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How to Empower Students With Free Remote Learning Software

April 14, 2020

Remote Learning Software

Both learning and teaching at a distance require a magic formula of educators, students, and the right tools.

It takes research, time, and patience to master teaching remotely, especially during these unprecedented times. Replicating a traditional classroom is a challenge, but with the right solutions, you can create an effective remote learning environment.

Plus, with free versions and trials, these solutions are more accessible to school that wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford software. 

18 remote learning software solutions

Distance learning is the reality for many students. There’s difficulty in continuing things as normal for a variety of reasons, but just because you’re teaching from a distance doesn’t mean that all the things you love doing like discussions, group work, and tutoring comes to an end. There is help in the form of software to assist with your specific needs. 

When setting up your remote classroom, making an engaging environment for students is key. Simply lecturing at your students will make them lose their focus and ultimately be a disservice to them. Having the right tools to enable participation from students will help you, the students, and their parents have a successful remote learning experience. 

Below are common needs teachers face when teaching remote students. Discover solutions for all of your teaching-related problems based on data and reviews pulled from G2’s Spring 2020 Grid® Reports. Reviews are edited for length and grammar. 

Limit distractions 

Let’s face it. Students of any age fall prey to the plethora of distractions that are available at their fingertips every day. In a traditional classroom, it’s easy to limit the use of cellphones and keep an eye on students’ level of engagement. Teaching at a distance is another story. 

Classroom management software allows students to reply to questions during a class  in real-time, and has tools to limit the use of distracting websites when a class is in session. 

Here are the top three classroom management software solutions : 

1. ClassDojo

ClassDojo connects teachers, students, and parents by creating a positive culture, giving students a voice, and providing classroom moments with parents. This software works on any device and is secure to keep the community of users safe. 

What users like: 
“As a Administrator, I enjoy getting to be part of each of my staff's classrooms, and can monitor student behavior, teacher to parent communication, and read class story updates. I love that it has mindfulness activities, video clips, random generating names from the class for easily selecting students to speak aloud. Being able to show students how they earn points during the day helps for positive behavior strategies and you can send home reports each day, week, and month. It tracks all progress.”
- ClassDojo Review by Amanda S. 

What users dislike: 
“I wish that I could choose students to group together, just like I can choose students to not group together. There are times when I do not want certain students sitting together, but at the same time, there are times that I need to pair certain students together. I don't know if there is a way to say, ‘put student A and B in the same group, but not with student C.’ It would be a good feature for grouping by ability level.”
- ClassDojo Review by Shona L. 

What can I get free right now?  
ClassDojo is a free communication platform. 

2. LanSchool

LanSchool helps educators create meaningful classroom experiences by limiting access to approved websites and applications, maximizing classroom time, and providing support modules for IT issues. It was made to empower educators to inspire developing minds. 

What users like: 
“I like being able to see what the kids are on and bring up their screen. I also like being able to freeze their screens. I like being able to limit what websites they’re on because they always try to get on gaming sites or sites that are inappropriate.” 
- LanSchool Review by Kerri Z. 

What users dislike: 
“It would be great for students to be able to return their assignment to teachers after they have been completed. Also, it would be great to have more accessibility options for students. For instance,  an immersive reader, and incentive for students who do a great job (e.g. stickers. emojis...etc)!”
- LanSchool Review by Claudine A. 

What can I get free right now?  
LanSchool has a 30 day, fully functional trial. They’re also offering complimentary LanSchool Air licenses as an online learning solution through 7/1/2020. 

3. Dyknow

Dyknow empowers teachers to teach with confidence because of the ability to view students’ devices and enforce productivity. It is specifically designed for grades K-12, allowing educators to monitor student progress and redirect them with a click. 

What users like: 
“It enables me to monitor all my students at the same time. It is easy to use and I love how I can block certain websites that my students do not need to be on when they are in class. I also like how I can individualize which screens get locked. I also really like that you can view reports on the students’ activities, and have objective data that lets you know how much time a student is spending on off task areas vs. when they are being on task.”
- Dyknow Review by Melissa R. 

What users dislike:
"I wish I could see any/all tabs that my students have up on their computer. I also wish I could set a time to start monitoring and stop monitoring (if I get caught up with routines and forget to click stop monitoring, it will keep going and going and going).”
- Dyknow Review by Nicole S. 

What can I get free right now?  
Typically a free trial for a month, but now offering free use until 7/1/2020. 

Share and edit documents 

When educating from a distance, students can’t turn in assignments in-person, and you can’t hand out paper assignments. If you’re an English teacher, you may wonder how to edit papers and give suggestions when you’re not sitting next to a student. 

Cloud content collaboration software allows teachers to keep all of their files in one place. Students can submit assignments to folders, and teachers can put instructions and slides into the cloud.

