As educational institutions settle into the new normal, some teachers have had difficulty adjusting to online classes. This new normal in education requires several integral parts to maintain the educational framework and the effectiveness of content modality to ensure student learning is facilitated. Synchronous live classes are often an essential element in online classes, but they are not and should not be the only teaching method for your modules.
Rather than live synchronous classes being the end-all and be-all for communicating information to class, they are a supplementary tool that can be utilized to further student engagement and understanding of certain content. Ideally, as educators, we would use live synchronous classes sparingly (studies show that the ideal duration of live classes should not exceed 1.5 hours). Additionally, we should be giving our students a 10-minute break in between our live sessions to rejuvenate attention and interest, as well as to process the information that you have introduced throughout the session. Based on my personal experience, these classes can get really overwhelming in terms of content, which causes mental fatigue for the lecturer and the students, so please be aware of these possible repercussions.
Online Live Class Tools
When the pandemic shifted into full-gear, several companies realized the need for educators to be able to continue delivering their content. Education should be able to operate despite the circumstances surrounding it, and whether you agree with the new normal or not, I think we can all acknowledge the importance of education in forming people and building values. These live class applications have adapted to the ‘new normal’ quite effectively, as they are able to add features necessary for educators and students to be able to adapt to the shift in modality of education. Below are some of my favorite applications to deliver my online live classes:
Zoom is probably one of the most, if not, the most utilized platform when it comes to online classes. It is a feature-heavy application with a user-friendly interface. It is composed of several life-saving features, such as sharescreen, record function, breakout rooms (premium), and security features (to avoid the so-called ‘zoom bombing’.)
Although Zoom has a free option, it can be limiting due to the 40-minute session limitation. If your institution allows, it’s best to avail of the premium license, which allows a myriad of features plus unlimited sessions. Finally, what makes Zoom such an incredible online live class tool is the value of control it gives to both the students, as well as the host (in this case, the teacher).
Our favorite search engine, Google, introduced Google Meet, as part of the G Suite package (available for free) to cater to the needs of different industries for continuous operation despite the pandemic. Education has indeed benefited from this initiative, as Google ensures that their applications are easy to learn and provides limitless accessibility, while lowering barriers to entry. They even provide training for every G Suite component to make their applications accessible and user-friendly.
Google Meet is an online live synchronous tool that utilizes the Google platform. It boasts the convenience of simply accessing your Gmail, plus knowing the Gmail of the participants (in this case, the students). Since Google is a widely accessed platform, there is an advantage in terms of its ease of access for both students and educators.
In terms of features, Google Meet matches Zoom with its varietal features. Although there are some features absent in Google Meet, such as private chats and breakout rooms, unless you have addons in your Chrome browser, the output will generally be on the same level with Zoom.
Discord, although not a video-chatting application, utilizes both voice-chat and chat room functions. It basically performs like a podcast (but with feedback), wherein communication is done through voice-chatting and live chats. However, what makes Discord special is that as a gaming application, it’s a widely accessed platform for millennials and generation Z gamers. I personally use this application to talk to my friends both through its voice-chat function (synchronous) and chat rooms (asynchronous). It also boasts some classroom life-saving features, such as screen sharing and recording functions during screenshare. It is also constantly updated to cater not only gamers, but to other industries due to the demand of this pandemic.
Why would I recommend a voice-chat application as a tool for live synchronous class session? It’s simple, to circumvent the nonverbal difficulties we experience during live sessions. You see, with the innovation of live video-chatting applications, comes a different myriad of problems, especially in the field of nonverbal communication. Internet connectivity, intimidation factors, self-esteem on camera, etc. There have been so many issues on the side of both students and educators that could be detrimental to the process of shifting to online classes. I consider a voice-chatting application a safe haven to avoid these issues. Discord’s voice-chatting capabilities on a casual and user-friendly platform helps mitigate some of the issues mentioned above.
There are other applications out there, but this list contains the applications that I personally use and would recommend to any teacher who is looking for an online platform to conduct their classes. Again, with the shift in modality of education, online synchronous live classes should not be the only means of delivering our content but work in tandem with other methods to further our overall learning outcomes.