What it is: Tomorrow I launch my virtual classroom and honestly, I am a little nervous! It is like the first day of school; everything is carefully planned, all the resources are ready to go, and the students are enrolled and have received their welcome packet. But, there is still that anticipation and sense of dread that all that careful planning won’t be enough…that something unexpected will happen that will force me to think on my feet. Really, isn’t that what teaching (and learning) ends up being every day? 🙂 I am using two tools to host my virtual classroom that I wanted to share here. Even if you teach in a traditional classroom, these tools offer the ability to expand your school day and provide your students more of a hybrid learning model.
Edu 2.0 is the first tool. I first wrote about and started using Edu 2.0 in 2007. The tool has only gotten better with time! Edu 2.0 is an outstanding alternative to Moodle or Blackboard as an online Learning Management System (LMS). It is completely free to use, multilingual (it auto translates messages!), allows you to teach public or private classes, gives each student an online portfolio, includes a full gradebook, allows you to create curricula and track proficiencies, transcripts of all student grades, tracks attendance, includes forums and wikis, online quizzes, create and track to-do lists, completely web-based, mobile with a free iPhone app, tracks analytics, teach multiple sessions of the same class, upload and access over 15,000+ online resources, parent involvement, define and measure proficiencies, integration with popular web widgets, real-time chat, custom RSS feeds for your class, Calendars, private (designed with students in mind), create and share lessons, provide conditional pathways in lessons (you have to pass one assignment or class before moving onto the next), rubrics, groups, debates, messaging, public and private blogs, surveys, multimedia, and pdf integration. That is a long list but it really doesn’t even scratch the surface of what Edu 2.0 can do. This is your one stop shop for a LMS whether you are in need of one for a district, a school, or for your individual classroom. It is relatively easy to learn and has fantastic tutorials, guides, and support. The biggest challenge that I have with Edu 2.0 is navigation, not because it is difficult, but because it is so comprehensive!
Vyew is the second tool I am using for my virtual classroom. Vyew is an online meeting room that is simple to use. The free version is the one I am using, premium versions are well priced and offer increased options and capacity. Vyew allows up to 10 students to participate in a room at a time. Teachers can create and upload course content for real-time and anytime collaborative learning. Vyew is a lot like Elluminate but doesn’t require any downloads, it runs completely inside the web browser. This makes it a really easy virtual meeting option for students as they aren’t required to do a lot of extra prep. The authoring area of Vyew is easy to use, it is a lot like creating a PowerPoint presentation with slides. Vyew allows for external publishing which means that you can embed the finished presentation on your Edu 2.0 site for those who couldn’t attend the live Vyew session. Vyew supports a HUGE amount of files including video, pdf, PowerPoint, swf, and many more. It also allows for real-time desktop sharing which means that all of your students can see what you are doing on your computer as if you were sitting side by side! There is a built-in screen capture tool for making step by step tutorials. Both students and teacher have whiteboard drawing tools for on-screen collaboration. Embedded comments let you include information on the page to be expanded. Vyew lets you communicate with VOIP (voice over IP), webcam (all 10 can use the webcam!), free tele-conferencing with a unique phone number provided, and voice notes (voice recording embedded in on-screen sticky notes). This is such a simple to use virtual meeting room and it’s features are among the best.
I am using both edu 2.0 and Vyew together for my virtual classroom. I felt I needed an online meeting room where I could create meetings on the fly because this class is being held completely online. I am working with students in third through eighth grade and teaching a 5 week digital storytelling class. We will be working together to discover the power of story, and how to use different digital mediums to tell a great story. I am offering this class to everyone but advertised specifically to the students I used to teach for the first virtual classroom. I did this for a few reasons: parent requests, as a way to stay connected to my students, and I knew what technology skills they had already learned.
How to integrate Edu 2.0 and Vyew Virtual Classrooms into your classroom: Creating a hybrid classroom is an incredible gift to your students. It offers them the ability to connect with you outside the hours of the school day, and on their own terms. It gives students time to review content, interact with other students, and learn at their own pace. Virtual options provide a whole new dimension to learning. Use a virtual classroom to: extend your classroom and teaching, tutor students individually, offer courses to home school families, connect your students with other classrooms, record in-class learning for students who are absent or have a long-term illness. There are hundreds of ways that taking your classroom online can benefit your students. Taking your classroom online gives parents an additional way to be involved in their child’s education and goes one step better, allows them to learn along side their child. Have a tough new math curriculum that parents are lamenting? Offer a virtual parent university where parents can learn more about how to help their child with the new learning. Have teachers that need professional development but can’t find the time? Use Edu 2.0 for learning on demand. Edu 2.0 can be utilized as a classroom online learning solution, or as a school or district wide learning management system. Use Vyew for live meetings with your students. Make yourself available in a Vyew room at the same time every day for additional academic help.
Tips: You can offer your virtual classes for free or charge depending on their purpose. I wouldn’t charge for a virtual classroom that was an extension to my regular classroom, but you might charge for tutoring or specialized classes. I am charging for my class and treating it as an after school club. Edu 2.0 allows you to charge for a class with checkout support using Paypal or credit cards.
Please leave a comment and share how you are using Edu 2.0 and Vyew Virtual Classrooms in your classroom!