You’ll also have control of privacy and editing settings. If you don’t want your students to edit the assignment document, just turn on the view-only function. On the flip side, if you want to edit a student’s document, make sure they have their privacy settings off so you can make live comments and suggestions. 

Here are the top three cloud content collaboration software solutions: 

1. Dropbox

Dropbox is a cloud-based file storage and management platform that allows users to easily sync and find files. It decreases clutter and brings all of the class content together in one place. 

What users like: 
“Dropbox is a good software to backup your files in the cloud. I tend to use it so that I can access my files wherever I am as long as I have the internet connection. You can share your files with other people and keep track of any updates made. It is also good as you can sync your Dropbox account to your personal computer making it easier to edit files locally, without an internet connection.” 
- Dropbox Review by Christian P.

What users dislike: 
“Dropbox is only as organized as you are. My biggest piece of advice is put some thought into your folders when initially setting up your account. I have a disorganized friend who shared a folder with me and gave me access to many of her personal documents!”
- Dropbox Review by Sheri L. 

What can I get free right now?   
Dropbox’s basic subscription is free, with up to 2 GB of storage. If you need more storage, you’ll have to upgrade to a paid subscription. 

2. Dropbox Business 

Dropbox Business is very similar in functionality to Dropbox mentioned above, but it is more secure and allows collaboration with other software providers. 

What users like: 
“One of the things that this software offers is the management of user permissions, which includes the ability to add and remove permissions of specific users or an entire group.”
- Dropbox Business Review by Martha T.

What users dislike: 
“Sometimes uploading files takes too much time, even with a good internet connection.” 
- Dropbox Business Review by Alexia W. 

What can I get free right now?  
Dropbox for business has a free 30-day trial. 

3. Microsoft OneDrive for Business

Microsoft OneDrive for Business enables companies to access, share, and collaborate on files from anywhere through its intelligent files app. It securely works with tools businesses already have, such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. 

What users like: 
“OneDrive offers decent space for file storage. Universities and student accounts are free for students going to college, which could be a better way to store the files remotely and access the files without even owning a computer. Thus, it makes it easier for students to rely on any device on the campus.”
- Microsoft OneDrive for Business Review by Pranav. 

What users dislike: 
“The biggest problem is that people might overwrite your shared files if they start editing them online and saving changes instead of copying them to their machine first to edit the file there.”
- Microsoft OneDrive for Business Review by Martin O.

What can I get free right now?  
One month free of the Office 365 Business Premium, which includes OneDrive. 

Develop yourself professionally

Don’t forget about your own professional development when teaching remotely. It’s important to take time out of your day to sharpen your skills. In addition to professional development, college-level educators can point their students to specific courses that are in a specific line of study. 

Online course providers offer online courses in a wide range of topics for professionals to access anywhere at any time online. These courses include a set curriculum and sometimes offer certifications upon completion. 

LinkedIn Learning 

LinkedIn Learning has over 15,500 courses available and gives personalized recommendations based on your profile, so if you’re a teacher, there will be educator content recommended to you. You can access these courses from any mobile device, so you can take courses from the comfort of your couch or while walking on your treadmill. 

What users like: 
“The best thing about LinkedIn Learning is that it is integrated with your LinkedIn account. The tool has access to your job profile, subjects of interest, skills and areas of expertise. Due to this, courses are automatically recommended based on your profile.”
- LinkedIn Learning Review by Shreshthi M.  

What users dislike: 
“The free trial period is only a month long, if it was longer I would have had more time to explore the wide range of courses on offer. Another downside is that sometimes the courses are too long in length when they have been more concise.”
- LinkedIn Learning Review by Nadeen H. 

What can I get free right now?  
LinkedIn learning offers a free demo. After the demo there are monthly membership costs.  

Pluralsight

Pluralsight is a technology skills platform with more than 6,950 courses. This course provider is specifically geared toward developing technical knowledge, which can be helpful when diving into the world of remote teaching.

What users like: 
“I haven't been able to stump Pluralsight yet, whatever the topic, there are resources available to help me learn and grow. The learning paths, channels and bookmarks make it easier to keep myself organized amidst such a huge breadth of available content. I also like being able to test myself using the skills assessment.”
- Pluralsight Review by Jocelyn E. 

What users dislike: 
“Technology changes so fast that sometimes the modules I need are slightly (sometimes more than slightly) out of date by the time I get to them.” 
- Pluralsight Review by Molley C.

What can I get free right now?  
Pluralsight usually has subscription plans, but is free for the rest of April 2020. 

Udemy

Udemy has more than 2,500 courses available taught by the world’s leading experts. The courses cover a wide variety of topics, including teaching techniques, reflective teaching, and even a lesson on how to teach online. 

