Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has condemned the temporary closure of schools and universities throughout Spain to avoid new infections. This does not mean that teachers are on vacation and, in fact, in many cases Institutions are considering resorting to online classes to avoid insurmountable delays in the delivery of the educational program.
But what kind of cheap (or, outright, free) and easy-to-use tools can be used by teachers to structure in a short time this new type of classes? From Genbeta we have some suggestions:
GoToWebinar is one of the most popular and simple tools for creating webinars (webinars). It is compatible with Windows and Mac … as well as Android and iOS (sorry for the linuxers). It facilitates the sending of e-mails before and after the realization of the webinars.
It stands out for functionalities such as giving the option of create live polls and polls and to allow the sharing of files, presentations, as well as application views desktops or an overview of the screen.
Although the usual way of participating in webinars is through chat, GoToWebinar also allows you to interrogate the speaker by voice, if he or she configures it. Even more: allows you to follow the webinar audio by phone, at the price of a local call.
In addition, it gives us the option of record the webinar (both locally and in the cloud) while it is taking place, in order to later upload the class or fragments of it to platforms such as YouTube.
It only has two drawbacks. The first is that it forces participants to install extra software on their computers, the second its price: 89 euros per month (although the billing cycle is annual) for a maximum audience of 100 participants, which rises to € 199 when the maximum number of participants rises to 500. It does have a 7-day trial version.
Alternative to GoToWebinar: Adobe Connect
Zoom is another powerful tool in the field of webinars, with the difference that it is also used for video calls, as a substitute for Skype and similar programs. In Zoom, each session has an ID, which allows us to join it both by resorting to the desktop program and from the web interface.
It allows you to schedule meetings and set reminders, record class sessions locally, share screen, show ‘side by side mode’ (on one side a webcam image, on the other shared screen), display a virtual whiteboard on which to write or draw, and set a ‘virtual background’. The latter means that we can place a digital image behind us without using chroma (although we do need the wall color to be uniform).
All this is complemented with complete chat tools (which allows to establish, for example, if the questions in this way will be public or private) and participant management (which allows one of them to be expelled from the session to show its video signal to intervene).
Free option allows group meetings of up to 100 participants for 40 minutes, and unlimited 1 to 1 meetings. If it falls short, the first of the paid versions (the Pro) costs only 14 euros per month and increases the time limit of group sessions until 24 hours. One of its most outstanding premium functionalities is the possibility it provides us to broadcast live through Facebook Live and YouTube.
Curiosity: Zoom’s shares, like those of Netflix, have been among the few that have risenor since the coronavirus crisis began.
Alternative to Zoom: Join.Me
Jitsi is a video conferencing and instant messaging application multi-platform, free and open source that, in addition, can be used using only the browser, just go to http://meet.jit.si and create a ‘meeting’, with no limit of participants.
Later, you will only have to share the URL of the same to add participants to the videoconference (it is also possible to set a password so that nobody ‘sneaks in’); the interface can be configured in spanish. And we can record the entire session by uploading it to Dropbox.
It has functions to share both the full screen and an application window, as well as a tab of the browser itself. It offers a text chat, like the previous applications, and a function that those who use Jitsi as a substitute for face-to-face classes will appreciate: “Raise / Lower your hand”, to ask permission to intervene.
If we do not want to focus everything on the audio and video (although without ruling out their use) and we prefer to have instead a collaborative tool that focuses on written communication and document sharing, it can be very useful to have software such as Microsoft Teams, the Office 365 work team application.
Shared documents can be opened from within the application itself, which avoids relying on third-party tools and, at the same time, makes it easier to correct jobs. What’s more, allows you to create several chat rooms with different themes, and that each user (student) participates only in some of them.
The free version of Teams allows up to 300 users, unlimited search of old messages and 10 Gb of storage for files and documents. It also has integration for almost two hundred third-party applications.
Alternative to Microsoft Teams: Slack
Moodle / MoodleCloud
Here we come to the field of classic content managers for e-learning, among which the most popular is, without a doubt, Moodle: a free and open software tool, has a very large community around it, which guarantees us complementary software and documentation to tons.
Moodle allows you to configure numerous user profiles around the administrator, teacher, student roles, customizing which areas of the platform they have access to each.
The usual thing is to structure our Moodle in courses, each of them with lessons, areas for carrying out activities and delivery of work (It is especially useful to keep track of the ratings of each user) and forums, wikis, etc.
But in reality, almost anything you expect to see implemented in an e-learning platform, Moodle will come standard or have the option to install it (yes, also videoconferences and webinars, thanks to plugins like BlueJeans or BigBlueButton).
Moodle, in principle, is a software that we will have to install ourselves on an appropriate web server that we have set up or purchased, but there is a web service, called MoodleCloud, that It will allow us to have the power of Moodle without having knowledge of server administration. Of course, if we opt for the free version of this platform, the complementary functions are limited (we will have BigBlueButton), as well as the number of users (50, maximum).
Alternative to Moodle: Chamilo