There’s a wealth of fantastic online teaching platforms for virtual classes, but selecting the best of these is a challenge.
Some platforms specializing in course management and administration are technical to implement or complicated to use. And while some engagement tools are enjoyable for learners, they’re limited in what you can do with them in class.
But with a clearer idea of what different kinds of tools can offer, you can start enjoying their huge range of features for creative planning, engaging students online, and tracking progress.
So to begin exploring what tools and resources you need for your virtual classes, let’s look at some of the key terminology surrounding e-learning platforms, and then see our list of the best online teaching tools.
An online teaching tool is any resource – technology, app, program, or platform – that teachers and students can access via the internet for their classes.
Some teaching tools are centered around instructor-learner communication and engagement, others are designed for materials creation, while others are focused on course administration or marketing – often, though, a platform will offer a blend of these functions.
Let’s take a look at the main terms for e-learning teaching tools:
You can’t have a virtual classroom without video conferencing, but how you use that technology can make a massive difference to everyone’s learning experience.
With a video engagement platform like Livestorm, you can use its range of features to motivate participation in synchronous and asynchronous online learning (we talk about some key engagement features to look out for in the next section).
These tools play a key role in differentiating virtual classes from traditional teaching, offering some of the most essential benefits of virtual learning as you use them to energize learners with fun activities that help keep students focused and collaborative.
A VLE is a platform where you can create lesson plans, assignments, tests, worksheets, homework, and other resources, and present these to your learners. A VLE should also make it easy for you to review and grade work, provide feedback, and interact with your class.
LMS platforms like LearnUpon, are where you can create and manage your education and training courses, as well as track enrollment and learners’ progress.
So in basic terms, we can say that an LMS differs from a VLE in that it operates at a more administrative level – in practice, though, many VLE platforms have evolved to offer LMS functionality and vice versa.
An e-learning authoring platform offers a range of tools and programs for you to create original learning resources, lessons, and courses, which you can do with text, imagery, slides, video, and audio media.
Here are some of the most important features you should consider and compare when choosing what tools to use for your virtual classes and hybrid learning strategies:
Without the in-person interaction of a traditional class setting, it can be easy for learners to get distracted or lose the thread of a class, so the engagement features of your online teaching tools are an integral part of a virtual classroom.
Here are some of the features you can use to help you engage with students:
Live chat is a fun and practical feature of virtual learning students and employees can use to interact, share links, gather opinions, and double-check concepts.
Use breakout rooms in your classes for ice-breakers, pair and group work, or any activities where you’d like learners to exchange ideas or start putting key concepts into practice.
Be sure your teaching tools allow you to easily share worksheets, PDFs, and pre-recorded videos.
You can use real-time virtual whiteboards for brainstorming and concept mapping, which can be great fun as a group exercise, or if you want individuals or teams to virtually come to the front of the class and tackle an exercise.
Encouraging learners to join along in a presentation with emojis is a fun way for them to keep involved in the subject matter – and it’s a handy way for you to read the room.
The best teaching tools make polls quick and easy for you to set up so learners can choose activities and materials. Another way you can use polls is to see how learners feel about a topic before and after an exercise or class.
Your learners can use question upvotes to decide what the most important issues are for the class to address. They’re a great way to invest learners in discussions and encourage them to think more deeply about key topics.
You can engage learners after the event with replays of the entire class. Knowing there’s a recording also means learners don’t have to worry so much about note-taking during synchronous class time – so make sure your teaching tool has unlimited replay storage.
Your online teaching tools should make it easy to follow registrations and attendance rates across all your classes.
With the best online virtual learning platforms, you can see other key engagement metrics too, like the number of responses to polls, chat messages sent, and questions asked.
These help you to keep track of how popular different features are in your classes, which can change over the breadth of a course. You might use this information to adjust your lesson plans or vary how you encourage learners to get involved in some activities.
And with some e-learning tools, you can even follow who’s watched the class recordings, which is especially useful when you have people off sick.
All your online teaching platforms should be intuitive to use for both you and your learners – some powerful tools offer a good range of features but make it difficult to join in with extra steps, like subscriptions or downloads.
So check that access to the free virtual classroom is browser-based (where all your students need is a link), and that it’s quick for teachers to create events, invite attendees, and set up engagement features in-class.
Some of your virtual classes could be very small with just a handful of learners, but you may find that others have dozens of learners synchronously following your presentations and working with your resources.
If this is the case, you need to be sure that, first, your teaching platform can handle those kinds of numbers without losing any stability, but also that you can still quickly organize events, activities, and tracking.
Tool integration is important to market-leading teaching platforms as it allows you to easily embed multimedia content into your resources, share a variety of materials, and easily incorporate activities into your virtual classes, like using a whiteboard.
Some online teaching tools also integrate with platforms or social media that help you with the administration and marketing side of lesson planning, like Slack, HubSpot, Google Sheets, and Twitter.
Read this article to find out more about what is a virtual classroom.
Your most important online teaching tool in any virtual classroom is the video conferencing platform – it’s the central hub for the most important interactions throughout any synchronous class – and what sets Livestorm apart is that it’s a video engagement platform.
This means that platform’s designed specifically to help all its users engage with each other, communicate, get involved in presentations, and enjoy all your resources. With Livestorm, you can manage every part of your lesson from just one app.
Here are some of the engagement features your learners can use in a Livestorm virtual classroom:
All Livestorm’s engagement features are intuitive to use and it’s easy to create events and track engagement for teachers, too.
