Mar 31 2021

Review: Top 3 Tools for Online Teaching in Higher Ed

Here are the best online teaching tools for enhancing remote or hybrid instruction.

In higher education, it’s no longer a question of whether online learning is here to stay. It’s a question of how to make the experience better for educators and students. Even before the pandemic, many institutions saw online learning’s potential for meteoric growth.

Universities and colleges are investing in advanced teaching resources that will help college professors improve the online learning experience. The technique of gamification, for example, has led to the simplified tracking of progress and better interaction between educators and students.

As I tested products that improve student engagement during online learning, I came across three that align best with educators’ goals. Here’s what I found:

Online Teaching Tool #1: Promethean ActivInspire — Display Software That Drives Student Engagement

Every professor strives to develop creative and interactive lessons.

ActivInspire by Promethean can help them realize this goal. On the surface, ActivInspire is software for interactive displays, but at its core lies an intuitive dashboard. Its vast suite of award-winning lesson creation tools are designed to help instructors engage students and build compelling content with ease.

ActivInspire makes it easy to import existing resources, such as PowerPoint slides or PDFs. These can be embedded in multimedia files in lesson plans. When students and educators return to an in-person classroom, ActivInspire can be downloaded and used with 4K interactive whiteboards. This encourages collaboration at the front of the class, with multitouch functionality.

In a remote environment, instructors can use ActivInspire with all-in-one conference camera solutions such as Poly Studio, which delivers plug-and-play ease with outstanding high-definition video and exceptional audio quality. Used together, this setup promotes online engagement by allowing professors to remotely display students’ work and projects on the digital board, which simulates a lecture hall setting.

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The Poly Studio and Promethean combo makes it easy for educators to explain challenging theories. Physics professors, for example, can leverage the shapes feature to illustrate abstract concepts, while foreign language instructors can use the sorting and spelling features to engage language learners.

ActivInspire is compatible with Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems. Setup took less than 10 minutes on a computer running Windows 10. Perhaps the software’s most helpful feature is that educators can borrow templates created by other instructors. While testing the software, I used Flipchart lessons created by ActiveInspire’s growing community of users.

You can use ActivInspire to plan lessons for an entire academic year. I found and implemented a 200-day flipchart that covers both semesters. The calendar I used starts on the first day of school and ends on the last day. It was very easy to edit and customize. Best of all, it can be reused year after year.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Supported Operating Systems: Microsoft Windows,
macOS High Sierra (10.13 or higher), Ubuntu (16.04 or higher)
Processor: Requires 2.0GHz processor (Intel Core i3 or faster)
Resolution: 1024x768
Memory: Requires 4GB RAM
Disk Space: Requires 2.5GB available disk space for Windows and Ubuntu; 4GB for macOS
Additional Software: Adobe Flash 11 (optional for embedded Flash resources)

 

Online Teaching Tool #2: Logitech Stereo Headset H111 Holds Students’ Attention

One of the most challenging aspects of distance teaching is keeping students’ attention.

One tool that is particularly effective for retaining student focus is the Logitech Stereo headset H111. Weighing only 2.6 ounces and measuring 5.7 by 1.8 by 6.4 inches, the headset is comfortable for all users, regardless of size. I used this device while taking a history class at my local community college online, and it proved to be a vital link to the classroom.

The unit’s noise-canceling microphone features helped me ignore the background sounds in my environment. I found the ear cups — which are ergonomically angled for a flexible fit — very comfortable to wear. In fact, I would often forget I was wearing a headset during class.

Before using the headset, I completed 10 hours of courses online without it. I would experience significant challenges staying focused during class — especially at the end of a long day. After a week of using the headset, I noticed I could focus better during class. Even my instructor noticed my improvement.

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With a standard 3.5 mm headphone jack, the headset can be used with most operating systems and platforms. The headband is adjustable and lightweight, creating a good fit every time. The microphone is easy to adjust, and can be placed on the left or right side.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Headphone Fit Type: On-ear
Connectivity: Wired, 3.5 mm jack
Compatibility: Mac, Linux, Chrome OS, Android phone, Windows
Frequency Response: 20 to 20,000 hertz
Sensitivity: 100 decibels

 

Online Teaching Tool #3: Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2020 — IT Security as a Virtual Learning Tool

The third solution for boosting online learning is not a typical online learning tool, but it is an important one, as the security risks posed by online learning are significant. The number of malware attacks committed each day, in the hope of exploiting new vulnerabilities created by the pandemic, are on the rise — especially in the education sector.

Working and learning remotely has not only exposed cybersecurity gaps, but also provided new opportunities for cybercriminals to strike universities and colleges. These challenges highlight the importance of solutions such as Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2020 to protect institutions from nefarious actors.

Normally bundled with Bitdefender Total Security 2020, this anti-virus platform runs the gamut in robust threat detection. It flags basic attacks as well as the most sophisticated intrusion attempts. I tested Antivirus Plus 2020 by sending viruses from my testing zoo to a typical laptop protected by the software. Without fail, Antivirus Plus 2020 was able to stop all infections and remediate each attempted attack. No virus got through, and no user intervention was required.

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When looking for effective anti-virus software, one additional item to consider is protection against multilayer ransomware, which can compromise personal files. Bitdefender’s layered approach easily eliminates known malware. It also monitors for behavior that might indicate advanced threats such as ransomware.

The ransomware protection is specially designed with layers that include a separate data protection feature. It can safeguard all documents, including pictures and videos, from unauthorized encryption. Together with the Advanced Threat Defense module, Bitdefender protects every important file from ransomware encryption in near real time.

In addition to anti-virus protection, Bitdefender Internet Security 2020 includes a Windows firewall and a spam filter to keep students safe online. The firewall continuously scans web connections and can even halt webcam hijacking — a real concern when students are learning in front of a camera all day.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Software Type: License
Supported Operating Systems: Windows 7 (SP1), Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10
Processor: Requires Intel Core 2 Duo (2GHz) or equivalent
Memory: Requires 2GB RAM
Disk Space: Requires 2.5GB available disk space

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