3 Tech Tools to Increase Participation in Virtual Discussions

Perhaps one of the most attractive features of online learning is its potential for more effectively engaging a diverse student population. But even though online learning environments can flatten many of the social hierarchies that create challenges for some students in face-to-face classrooms, creating engaging virtual environments where students can connect to fellow classmates and participate in meaningful discussions remains a challenge for many faculty. Discussion boards are a key means of encouraging peer interaction in an online class, but too often, discussion boards are often set up in a standard question/response format, and fail to bring students into engaging dialogue. In this blog post, I want to introduce you to some easy-to-use tech tools have the potential to solve this problem, by providing exciting and innovative ways for virtual discussion to take place and increasing student engagement. Read below to learn more about three tech tools that can be especially interesting for students: Padlet, Flipgrid, and Yellowdig.

  1. Padlet: Padlet is an exciting collaborative tool great for group work, projects, and discussions that’s free for educators and students. You can start by creating a simple visual board, and then students can easily add to the board in a variety of ways including video, images, screen recordings, audio recordings, links, and text. Asking a general guiding question and then leaving the response open-ended for the students can be a great way to stimulate discussions and allow students to respond creatively and in a variety of formats. What’s more, Padlet is easy to embed into a LMS page – simply click on the share button, copy the embed code, and paste it into your LMS page by opening the HTML editor (just look for the button that’s labeled with “<>.”)
  • 2. Flipgrid: Flipgrid is a great tool that enables instructors to create video discussion boards. Educators can kick off discussions with a short video outlining the discussion question, and then students can easily respond and debate with each other by recording their own short videos. The focus on a video format introduces a more personal feeling into the virtual classroom by enabling students to see and hear each other, as opposed to an entirely text-based discussion. Like Padlet, Flipgrid is free, and easy to link out to or embed.
  • 3. Finally, Yellowdig: Yellowdig is a discussion board tool that can be integrated with Canvas, Blackboard, and other learning managment systems. Yellowdig includes social media features, such as the ability for learners and instructors to @mention each other in comments and posts, hyperlink articles, share videos, like posts, bookmark comments, and #hashtag content. Yellowdig also has a gamification feature, which can automatically track users’ points by monitoring how much they interact with the discussion. The points feature can encourage learners to engage with the discussion and interact beyond minimum requirements. By adding in these new features, Yellowdig is easy to use and engaging for both instructors and students, and can be a step up from the standard LMS discussion boards.

Online discussions are crucial to online learning, and the digital nature of these discussion means that instructors can test out innovative technologies that support student engagement within the context of a totally online space. Padlet, Flipgrid, and Yellowdig are three tech tools that can encourage engaging peer interaction and creative responses. However, the most important means of creating a welcoming and interesting environment for students will always be creative teaching and genuine care for students. By continuing to look for ways to foster human connection in digital spaces, online classes can be the incredible learning experience that they have the potential to be!

Author’s Bio: Chana Goldberg is currently the Presidential Fellow of Online Education at Touro College. She enjoys reading, exploring New York City, and researching education-related topics.

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.

7 Not-So-Common Reasons Why I Love Teaching Online

The following is a guest post by Holly Owens, Assistant Director of Instructional Design with Online Education at Touro College and University System. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us

This post was originally published on the Touro College Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning Blog, a blog dedicated to exploring best practices in higher education. You can find a link to it here.

Listen to “Seven Not-So-Common Reasons Why I Love Teaching Online”

Recently I was reading Aaron Johnson’s book, Excellent Online Teaching: Effective Strategies for a Successful Semester Online, and began reflecting on all the planning and time that goes into creating an online course. I have been teaching online since 2012 and hadn’t yet thought about why I do it. Of course, I love teaching, but why do I love teaching online? Yes, sitting at home in my pajamas with a cup of hot cocoa and saving on gas are pluses, but the reality of online courses, as anyone who has built or taught one knows, is that it takes an immense amount of time and multiple iterations to develop a really “good” online course.