It takes just two minutes to set up a new class, training session, or workshop, and you can easily track registration and attendance, chats, votes, and replay views.
Also, as a web-based platform, learners don’t need to download an app – so they won’t experience any barriers or delays to joining your classes.
Create and record compelling online courses easily
Scale your learning program by creating engaging webinars for your students.
Wooclap is an e-learning engagement app you can use during classes and presentations to encourage learner participation with messaging, interactive questions, and activities, like polls, brainstorming, and open questions with dynamic word clouds.
To create quizzes and activities with Wooclap, you go into the app and use its user-friendly exercise builder, where you can add PDFs, slides, or Keynotes. Learners then use the app on their smartphones to complete your exercises.
Instructors often use Wooclap for its assortment of question styles, competitive elements, and instant learner feedback, which all help to add variety to classes and reinforce understanding in a fun way.
Kahoot! is a gamification app so you can introduce quizzes, polls, brainstorming, and word clouds into your classes or training sessions.
Learners or attendees can work individually or in teams on their personal devices to complete your activities, which can include theme music as well as an array of fun options for designs and images.
Kahoot! is a fun tool, easy to incorporate into class (especially if you use it regularly), and a great way to assess learners without stressing them out.
Google Classroom has evolved to become an LMS as well as a VLE that’s aimed squarely at academic institutions rather than for business training use cases.
Within a campus or department, each teacher can have their own Google Classroom, where they can add assignments, quizzes, and materials along with other course information. Students then use a unique code to enter classes, where there is teacher-student messaging, and user-friendly integrations with the G Suite ecosystem of apps and services, like Google Docs, Drive, Slides, and YouTube.
Easy to access from any smartphone, tablet, or laptop, Google Classroom works best for asynchronous online learning.
Docebo is a comprehensive virtual classroom software built for enterprises with functionality geared towards targeting specific audiences and marketing.
Instructors can create unique training courses or import old e-learning content from a previous LMS, with the platform supporting a wide range of approaches to online learning, including webinars, gamification, microlearning, and virtual classrooms.
With its multi-product suite of tools, Docebo is a great option for enterprises that want formalized training programs they can customize and brand.
Edmodo is an LMS and VLE with a Facebook-style interface. Once you’ve created a class within the platform, you can create assignments and quizzes, then invite students or parents to join with a code or email.
Students can then find your resources and complete assignments and activities within the platform, as well as ask you questions, and interact with other students.
Edmodo may not have the comprehensive functionality of other LMS’s, but it’s very user-friendly and so a great option for schools that don’t have the resources to integrate a more complex platform into their systems.
Blackboard is a VLE that includes an instructor's app for easy-to-follow workflows, grading tools, and on-the-go course management. The platform also comes with in-built communication tools, progress tracking, and anti-plagiarism software, while students can benefit from announcements, push notifications, and synchronous collaboration.
Blackboard’s video chat options with features such as digital whiteboards, polls, and breakout rooms, are useful integrations that instructors can use for creative lesson planning.
Moodle is a wide-ranging VLE and LMS, which can be used for course administration and resources deployment, with chats, forums, in-platform quizzes, assignment grading, and surveys.
Moodle is a powerful, highly customizable platform, but works as server-based software that requires a level of IT expertise that not all institutions or businesses will have available.
Once a business or institution does have Moodle set up, though, its range of learning materials, options for testing and assessment, and instructor forums make it a great tool for facilitating teacher development.
Skillshare is an online learning community where teachers can create a profile, develop and share their own resources and classes. The VLE platform is mostly focused on courses for designers, writers, illustrators, and other creatives, but it also includes business categories for analytics, leadership, and marketing.
Mainly based on video courses, Skillshare also gives learners access to worksheets and other assignments. Though you can use the platform to provide learners with feedback, the platform largely consists of static, asynchronous courses with little instructor-learner interaction – so it’s great for independent learning, and for getting ideas for lessons plans and activities.
Adobe Captivate is an authoring tool for instructors to design their own training materials and courses. Examples of the kind of resources you can create with Adobe Captivate include interactive e-learning slides, interactive videos with PowerPoint content, virtual-reality walkthroughs, and multi-module branched courses.
E-learning can give you enormous flexibility and control over your classes, but if you’re to create fun interactive materials, easily share multimedia resources, and interact fluidly with your learners, you need the right online teaching tools.
VLE and LMS platforms give you a place to manage courses and provide a central hub for all your assignments, but the virtual classroom relies on video conferencing software and in-class engagement.
Some engagement tools give you the chance to supplement a blended learning experience with fun apps for quizzes and gamification, which learners can access with their laptops or smartphones. But for a fully integrated, engaging virtual class, learners need a video engagement platform.Some engagement tools give you the chance to supplement a blended learning experience with fun apps for quizzes and gamification, which learners can access with their laptops or smartphones. But for a fully integrated, engaging virtual class, learners need a video engagement platform.
And once you have the best online tools and features in place, there’s nothing to stop you from delivering the best online learning experiences for all your students.
The best free online teaching tool is a video engagement platform that combines video conferencing technology with engagement features like polls, question upvotes, reaction emojis, and automated event replays. Livestorm’s free plan includes all its features.
The best online teaching tools are intuitive to use and engaging for learners. LMS and VLE platforms allow teachers and administrators to manage courses while providing a central hub for assignments, while a video engagement platform like Livestorm acts as the virtual classroom with fun interactive engagement features for a dynamic learning experience.
The most effective online teaching tools are easy to use for both instructors and learners, providing a natural virtual space for teacher-student interaction, with engagement features for focused, collaborative learning.