Online Learning Platforms for Students
The popularity of online learning has skyrocketed in recent years. While some institutions have made the transition to online platforms to support online teaching and learning, others have struggled. With more and more students participating in classes online, it’s imperative that instructors become familiar with some of the best practices in online teaching as well as online learning platforms for students in order to ensure a positive experience, both for themselves and their students.
Teaching online classes is undoubtedly different from teaching traditional, face-to-face courses, but learning how to navigate this new digital landscape is crucial for those working in education today. Whether you are an experienced educator or just going into your first year of teaching, you can improve the effectiveness of your digital classroom by following a few best practices in online teaching. By implementing online pedagogy best practices and using technology made for this, you can improve your teaching strategy and make a smoother transition to digital learning.
The best online teaching platforms for teachers make it simple and easy for instructors to effectively manage online courses. Similarly, the best online learning platforms for students make it easy to discover and engage with course content, classmates, and their instructor.
Learning management systems are common — in fact, you’d be hard pressed to find an institution without one — but they are not a replacement for online learning platforms for students.
While face-to-face learning has a place, increasingly, learning is being conducted through digital channels. This can be cost effective, convenient, and easier to manage for students, and also for educators it translates to being able to reach people from a distance. For distance learning, online learning platforms have become essential. With online teaching platforms for schools, institutions can facilitate learning from any location.
Online Learning Platforms for Schools
Finding the best online learning platforms for high school students, college students, and instructors is key to creating a successful online course for students. You should choose a platform based on your preferred online teaching tools and techniques. For instance, if you want to incorporate videos in your classes, you should look for a platform that can easily integrate video technology. If you want to provide opportunities for student collaboration, you should look for an app that allows students to connect, whether through video or chat — or both.
The most effective online learning platforms for schools are those that can be customized to suit the needs of each user. Some platforms offer a greater range of tools and features than others, but it’s important to choose something that can evolve alongside your teaching needs. When choosing an online learning platform for students, you should also consider your institution’s budget. It may not make sense to invest in an expensive platform if you’re primarily teaching in-person, or will only be working with a small group of online students. On the other hand, if you are going to be teaching entirely online, it might be best to choose an app with extensive functionality.
Online teaching tools range from online whiteboards to digital quizzes. There are many ways you can utilize online tools to engage your students and promote learning, even if you aren’t teaching in a physical classroom. By incorporating effective online teaching tools and adhering to best practices in online teaching, you can create a positive, learning environment for your students. Many people erroneously believe that online learning is less effective than traditional learning, but this is not always the case. Instructors can create learning experiences just as effective, if not better than in-person learning, by leveraging the right apps and tools.
Tracking Student Engagement
Many institutions are trying to figure out how to measure student engagement. So an important element of any online learning platform is tracking student engagement — which is not possible when an institution relies on a variety of disconnected digital learning tools that aren’t fully integrated with the LMS.
For example, consider the heavy lift required for grading students when all of these tools are disconnected or not integrated with the LMS. When instructors at Brown University started using a suite of LMS-integrated discussion & collaboration tools to evaluate student participation, it drastically reduced many of the time-consuming tasks often involved with assessing student work and allowed more time for instructors to provide constructive feedback.
Instructors often had to dig through 60-page discussion threads, as well as search through activities in other systems, like WordPress and Google docs. This meant additional hours and the manual task of entering grades in the LMS. With a consolidated, comprehensive set of tools, instructors can:
- Easily see students’ posts, alongside subsequent responses and contributions to the course, which provides a more holistic view of how well students are developing — the streamlined grading experience allowing them to focus on giving feedback.
- Eliminate manual work, like copying & pasting into a plagiarism checker or transferring grades, to save time.
- Identify and keep at-risk students engaged.
- More easily address regular & substantive interaction (RSI) requirements.