What users like: 
“Udemy is very interesting and useful. I feel that Udemy provides excellent courses and it's simply explained with the full knowledge and skills. Easy to find course with the key words which is a great way to get ideas about the class.”
- Udemy Review by Mohd Intekhab A. 

What users dislike: 
“The certificates obtained usually are not endorsed by any registered educational institution even though they're also extremely recognized by several organizations.”
- Udemy Review by Ritika J.

What can I get free right now?  
Udemy offers free courses, but other courses start at $10.99. 

Interact with students remotely 

Office hours, impromptu after-class meetings, and parent-teacher conferences don’t need to go away just because you’re teaching remotely. Spending time talking to your students is crucial to their development. Most of the time they just want to know their teacher hears and understands them. 

Video conferencing software enables teachers to hold anything from 1:1 meetings with a student to teaching a class of 1,000.  This software also has screen recording abilities so you can share with students if you miss class, and screen sharing so you can demonstrate a lesson to students. 

Here are the top three video conferencing software solutions: 

1. Zoom 

Zoom allows users to join anywhere, on any device. It helps universities and schools improve educating remotely with hybrid classroom, office hours, and administrative meetings. Engage students whether they’re eLearning or distance learning using the video conferencing software. 

What users like: 
“Probably the thing I like best is the clarity of meetings. I've used other platforms for virtual meetings and the hiccups in the system; freezes, buffering, loss of audio/video doesn't seem to be present in Zoom. Working in a school district with a diverse group of students from the lower-socioeconomic scale, where I am one of few consistent adult features in their lives, face time with the students is a must, and the less frustrating we can make it, the better. Zoom provides us that!”
- Zoom Review by Aaron S.

What users dislike: 
”Since their customer service has been slammed due to the mass numbers who need distance communication, I was not able to fully ask all of my questions. I am still waiting for my educator account. However, I have been able to use the basic account which serves most of my purpose. I just need the breakout rooms.”
- Zoom Review by Ellen J.

What can I get free right now?  
Zoom removed the 40-minute time limit on the basic free account for K-12 schools affected by COVID-19. All other users can use the Basic account or upgrade for a cost. 

2. Skype 

Skype video chat allows 50 people to join a call on almost any device. It has group screen sharing, video recording, and allows students to learn from anywhere. Host collaborative projects and specific lessons with this software. 

What users like: 
“I love the interface of using Skype. It's easy to use and understand, unlike a lot of video call programs. It's also very reliable! Rarely are there any problems with connection, lagging, etc.”
- Skype Review by Ellie C. 

What users dislike:
“Many people do not have high speed connections, and thus when meeting via Skype a choice does usually come up as to which features to skip. For example, I would like to record the session without taxing the load.”
- Skype Review by Nancy Blackmon V. 

What can I get free right now?  
Skype for classroom use is free. 

3. Cisco Webex Meetings 

Cisco Webex Meetings helps teachers and students transition from in classroom learning to virtual learning. This software has background noise detection, AR capabilities, and video call back features that help educators communicate with students effectively. 

What users like: 
“I think this application is great because with it I can hold meetings and give live classes with my students from my home. It also includes the function to record the classes and if any of my students could not see it or did not understand something they can see it again. It also includes multiple tools which facilitate the use of the same account with a very effective information anti-theft system.”
- Cisco Webex Meetings Review by Jack S.

What users dislike: 
“The whiteboard feature is very useful, but could use some upgrades to make the writing/highlighting tools more user-friendly.”
- Cisco Webex Meetings Review by Forrest H. 

What can I get free right now?    
Cisco Webex Meetings has a free version, plus discounted monthly and annual subscriptions. 

Maintain traditional functionality of a classroom 

The benefits of holding classes in a physical classroom include being able to use the whiteboards, seeing and hearing students, and giving interactive presentations. You don’t have to lose these perks when transitioning to remote teaching. 

Virtual classroom software cultivates a learning environment for educators and students to engage in meaningful lessons through live video streaming, screen sharing, whiteboard features, and the ability to give interactive lectures. It utilizes technology to maintain the traditional functionality of an in-person classroom. 

Here are the top three virtual classroom software software solutions: 

1. Adobe Connect 

Adobe Connect keeps curriculum on track by delivering an engaging virtual learning experience. With Adobe Connect, you can keep students productive and engaged. Additionally you can educate students with different physical and developmental abilities. 

What users like: 
“Adobe Connect is the best web conferencing program for organizing online meetings, e-learning and web seminars, allowing you to quickly create and implement online training in a very attractive and secure way. It has excellent features and a pleasant interface with total ease of use.”
- Adobe Connect Review by Taylor H. 

What users dislike: 
“During operation, video or audio is sometimes frozen, particularly when we attempt to exchange displays, because the technology needs a strong connection to the internet to run.”
- Adobe Connect Review by Srikanth S.