Here are 7 not-so-common reasons why I loving teaching online:

Reason 1: I Like to Fail- Failure is not a feeling that everyone is comfortable with – I’m certainly not most of the time – but just as in a face-to-face classroom, some of your online lessons will fail. These failures become teachable and reflective moments for you as the educator. Admit to yourself and your students that the lesson, or module, did not go as you planned and try to do better the next time. Honestly, it all works out in the end, and your students will see you as human.

Reason 2: Growth as an Educator-Online teaching has taught me a thing, or two, about who I am as an educator. It has pushed me to be a better educator in the sense that I want to create a safe, diverse, and welcoming environment for all students: a place for all of us to learn and grow without the stigma surrounding failure.

Reason 3: It is Fun-I know what you are thinking-Did she really say it’s fun, and mention earlier it takes a lot of time to plan for online? Well, yes, I did say it is fun to teach online, and I mean it. Once you get past all the stages of planning, designing, modifying, and deploying the course, you find that you and your students actually can have fun and learn at the same time (Yes, really!).

Example from my course: The use of Zoom breakout rooms has really afforded the opportunity in my online synchronous course to have students do virtual group work. I put them in breakout rooms (a feature of Zoom) and assign each group a task to tackle. They then share their findings later with the other students. The beauty of this tool is I have the ability to jump in and out of the breakout rooms and check on students, which is the same thing I would be doing if I was deploying this activity in a face-to-face course.

Reason 4: I Want to Change Perceptions About Online Learning-I am sure you have heard some of the common misconceptions about teaching online, such as “online learning is inferior to that of face-to-face instruction,” or, “students do not learn as much in an online setting as they do in a classroom.” These misconceptions come from a place of misunderstandingfor those who have never genuinely experienced learning in an online setting, and it couldn’t be further from the truth. Online teaching and learning opens up a world of endless possibilities where you can reach students from all walks of life and change their lives!

Reason 5: It Is Personable-Online students are really unique and have an extensive amount of life experience. Many choose online courses because they want to learn, and otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do so. I find that by the end of the semester, my students and I have really developed a friendly little community of trust and respect for one another. The semester eventually ends, but former students will often reach out to me to say hi, or to tell me that they landed their dream job, and as an educator this is particularly rewarding.

Reason 6: It Just Keeps Getting Better-With technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), virtual and augmented realities (AR & VR) making their way into the education world, the possibilities of what you can do in an online setting are growing exponentially. Can you imagine having students perform a mock surgery together using augmented reality and submit their work for review and critique? So many exciting things can happen in a virtual setting, especially when you support it with the use of technology.

Reason 7: Pushing My Creative Limits- Remember what I said above about liking to fail? Well, out of these failures, I have created the most engaging and creative learning experiences online. I ask myself, can technology help here? What can I do differently? How can I get my students to understand this content and apply it to their lives? Online teaching has pushed me outside of my comfort zone and allowed me to create some genuinely magical modules and this is why I love teaching online.

Author’s Bio: Holly Owens is the Assistant Director of Instructional Design with Online Education at Touro College and University System. You can find her on LinkedIn here.

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.

5 Mistakes to Look Out For As An Online Student

The following is a guest post by Ellie Coverdale, a tutor and content creator. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us

Technology is at the stage today where all sorts of different areas of life are being handled over the internet. From grocery shopping to visiting the doctor, the power of the internet is immense. One such area is education. Online education courses have actually been around for many years now, but in recent years there’s been a marked increase in the quality and quantity of what’s being achieved. Some online educational courses are now easily rivaling and even bettering classroom learning and other traditional methods of education. As a method that is still somewhat unorthodox, and certainly nowhere near as explored as the traditional routes, there are things that you need to be careful about with online studies. So, without further ado, let’s look at some of the mistakes you should be avoiding as an online student.