Instructors agree. At Fayetteville State University, 100% of instructors indicated feeling better equipped to evaluate participation when they used Harmonize’s discussion & collaboration tools. When you have a single suite of connected tools working together, that integrate with the LMS and allow you to build more engaging online courses, you’ll end up having something so much more powerful: student engagement data and the know how to measure student engagement online.
With behind-the-scenes analytics built into your course activities, instructors and administrators can quickly understand how students are progressing toward goals, and what course activities are working. You can see who, how, and when students are participating in courses, which students need more attention, and which topics worked best. In addition to implementing best practice student engagement strategies as well as a student engagement survey, these kinds of student engagement insights can help instructors trigger customized outreach to specific students — promptly and proactively re-engaging them in discussion and working to get them back on track. It’s an easy and effective way to help instructors improve engagement and retention in their courses — but not possible when the data doesn’t exist or is scattered among several disparate tools.
Compare Online Course Platforms
While there’s no shortage of online learning platforms for students on the market, the best ones foster connection and community as well as provide learners with an active role and responsibility in their learning. When you look to compare online course platforms, the best online course platforms with certificate provide the following capabilities:
- Discussion Board Tools that Fuel Connection
- Video & Annotation Tools for Content Creation & Feedback
- Polls & Q&A Tools for Interactive Communication
- Chat Tools for 1:1 and Small Group Collaboration
A powerful tool for fueling meaningful interaction outside of the classroom, the discussion board can be used in a variety of ways to facilitate collaboration in online learning, including small-group or student-led discussions.
Keep in mind, not all video tools are created equal. Each has varying degrees of integration with video conferencing tools — important for synchronous online class sessions — as well as differences in hosting, viewing, creation/editing, auto-captioning capabilities, and mobile readiness.
Equally important, the process of question & answer is a foundational aspect of online teaching that is often treated as an afterthought. Too little, and you’re asking for disengagement. But with a tool that allows you to conduct both polling and Q&A sessions with students, you have the opportunity to support better collaboration in online learning. In a study that analyzed online Q&As, results showed students interacted more on a voluntary basis with each other as well as with the instructor, supporting both their own process of inquiry as well as other students’ process of inquiry. Results also indicated that students acquired meta-cognitive development.
Finally, online chat can create a space where students can interact and talk with one another. It can be a public space where all messages can be seen by members of the chat, and at the same time, most applications have a private feature so that students or instructors can discuss one-on-one. This is easy and instant communication, and gives every student a voice — even those naturally shy ones.
That’s a lot of tools, a lot to keep track of, and a lot of potential barriers for students and instructors. Now what if you had just one student engagement platform to replace all of these different tools? One with all of these functions built-in, connected to one another, and seamlessly integrated with your LMS — managing online learning and tracking student engagement would be a lot easier.
Student Engagement Platform
The bottom line is that having access to the right student engagement platform to power effective learning is paramount. The best online learning platforms ensure that the technology is inclusive of different learners’ styles, fosters social connection and community, and is designed to help instructors track student participation could spell the difference between student success or attrition.
To do all of this, some institutions rely on a variety of disconnected tools that aren’t fully integrated with the LMS — creating additional barriers for instructors and making it more difficult to create a cohesive learning experience that engages students.
A student engagement platform, Harmonize offers a range of online tools for student engagement to improve retention, including rich multimedia discussion and Q&A boards, polling, chat, and more — all of which allow students to participate in the ways that work best for them. Using online tools for student engagement increases the quality and quantity of student-to-student, student-to-content, and student-to-instructor interactions.
- Online discussion boards with rich multimedia
- Video annotation, image annotation tool, online annotation tool
- Built-in Chat, Polling & Q&A
- Tagging, Notification & Reactions
- Streamlined Grading to Save Instructors Time & Focus on Feedback
Harmonize is a suite of digital discussion and collaboration tools that integrate seamlessly with your LMS to facilitate a more engaging online learning experience. It’s everything an instructor needs to increase student engagement online and promote inclusive learning, while saving time and eliminating manual tasks.