Jul 29 2020

How to Use Google Meet and Microsoft Teams for Remote Learning

Knowing about each platform’s unique videoconferencing features can help educators unlock the full potential of a virtual classroom.

Videoconferencing platforms have become an essential part of K–12 education during the coronavirus pandemic. With many schools continuing remote learning through the fall, maintaining connections among students, parents and educators is even more crucial.

According to a Phi Delta Kappa International survey conducted this spring, 70 percent of high school students said increased communication would make them feel more connected to their peers and teachers during remote learning; 19 percent said video chats would help them feel that way.

Teachers also use videoconferencing to facilitate synchronous learning — education that happens in real time. With synchronous learning, students can feel a stronger sense of collaboration and community and stay more engaged in their learning despite missing in-person interactions.

“For students, the ability to see and interact with their teacher on a regular basis brings with it a sense of normalcy and comfort. For teachers, the ability to reach their students allows them to continue to provide each with the attention needed to keep the learning moving forward,” notes a Consortium for School Networking brief on videoconferencing.

There’s a wealth of videoconferencing platforms out there for educators to use. Google Meet and Microsoft Teams are two of the most popular.

However, some teachers may not know what each platform can deliver to their classroom. Knowing about the unique features each offers and understanding how best to integrate them into instruction can help educators unlock the full potential of a virtual classroom, now and in the future.

DISCOVER: Here’s how you can ensure safe and secure videoconferencing.

The Google Meet Remote Learning Features You Need to Know

If your school uses G Suite for Education, you should have free access to Google Meet, formerly known as Google Hangouts Meet, already. This platform allows teachers, students and families to connect one on one or in a group chat over video.

In April, Google for Education announced that they’re extending premium Meet features to all users at no additional cost until Sept. 30, 2020, to support schools doing remote learning because of the pandemic.

One feature gives users the ability to have meetings for up to 250 participants, which means teachers can have a group of classes join the same video call and learn together. Administrators can also leverage this feature to hold professional development sessions or schoolwide meetings at a larger capacity.

Also, educators who want to host a virtual assembly or stream a lecture live can now do so. A premium Meet feature allows users to livestream a video meeting for up to 100,000 people with view-only controls.

Another major draw: Meet is now fully integrated with Google Classroom, a popular learning management system used by K–12 educators. With a unique link, teachers can create a dedicated meeting space for each class. Teachers can also make their lessons more interactive by using Meet’s screen-sharing tool to show online presentations on Google Slides and have students follow along.

READ MORE: Find tips for encouraging good student behavior while videoconferencing.

All video meetings also come with live captions and can be accessed with Chrome’s screen readers and magnifiers, accessibility extensions and keyboard shortcuts. Teachers can also record video meetings so that students who aren’t able to attend can catch up later and stay connected to their class. Students who don’t have internet access can also dial in to a meeting from a mobile device.

Google Meet users can expect new features to drop later this year that will further improve student engagement and classroom management during remote or blended learning. For example, Meet will have a hand-raising feature and an integrated digital whiteboard to encourage student participation and collaboration. New safety features include blurred and custom backgrounds and a setting that requires a moderator to join before the meeting can start.

G Suite Enterprise for Education users will also get additional features, such as attendance tracking, breakout rooms and polling.

MORE FROM EDTECH: Find the blended learning platform that works best for your district.

The Microsoft Teams Remote Learning Features You Need to Know

Similar to how Meet is integrated with Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams for Education is built in to Office 365 Education. With Teams, Office 365 Education users can have a virtual classroom with videoconferencing capabilities.

Teams users can schedule video meetings with specific teams they create on the software for their classes, educator groups or even after-school clubs and enjoy basic features such as screen sharing and live chat.

Teams also supports up to 250 participants in video meetings and can be used to livestream an event with up to 10,000 attendees. Educators hosting an event featuring presenters can also leverage moderated Q&A controls to make it more engaging and encourage students to interact with the speakers.

Plus, Teams users can record all video meetings and easily share them in a specific class channel for students who aren’t able to attend or need to access them for future use. Some teachers have even embedded videos in other Office 365 learning tools such as PowerPoint and OneNote so that they’re all in one place.

In terms of accessibility, Teams meetings come with live captioning, and teachers can also use Microsoft Stream, a video service available to Enterprise Education users, to add or edit closed captions on any video meetings they’ve recorded. Additionally, students who can’t access the Teams app can call in to meetings from their phones with the Office 365 audioconferencing system.

Collaboration is also an important aspect of learning and is something that can be replicated, thanks to the digital whiteboard students can use in a Teams meeting. For example, teachers can share the digital whiteboard with all meeting attendees, which they can then use to brainstorm and exchange ideas with visuals. Teams also has a polling feature teachers can use to quiz students on a particular subject or to get instant feedback from them.

Microsoft is also gradually rolling out new features for users to try out just in time for back to school. For instance, Teams meetings will now have a large, seven-by-seven gallery view that teachers can use to see up to 49 students in a single videoconference.

There are also new videoconferencing modes that help replicate the feeling of being in a classroom. Turning on Together mode places all meeting participants in one shared background like an auditorium. Also, students can turn on Focus mode, which hides video feeds during a live class or presentation if they get distracted by it.

Google Meet and Microsoft Teams both have videoconferencing features that can help educators improve the remote learning experience for all students. Professional development and collaboration with IT staff and instructional teams will be key to finding the best way to use them.

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