? Is there something that they would like? Did they all understand the main idea of the lesson? The best teachers will routinely use this polling feature for test knowledge, to get important information, or to sort everybody into breakout rooms.
- The Break-Out Room
These rooms give you a chance for smaller segments of your class to connect and talk about a certain part of the lecture or to do a discussion assignment. This feature gives you the chance to customize your class further and it helps your students to have a more useful and personalized experience. This form of personalization is important for a good online education. You can divide the groups by skill set, needs, or pretty much anything else.
- Video Playlists
The internet is full of amazing videos on a variety of topics. An effective online education, you should have a varied and interesting class. When you have discussions and presentations punctuated by videos and audio material, it will add to the excitement of the class, not to mention more value.
Teachers can upload videos at any point during the live class, but they also can build a playlist with the videos for the live class before the session starts. This gives the teacher the chance to test the videos before the class begins, and then play them at the right times during the class. Videos that are played during class will also be caught during the recording process so that learners who can’t go to the live class will still get the full experience.
With teaching, there are times when you have to use a step-by-step modeling process to teach something. WizIQ has a screen sharing tool that can provide an environment for teachers to show their students how to do something.
Having a connection between the teacher and the students in class helps to build a sense of community that is important for education. The course feed is where this discussion happens, where students find out about the upload of tutorials, where links to videos can be found, and so on.
- WizIQ and Moodle
WizIQ can embed a learning management system, like Moodle using API and plugins. It works very well with Moodle. Once you have set up your class, you will have a widget that can be embedded on the class page. It will show the lives class names, schedule, and a countdown until the live class. After class, the widget will automatically link to the recording after it is available.
Since there is such a close connection between Moodle and WizIQ, the students won’t have to move out of the classroom frame to get to the virtual class.
Whether you decide to use WizIQ or some other virtual classroom software, you must get a full grasp of the tools it has available. Students need a well-rounded class experience, and the right tools will help you do that.