1. Failing to Properly Manage your Time

There’s something so convenient and easy about the idea of online education and, subsequently, it can feel like a method you can adopt without upsetting the rhythms of your life elsewhere. However, this is most certainly the wrong attitude to have. Online education is as important, in terms of the hours you put in, as in the classroom education. And whilst you might be cutting out the commute, there’ s no reason why you shouldn’t be scheduling in a detailed way when you’re at your computer studying and when you don’t have to be. The convenient nature to it makes it so easy to procrastinate. Suddenly you find yourself at 3am watching the lecture you were supposed to watch that afternoon, all because you didn’t manage your time formally and efficiently.

2. Not Firming Up Technical Capacities

Before leaping into your new online course or degree, there are a few things you need to look out for from a technical standpoint. One of the most important of these is making sure you have all of the technical specifications that you need for your device to be able to cope with the programs and processes that you will be running as part of your degree. Having a slow running computer, or, even worse, slow internet could really cripple your ability to complete live tasks. Often online education courses will make you stream live lectures or need to have many different pages and sites open at one time. These sorts of technical pressures can turn online education into a nightmare if you can’t meet them. So get prepared.

3. Always Being Isolated

It’s easy to just be on your own all the time when in online education. It’s one of those mixed blessings. On the one hand, it’s nice to be alone and, for some, it can help you focus better on the material at hand. On the other hand, communal learning has its real benefits and having someone who you can ask questions to or discuss topics with really enhances education. You shouldn’t aim for total isolation in your online course, try and find ways to work around others sometimes. Or, failing that, you should try and Skype or video chat with another student as you do the course together.

4. Allowing Temptation To Creep In

Online learning requires discipline, simple as that. A computer can be used for all sorts of things, a great percentage of which are entertainment oriented. When your computer is also your school, there’s definitely a sense in which it is extremely easy to get distracted on Facebook or YouTube, especially since there’s no-one to stop you. Consider using a site blocker if you have a problem.

5. Not Participating

It’s easy to be in online education and to just sit back and be a passive observer of events. Just because you’re not actually being distracted or procrastinating, doesn’t mean that you don’t need to do more than simply be present. Actively engage, ask questions and try your hardest.

Conclusion

Online education presents a wonderful opportunity to people from all sorts of different parts of the world and from all walks of life to come together, through the power of the internet, and get a really good education from their own homes. Just look out for these pitfalls and you should be fine!

Author’s Bio: Ellie Coverdale works as a tutor and blogger. She loves sharing her insights and tips on authentic, meaningful psychological routes towards learning with her readers. She also contributes to https://studydemic.com/

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.

Do Learning Management Systems Actually Improve K-12 Outcomes?

The following is a guest post by Ehsan Memari, a blogger for SkyPrep, a provider of leading online training software. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us

Today, organizations and academic institutes require robust and strategic learning management systems (LMS) that can automate manual processes of traditional tools. Effective learning management systems can empower departments and enable business growth, as well as further educational initiatives.

Over the years, LMS has become a vital tool to achieve enterprise learning objectives. It is no wonder the LMS market will be worth $22.4 billion by 2023. Learning management systems, for instance, can be used in several formats. You can use it as a formal, experimental, or social managerial compliance training program.

Moreover, the role of eLearning to generate revenue for enterprises continues to evolve. LMS personalizes feedback to promote a self-regulating learning process. In fact, LMS has been proven to increase the effectiveness of students’ and employees’ learning outcomes.

The Evolving Role of the Learning Management System

A revolutionary change in the LMS is the contextualization of the learning process for teachers and employers. The right LMS can enable increased interaction between instructors and learners. Consequently, a collaborative virtual learning experience improves outcomes for online learners.

Adoption of LMS by K-12 Schools

It is true – the skepticism towards LMS no longer exists. And why would it? The majority of institutions have successfully implemented the systems in higher education to improve student’s learning process. Similarly, LMS is now widely used by K-12 schools. It does, however, present an opportunity for researchers to learn the standardized testing process at such a scale.

