Distance learning tools have become a reality for students as young as elementary age. At the college and high school level, distance learning has become commonplace as a way for students to have more flexible schedules and effectively combine their home and work obligations with their education commitments.
Between 1998 and 2008, the number of college students opting into distance education has grown by 150%. The Instructional Technology Council reports that two-thirds (64%) of full-time faculty and one-third (35%) of part-time faculty at community colleges now teach distance education classes. According to the U.S. Department of Education, by the year 2020 it is projected that about 1 in 5 undergraduate students will receive as much as 80% of their education through online courses.
With the rapid demand and availability of online learning, it follows that helping students experience and manage distance learning tools in preparation for their college education and careers is important.
These are the 5 top distance learning tools of 2017.
iTunes U: Apple has been a long-time staple in the education community. iTunes U is no exception. It has an intuitive interface that people have come to expect from Apple products. It allows educators to load their teaching materials into the system and create lessons and assignments. It allows educators to pull interactive content from iTune’s library of apps, podcasts, and videos into one interactive lesson plan. Students then get access to assignments and complete and submit them online. iTunes U includes a grade management tool that collects assignments into a clean digital interface and then allows teachers to grade them on their apple device. Educators can see analytics for individual students and assignments, and the entire class. It’s a remarkable ecosystem for digital course management for grade school or college level instruction.
SmartBuilder: SmartBuilder is an online course authoring product for educators. It’s streamlined for 100% e-learning. SmartBuilder is used by many companies for training purposes, and has a reputation for being user friendly. The interface is easy to navigate and is compatible with Windows or Mac. The system allows users to build templates, which is convenient for setting up multiple courses with a consistent theme. The system allows in-built testing/quizzing but does not have an interface for general assignment submission. This system is preferred for course content delivery and testing.
edX: edX was developed in 2012 by Harvard University and MIT as an online learning environment for universities. Today it offers over 1,300 courses with more than 10 million students enrolled. It’s a great training ground for high school students to supplement their classroom education and get their feet wet with distance learning. With courses covering nearly every subject from biology to graphic design, there is content that can enhance just about any course.
Scrible: Scrible is an online collaboration platform that allows students to interact and share content and participate together in learning and project planning. The platform allows for real time notes, comments, and annotations to be shared with the group. It’s a wonderful tool for collaborative research and projects.
Dropbox: Dropbox is already well-known and widely used in the business world, but its features are great for education as well. Dropbox is a cloud based storage system. In addition to having folders where students can download course materials or upload documents, it also allows for real time editing and collaboration. Groups can work on a document together with everyone’s notes and edits tracked within the online interface. Educators and students can also share documents one-on-one for individualized feedback and revisions. This is a staple that can make receiving assignments – particularly written assignments and graphics – much easier.