Teaching in the current situation has to be adjusted like never before. Considering the social distancing practices, the need for online teaching via virtual platforms has increased dramatically.
Whether you are an educator, teacher, trainer, coach, public speaker … etc. You need to learn how to adapt to the “new norm” and continue to do what you love; just a little bit differently.
In this post, I will go over the best free platforms that you can use to do exactly that. The differences between them, tutorials, and my own experience using them.
My students’ needs vary and this is why it is so important for me to adjust accordingly. I believe this is the case for you as well.
Who Am I and why you should listen to me?
I have been teaching English to speakers of other languages for the past 10+ years and I love it. I have done it all, virtual, online, face to face, one on one, groups, and etc. My students’ ages vary a lot, the youngest student I have taught was 4 years old and the oldest 46 years old.
I teach Conversational English, Business English, Test Prep (IELTS, TOEFL, CAMBRIDGE, MICHIGAN), Medical English, Tourism English, and Technical English.
Teaching is my passion and passing on my knowledge is what keeps me going.
My track record for exam results is outstanding with 100% of my students achieving their goals, passing their tests, and 95% of them receiving high scores. I have created a name for myself due to these (exact) results, thus my (recommendations) are from word of mouth.
Having seen my background you can understand how important teaching is for me. So, I just couldn’t give up on doing what I love because of the current situation. I was in limbo for the first few days. Confused and anxious about what will follow.
After, reaching a limit with my nerves going up the roof I decided to stop complaining and find a solution to my problem. Then, it hit me … I could teach remotely using technology.
Virtual classroom platforms
My favorite way of teaching is face to face, one on one. Not being able to do it because of social distancing has made me look for other alternatives.
The next best thing is to use a virtual classroom platform where the teacher and the student(s) can be a part of.
You might have thought about applying to companies and continue to do what you love … Here is what I think about that
I am familiar with plenty of online teaching companies but none of them are worth my time and skills. I prefer fixing my own schedule and fees. Yes, I need to plan my own lessons and find my own resources but that is just fine. Plus, I already have students that I teach regularly so this option doesn’t really work for me.
If you also are like me then, virtual classroom platforms are the thing for you. Please, don’t be overwhelmed by the term, most of them are user friendly and extremely easy to use. There are also tutorials that will help and guide you through.
As always I have done the research for you, compared 4 of the best and most used platforms. Below you will find some general information about each platform, the pros, and cons of each and a tutorial to help you get a more visual idea of how they work and get to know the platforms better.
Disclosure: There may be affiliate links involved and if you make a purchase I receive a small commission at NO extra cost to you. Nevertheless, I only promote products I truly believe in. Daramiblog offers information that is designed for educational purposes only. Here you can read my full disclosure.
The 4 most common virtual platforms
Skype by Microsoft
It is a basic platform allowing you to video call anywhere in the world for free. If you are a beginner in the online teaching world and looking for a platform to assist conversational classes or instructions of any kind then Skype is perfect for you.
Skype has 3 different options, depending on your needs. Check them out here.
- Free (skype and skype meetings)
- Well- known
- Phone calling option available
- Screen sharing (skype meetings available in the US only)
- Chat option
- Difficult to manage time
- Poor quality
- Background noises picked up easily
- Not equipped enough for educational use.
⚠ Be aware that it is the least geared for educational purposes.
⚠ Skype does not have a whiteboard. When I need one I use Miro.
It is a platform aimed for more advanced users with plenty of helpful tools. Such as a whiteboard, screen share, instant feedback, polling, and more.
More than that, it allows the teacher to pair students or group them into separate groups using the breakout rooms tool. Another useful tool is the annotate tool which is great for students to do collaborative tasks.
There is a recording option where you can save it for later. This platform is great for web conferencing as well.
Some people find it a bit complicated at first with all the options it has. You need to spend some time learning all the different functions.
- Chat option
- Good video quality
- Plenty of tools
- Access to their support
- Unlimited free 1-1meetings/sessions
- Difficult to use
- Some chat features not available while in meetings.
- Paid packages for group meetings/sessions
⚠ Plenty of demand which makes the platform a bit slow.
WebRoom by iTeachworld
It is user friendly and very well organized. There are plenty of features a teacher might need. You can screen share, use a whiteboard, have a pdf file presentation, embed a video, share a link, chat with the participants and take notes.
This platform offers a lot of great options for online teaching and it helps keep the student engaged with having emojis in the chat.
WebRoom is one of my personal favorites because it is very easy to use, and invite participants. The best thing about it is that the files you share can be received in a summary email after the lesson.
- Easy to use
- Plenty of tools for teachers
- Up to 8 people
- Full HD video/audio
- Chat option
- Screen sharing
- Supported by: Google Chrome v69 or above + Mozilla Firefox v56 or above
- Minimum 3G mobile network
- Minimum 10 Mbps speed for the best experience
Webex by Cisco
I left the best for last. This platform is very well known around the corporate world. Frequently used by TV channels and companies for meetings, webinars and many more. High profile educators, universities, colleges, and schools around the world are using Webex.
It functions as a webchat and a video recording software. You can use wireless presentations, digital whiteboards, and video conferencing. This way Webex enables you to create blended learning in a virtual classroom.
- Works on mobile devices as well.
- A Community for Educators to join.
- Available tips, solutions, and training.
- HD video.
- Recordable meeting/sessions
- Screen share.
- Free for up to 100 participants.
- Costly for more than 100 participants
- The interface window cannot expand fully.
If you would like to check it out why don’t you take a look at a tutorial for teachers here Webex teacher training!
Takeaway on the 4 virtual platforms above
All in all, these 4 platforms do the job according to your needs. I would advise you to try them out and see what works for you. Each situation is different what works for one might not work for another.
- Record your lessons (where applicable) so students have access when they need it.
- Prepare your resources beforehand.
- Always check your internet connection a bit before the class
- Ask for the participants’ emails before the class to be able to send an invitation.
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