Online lesson tools review (Zoom, Twitch, Skype, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp)
Recently, I used several tools for my online lessons. Because of the Coronavirus Epidemics many educators look for alternatives. I thought this review can be helpful. There is a 40 min limit in free version of Zoom. If it is sufficient for you then it is the best tool for large classes. If you don’t need to see the students live and if it is sufficient for you that they comment during the lesson then internet traffic saving Twitch would be best for you. For small groups Skype is very effective. Language courses with small number of students accepted it as a standard tool. Microsoft Teams is ideal for meetings, conversations and discussions. WhatsApp can also be used to teach if you will warn your students to not send you unnecessary messages. It would be difficult to control this for larger groups. Whatever tool you use one needs to be aware that none of them have infinite resources. I always ask my students to turn off the live camera and open microphone only when they have something to say. We and our students should use these resources consciously, not overcrowd particular one and think about others who might also need them. I use The Blackboard Collaborate which is not free and I had already a training before. Without a preparation it would be difficult to start with this option. Never used Google Classroom.
Where I teach we tested Zoom, Skype, FB Messenger (not my idea!), and MS Teams. We use Blackboard but do not have Collaborate -- it looks great but $$$.
We have found that for us, MS Teams is ideal. Same features as Skype and Zoom with no limit on recording, works better from a browser, requires less bandwidth (so less jerky video, lag w/screen sharing, and broken audio). Our students in speech classes and doing presentations are able to submit large .mp4 files via a MS Teams chat, whereas Blackboard has limits. You can share a single window or the entire screen. It has a "waiting room". I've had students successfully use it from a Firefox browser on a Linux PC.
A couple of days ago one of my students was having trouble with an assignment. He shared his PC screen to me and I could point out errors in his work while we chatted via voice. We finished in 10 - 15 minutes what would have taken more than an hour via email.
That is a VERY good question. Our district went 1:1 with computers last year, and chose to install the Microsoft Office Suite on all the devices at that time. I can tell you that, for some bizarre reason, even though Edge is a Microsoft product, it doesn't play well with Teams. So a significant portion of my students use Chrome. I doubt that any of them are using Internet Explorer, because I had to use IE one time in front of my class for a certain website, and my students ridiculed me mercilessly. I don't think they can download Firefox without an Administrator password, but I have it on my home computer.
Once you get to Teams (and you have an account), you can download it to your computer. It runs faster that way. I pinned it to my sys-tray.
I hope this helps!
If I understand correctly, Lrtward was praising MSTeams exactly for that, that you can run it from a browser, where it outperforms Zoom, Skype and others. Having said that, heartfelt thanks to Lrtward for sharing their school's testing results! <3 I'd like to try Teams, but for now I only found packages (Office) that had monthly fees of some $30. They do offer a free trial.
I would say that, given the circumstances, do not pay for things (because I think your students would all have to pay, too), and choose between what your district already offers for free.
Are you using anything right now, like Zoom or Skype, jairapeytan? Or are you just posting to a class website or some such?
I'd like to try Teams, but for now I only found packages (Office) that had monthly fees of some $30. They do offer a free trial.
"Get your school signed up for free."
Thank you very much for posting this, yaliyev. I was testing out Zoom yesterday, and I saw that they have removed their 40 minute limit for the time being. I really appreciate your insight. This is just the sort of review I was looking for yesterday!
After looking at Zoom and MS Teams, the only two that my district will allow me to choose between, my World Language colleagues and I decided on Teams.
Zoom is infinitely easier to use. A much easier user interface.
However, in a language classroom, we could not find any tools on Zoom that would prevent students from sitting passively and merely listening to a lecture. This is a language classroom! Students need to be communicating. So even though we struggled to figure out which buttons to click to even start the Teams meeting, there is so much more that we can connect to on Teams. First and foremost was the interactive whiteboard. On Zoom, only one person can write at a time. In Teams, you can use Invision as the interactive whiteboard, give a question, and then have all the students "graffiti" their answers all over it. So that was the big deciding point for us.
In the end, if I want the students listening passively, I decided that I would just record myself and post the videos. It feels like it would give the same effect.
Now, the big challenge is: How to get students engaged while we are teaching remotely. Please everyone post here and explain how you are using the tools that you have.
:) Your extremely kind words stroke my ego better than any award could. I just may have to frame your comment and hang it on my wall to look at when the days get tough. 'Cause you know, we all have classes where the bell rings and the kids walk out and you think to yourself, "My goodness, I am horrible at this."
I am in Washington State. Where are you, jairapetyan?
Oh my gosh, I am so happy that Tinycards were my tech goal for this year! Duolingo is great, but it doesn't help me "drill down" on isolated skills to get them automatic for the students. (For example, conjugation.)
When our building was shut down and I had a long sleepless night trying to figure out a battle plan, it made me feel so much better knowing that I had 100 decks of Tinycards to fall back on. My colleagues are using my decks, too. Our district's official stance for the last four weeks was that, since we are not set up for distance learning, our focus right now is to keep the kids from backsliding. (That focus is about to change, which is why I need to learn video conferencing suddenly.) So my plan for the last four weeks is:
One skill on Duolingo (I'm only assigning XP right now, to give kids some choice)
One Tinycards of my choosing. (Students send me a screenshot, since the Tinycards are not connected to Duo proper.)
One video of my choosing.
One song of my choosing.
More advanced students do one Duolingo Story. Students who have not unlocked it yet receive the script and a sound file from https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/36647198 and instructions for a game or a writing prompt.
Sometimes I include another story. I recorded myself reading several.
This is working well, so I see no reason to change it significantly. When I am allowed to start moving my classes forward, I will be able to video conference with them once a week. But I still want them practicing one time a day, or they will forget everything from our on-line class.
I'm trying to imagine what our on-line class will look like, so please everybody chime in. Currently, I am thinking:
Basic check-in, because everybody is nervous. Probably this will happen in English to clarify expectations and just put people at ease.
A mini-lesson, maybe ten minutes long.
I pull up Invision and students respond to a prompt. This will allow everyone to interact, without passively waiting their turn.
I tell students what their project for the week is, remind them to do their Duolingo and Tinycards (which will be reinforcement for the mini-lesson), and watch the silly cat videos (or whatever), and ask if they have any questions.
My class is normally a fun, vibrant, noisy place, so I am nervous about this transition. Any ideas, success stories, and/or cautions, are HUGELY welcome.
No they haven't. I actually just found out about the new way last night. I'll post a new video on the other post about how to make a deck. The new way :).
Edit: Here's the video if anybody else wants to see it. You can change my method to fit your needs if you want to.