What’s interesting is that the adoption of an LMS solution goes beyond higher standardized test scores. However, this effectiveness is interconnected with the cost and nature of the system itself. For example, an education system should have a proprietary system configuration, while an open-source solution is preferable for an organization.

Accurate Analytical Data

The success of an LMS solution is no longer determined or promoted because of favorable testimonials on a company’s website. Instead, analytical data presented in a study by Royce Kimmons shows that the open-mindedness of schools and organizations have led to result-oriented computer programs. As a result, LMS adoption has been found to have a strong link with school’s test scores.

Kimmons essentially wrote a computer program to determine if a K-12 school adopted a specific LMS. This program scanned every page of the school’s website for several keywords associated with the LMS. He involved many human researchers to test the accuracy of his program, who searched a limited number of school websites. 

Unlike the human researchers, the computer program was able to identify about twice as many systems. However, after additional investigation, the human researchers successfully confirmed about 97% of the info provided by Kimmon’s program.

Overall, Kimmon discovered that the adoption of a LMS had a slight, but statistically significant, positive effect on test scores.

Responsiveness of the Solution

It is imperative to understand that the positive effects vary from system to system. Nonetheless, the statistical data shouldn’t be the sole decision-making parameter for institutions to understand the constructive cause-and-effective relationship of LMSs.

Tracking and Reporting

Primarily, LMS has been deemed more efficient when it comes to tracking and reporting features. An integrated LMS solution can determine criteria and designated time to complete the task for improving the training efforts. You can apply the same LMS reporting rules when students or employees want to revisit specific topics to gain more information.

Change of Perception

Sure, people and official authorities may cling to preconceived beliefs. But the fact remains that modern online LMS solution increases your chances of improvement and achievement. Therefore, the implementation of new technology into a school or organization wouldn’t hurt the management or the regulated policies.

Ultimately, it comes down to schools’ willingness to move forward in one direction with an open-source LMS solution to garner better results. The outcome of the LMS can have a different impact because of the graduation rates and instructional methods.

What Lies in the Future?

As of now, xAPI has become a norm for the eLearning process among academic institutes. From data personalization to tracking progress, organizations have come to realize the true usefulness of learning management systems.

It is only fair that more development should be enforced to confirm more findings. Why? To create strong LMS features within the same technological infrastructure. As more institutions will be moving to an online management solution, it is important to find out exactly which strategic methods are most effective for the management.

Whether it’s the flow of information, data security, or maintenance of the network; learning management systems can undoubtedly deliver. Similarly, the cost-benefit ratio and scalability options have worked in favor of improving the outcome. Your choice of online training software, however, should be based on whether or not it covers your business’ needs in a limited time period.

The dilemma of choosing between an open-source or cloud-based LMS solution will also shrink. Though open-source is preferable by programmers and has a long history, the focus of attention should be the added features for your business.

Conclusion

Effective eLearning solutions are ideal for organizations that tirelessly operate under certain budget constraints. Besides, there’s an extensive amount of online material businesses can use to take care of the maintenance and functionality issues.

And using learning management systems for education means you get extensive community support on forums. Think of learning management systems as a stand-alone solution that can provide free online features and courses. It’s a tool that can modify and enhance user performance for good.

Author’s Bio: Ehsan Memari is a blogger for SkyPrep, a provider of leading online training software for organizations to train employees’ partners and customers. Ehsan is a regular contributor to blog posts related to knowledge sharing, L&D, and eLearning. Follow him on Twitter @ehsanmemari

5 Ways Online Learning Can Benefit Special Needs Learners

The following is a guest post by Gabe Nelson, a home tutor who specializes in working with diverse learners. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us

Often times when considering how to best help students with learning differences, people turn to extra one-on-one help like with home tutoring. And while that can certainly be beneficial at times it can be only too easy to overlook resources they have right in their own home with internet access. 

Being able to learn online, either as a supplement for the classroom or as the primary educational resource can be especially beneficial to students who would like to pursue a higher education degree but still require individualized support. 