What can I get free right now?   
Adobe connect has free 90-day access. 

2. Blackboard Collaborate

Blackboard Collaborate is a simple virtual classroom that empowers teachers to collaborate better for effective learning. This easily accessible solution has real-time tools to make teaching remotely easier. 

What users like: 
“This tool makes it very easy to have a fully-engaged audience without being physically present. The many tools and features Blackboard Collaborate offers help diminish the disconnect that sometimes can appear when performing an online conference or class. It's very easy to use, making it a good option even for people who've never used it before.”
- Blackboard Collaborate Review by Naomi H.

What users dislike: 
“When I am working with students in a live session, they often lose connection. This interrupts the flow of their learning, which is unfortunate because they are only on one hour at a time with us and every minute is valuable.”
- Blackboard Collaborate Review by Jordan T. 

What can I get free right now?   
Blackboard Collaborate has a 30-day free trial. 

3. BigBlueButton 

BigBlueButton is tailor-made for teachers. It enables collaboration between students and teachers through audio slides, chat, video, and desktop sharing. You can also record your lectures so that students can listen to them when studying for exams.

What users like: 
“The product works great across various computer platforms and we use this in a blended class environment with both in-class and online learners. The support team are highly responsive and keep us apprised of developments.”
- BigBlueButton Review by David N.

What users dislike: 
“Audio does sometimes have hiccups, usually when multiple people are talking at once. Recordings unfortunately don't include the screen-share component of the live meeting, and as a presenter you're limited to sharing PDFs (PowerPoint slides, for instance, have to be converted before or during uploading).”
- BigBlueButton Review by Ian M. 

What can I get free right now?  
BigBlueButton offers a free demo. 

Prepare students to succeed remotely 

When students are learning at a distance, it can be difficult for them to separate class time and study time. Drawing the line between the two is important, because preparing to get good grades on tests is the key to a good GPA. 

Study tools software provides students, teachers, and parents with resources to prepare for all kinds of assessments like tests and quizzes. The features are specifically designed for test preparation though a variety of methods. 

1. Quizlet

Quizlet engages students with interactive study material, learning activities and games. It also has guides for teachers and searchable content for students to study anywhere at any time. 

What users like: 
“Quizlet is very good to store information pertaining to exams or even your own personal projects. I love the flashcards and how easy it is to set it up. I often use this and recommend this to our students to remember the terminologies and the concepts of programming. I find it very useful, fun, and to the point. It is also easy to access other peoples' quizlets and there are some very well designed ones out there for gaining knowledge.”
- Quizlet Review by Corey P.

What users dislike: 
“I think more games should be added in The future. Playing the same two games can get repetitive and boring after a while. On the Quizlet app, features for uploading flashcards are a little limited. Quizlet is good to use for general knowledge, but not so much for curriculum specific knowledge.”
- Quizlet Review by Layanie D. 

What can I get free right now?  
It is free to sign up for Quizlet. You must pay to upgrade to Quizlet Teacher. 

2. Kahoot!

Kahoot! is a learning platform that uses games to engage students when studying. It has a simple interface that allows teachers and students to create and play learning games in minutes. 

What users like: 
“It is a very effective manner to teach classes with the help of digital methods. It directly attracts people's attention and is very easy to play. It also has a competitive aspect because after each question, you see who's at the top of the rankings.”
- Kahoot! Review by Laurie R. 

What users dislike: 
“I do not like that the answer options do not appear on competitors' screens; only the administrator can see and broadcast answer options. This makes it difficult to use for those that are visually impaired.”
- Kahoot! Review by Mariah D. 

What can I get free right now?  
Teachers and parents affected by COVID-19 get free access to all of Kahoot’s! premium features during these uncertain times. 

3. Kaplan SelfTest 

Kaplan SelfTest is a training platform for IT professionals looking to strengthen their technical job skills before taking certification exams. This software is for professionals seeking high education. 

What users like: 
“I enjoy that this service provides testing for many different topics. This is especially important when evaluating different students of all different ages and levels. When it comes to exam prep, the important thing is seeing how you perform under similar test conditions and SelfTest allows you to be able to mimic those conditions using exam-esque material.”
- Kaplan SelfTest Review by Mahtab T. 

What users dislike: 
“Sometimes I have difficulty with loading the larger videos. In addition, some questions don’t have the best explanations.”
- Kaplan SelfTest Review by Monali P. 

What can I get free right now?  
Kaplan SelfTest offers a free demo. 

Thank you, educators

Teaching isn’t for the faint of heart, especially when teaching students remotely. The distance between students and instructors provides yet another hurdle, but this may be overcome with the right solutions.

Software can work to empower teachers to connect better with students and enable students to succeed no matter where they are. 

Explore all you need to know about working remotely by diving into G2’s Work from Home Guide

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