Hundreds of Online Education Platforms exist on market today. The question is how do we choose the proper online education platform one for our needs?
There is no standard definition of what Online Education Platform is, nor there is a list of what elements and what functionality it should provide. In addition several other terms are very popular which to some extent overlap and these are: Virtual Classroom Platform (aka Virtual Classroom Software), Learning Management System (or LMS), Online Teaching Software and so on.
No matter how these are called, they all are designed to deliver knowledge online - in other words, to allow trainers (online schools, individual teachers, private tutors etc) to teach students remotely over the internet.
So what do we need to accomplish this online training task successfully? My experience shows that there are certain modules in every online education platform that are must-have and every online education would agree with me. These are:
Now matter if it is a private tutor or an entire school it is extremely important to get rid of the inconvenient Excel lists where most current schools and tutors keep a track of their students. This competent should allow you to keep a detailed record of the students and arrange them into groups.
Online Course & Content Development
Whatever call these - online courses or subjects - you will not be wrong. So this is a very important element of every online teaching platform. Educators should be able to create unique and engaging learning content under the form of self-paced online courses. Students advance on their own in an asynchronous manner.
Live Virtual Classroom
Self-paced (asynchronous) learning may not be always enough. Many online teachers prefer to teach their online students synchronously - in a live virtual classroom, with the help of virtual classroom software. A good online education platform should offer an integrated live virtual classroom. This saves expenses to educators, as they do not need to use third party web conferencing software for their live online classes.
Online Assessment and Examination Tools
Homework has undoubtedly the most efficient way to establish solid knowledge and long-term skill in students. A professional and robust online teaching software should provide a module for delivering homework and options to asses how students complete their tasks. In addition - a good online teaching platform should allow creation of online quizzes, term or mid-term exams, entry tests, level tests, etc. Automatic test marking and multiple grading scales are of a great advantage, especially in cases where schools work with multiple examination boards at the same time - like for example Edexcel, Cambridge and others.
Online Discussions and Forums
Further engagement of learners by initiating discussions on certain online course topics or lessons is a great technique to increase students' involvement. This can be achieved with the help of a discussion or forums module. Students share thoughts and review and discuss ideas. Another application of this element of the online education platform is to allow students to help themselves (self-help) and get support from other students when needed.
Every online educational platform should support the above but not limited to these. Electa Learning Management System in an online educational platform which supports many other modules and offers a great set of tools and techniques to help you in build effective online education.
During the past 2 years with the beginning of 2020 almost all of the schools worldwide had to shift to online education or to a form of hybrid type of training - both on site and online training.
While many schools were unprepared for this over-night change this was at no time anything new for the online schools which were already actively employing virtual classroom software and learning management systems in their daily activities.
Moreover - students from the traditional schools and mostly their parents were not prepared for such an overnight switch. Neither were their teachers.
There were several big challenges that all parties had to overcome:
The management of traditional schools had a very difficult task - they had to choose the right and efficient way to quickly switch to online schooling. Most of them turned to several popular online meeting platforms trying to just move the in-classroom activities online.
Was this enough and a successful move? To large extent - No! The web conferencing software is only good choice for team meetings and discussions but it has never been designed to serve well in online education. In other words - software for online meetings cannot efficiently replace the professional virtual classroom software which is especially designed for live online teaching and training.
Teachers and Trainers
The other affected group were the teachers. They had to overcome several difficulties: lack of experience in online teaching and training, difficulties of adapting software which is not meant for online training. The latter could be overcome easier had the school managers chosen the proper virtual classroom tools for their online education. Another task newly converted online teachers had to deal with was helping children and parents with the new environment. Another big issue was the lack of of proper online training content that they could use in their live virtual classrooms.
Parents and Students
Parents and students were most affected. Particularly younger students where motivation is not that strong being placed in a video conferencing software had plenty of distraction, thus further losing their motivation. Parents had to become teachers after school or had to invigilate their children during the online classes.
All these problems could have been reduced to minimum, had the school managers made the proper choice of adopting a professional virtual classroom software designed especially for synchronous online teaching and training. Virtual classroom software offer a large set of tools in an instructor-led environment. The teacher focuses mostly on the teaching activities. Students remained focused on the online whiteboard.
Still there were multiple schools who chose the proper virtual classroom software as a part of a turn-key online teaching solution for their educational institutions. Such schools became hybrid schools, which I believe are the schools of the near future.