With “special needs” being an all-encompassing term that includes those with physical disabilities, are neurodiverse as well as those with suspected or diagnosed learning disabilities. It may seem like online learning and home tutoring may be better suited for one type of need over another when the truth is, online learning and home tutoring can offer a great support for anyone. 

If you still find yourself unsure as to the many benefits that online learning can have for special needs learners here are five great advantages to this underutilized educational option. 

Flexibility

There really isn’t a typical day for students who are diagnosed with ADHD, sensory processing disorders or other learning differences, and therefore the flexibility that comes from the ability to learn online can be a real lifesaver for those who want to get a great education but struggle with finding the balance in a typical educational setting. 

The true flexibility of online learning is that the work will be there for students when it works into their schedule and day. For those who may attend therapy centers and have frequent doctor’s appointments, the flexible atmosphere of online learning can help them avoid having to miss out on days on school and potential truancy issues that may result. 

Students with ADHD and other conditions can struggle with the ability to focus for extended periods of time, but when they are enrolled in a virtual classroom, they have the opportunity to move around when needed as well as being able to complete their work in a familiar setting that can cause fewer distractions for their brains to process through.  

For students who have struggled to find the balance between having their Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) or 504 Education Plans recognized and followed in high school, choosing an online learning path is a no brainer since the control is in the hands of each individual. Certain requests, such as untimed tests may still need to be accommodated, but online learning is better equipped to be flexible. 

No Travel Needed

Because online learning can occur from home, health compromised individuals can learn from a safe space without running the risk of being exposed to germs that could seriously harm them. It is also possible that if a student needed to be hospitalized for an extended period of time, they could complete the work so long as they had internet access. 

In a regular educational setting, a student may fall behind when they are unable to travel but with online learning, they can feel like they are part of a community and have the chance to form connections with others even when their physical limitations restrict how many people they can be around. 

Being able to learn from anywhere is a huge benefit that online learning brings to the community at large, and while it is often thought of for those who travel frequently it should not be overlooked for members of the community who for one reason or another are unable to make it into a classroom setting. 

Pacing Themselves

Simply because a student has special needs does not necessarily mean they aren’t academically advanced. It can be hard for these students to articulate their want to be challenged especially when paired with teachers who can’t overlook any secondary behavior issues or needs to recognize their intellect. 

Online learning offers the extremely beneficial option of being able to set their own pace. Whether they are highly motivated and would like to work ahead, or need the time and space to go a little slower than a typical classroom setting would allow, working online can give these students the chance to work at their own pace without a classroom 

Materials Tailored to Students

The right learning option can be tailored to suit whatever a student needs.  For instance, getting text-to-speech resources in a traditional classroom setting may be complicated but with assignments and texts available for online resources they may already be optimized to run through a specific program a student may prefer. 

It can be frustrating for students to feel as though they aren’t progressing the way they expect to, but online learning makes it easy for a student to reach out and ask for one-on-one coaching or instruction while saving them the embarrassment of standing out in front of a group. There is no reason a student needs to stand out as different when they are learning online. 

When the material is online as a video this also makes it possible for students to watch it many times until they can completely comprehend the subject matter, this wouldn’t be possible in other situations making the online classroom setup an excellent 

Appropriate Social Skills

While you may not immediately think of social skills being a benefit of online learning, certainly through group chats, video conferences and message boards students can build positive social interactions without some of the anxiety that in-person communication can bring to a situation. 

Knowing how to communicate appropriately online is going to be an excellent skill to have especially with the progress of communication online. With more people forming communities online, having multiple forums to participate in is only going to enhance their social skills further and help the students learn how to interact online safely. 

Group projects are a great way for students to engage and work together, building their problem-solving skills and helping them learn how to work as a team, all skills that may be more difficult or produce anxiety symptoms during an in-person class. Through the safety of their computers, they can learn these valuable skills in a way previously avoided for some students.

Conclusion 

When looking for a higher education course for students with special needs it is a wonderful idea to consider looking for online classes. Not only will it give students the potential and freedom to function without being limited by their extra requirements but it allows them to blend in with the rest of the students which may be a real relief for some. 

With so many benefits to learning online extending to everyone and not just those who have different learning needs, it isn’t any surprise that educational options have extended to online course work at a higher educational level. If you may need special accommodations on some level for your coursework, online learning is an option worth considering.  

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.

Gamification and Game-Based Learning

The following is a guest post by Mary Colbert, a content creator specializing in education. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us

When discussing gamification and game-based learning there is often some confusion as to how they differ. Many people use the terms interchangeably but they are not the same. However they are often linked together so it isn’t always easy to separate them.

What is Game-Based Learning?

Game-Based Learning or GBL is using a game as part of the learning process. Some examples of GBL could be using monopoly to teach the basics of money management or playing scrabble to help improve vocabulary skills. However, today when people talk about game-based learning they are usually referring to digital game-based learning. Game-based learning teaches through repetition, failure and the accomplishment of goals which is basically the way players become good at video games.

What is Gamification?

In education gamification is the introduction of game-like elements into the learning environment to help motivate students and make the process more engaging. This is accomplished by taking some of the elements that make games fun and that motivate people to keep playing and using those elements in a learning situation. Some examples of gamification include:

  • Points/Badges : The use of points and badges provides tangible evidence of accomplishment
  • Immediate Feedback: Fast response to actions that are taken rather than waiting for a paper to be graded.
  • Levels/Quests: Provide missions and goals to be accomplished
  • Leveling Up: Indication of achievement and opening up of new missions, badges and activities
  • Collaboration/Teamwork: Accomplish a goal working with others

Although gamification involves using elements from games it doesn’t necessarily include playing games.

Benefits of Gamification and Game-Based Learning

Game-based learning and gamification have been around for a number of years at the elementary and high school level. More recently it has been making its way into higher education as it offers a number of benefits to students:

  • Increased engagement: One of the most touted benefits of gamification is that it increases student engagement. Studies have shown that adding game-like features in non-game context increases student engagement. Increasing engagement also leads to greater retention as students relate better to material through practice rather than just reading or listening to a lecture.
  • Instant feedback: Receiving feedback immediately through dashboards and leaderboards tends to motivate students. They can view how they perform relative to their peers, which will often motivate them to retry tests and activities to achieve a better ranking. It also provides motivation to move ahead to further lessons.
  • Collaboration/Social Connection: For some students it isn’t easy to create connections with others in their class. Gamifying classes helps promote social interaction and encourages students to work together. Team competition is an excellent way to promote student collaboration.
  • Increase enthusiasm: For some students just learning is enough to generate enthusiasm but for many that is not the case. Gamification helps to generate more enthusiasm in students through badges and other types of rewards. It makes the learning process more fun for them.

Disadvantages of Gamification and Game-Based Learning

Gamification isn’t the perfect solution to every learning situation and there are some disadvantages.

  • Shortened attention spans: In some students the fast pace and immediate feedback can shorten attention span. It can also lead to discouragement with other parts of the student’s education that don’t provide that pace and feedback.
  • All about the competition: Students can become enamored with the competitive aspects of gamification and GBL and it becomes more about winning than learning.
  • Some students won’t be motivated: There will be some students that simply aren’t motivated by the gamification of learning. They may have some misconceptions about the process that prevent them from responding well to GBL. Other students may dislike the competitive nature of some aspects of gamification.

The gamification of a class or course doesn’t ensure it will be successful. How gamification is introduced will determine the type of impact that it has.

Gamified Education Online

Gamified education courses have already been introduced with great success online. Gamification and game-based learning work especially well with online education. The following are some examples of popular eLearning sites that use gamification successfully:

  • Duolingo: Duolingo is a language learning website with over 300 million users. They teach 22 different languages and use gamification in every lesson to make learning a new language fun.
  • Khan Academy: Khan Academy is a well known educational website for match, science and other subjects that use gamification to encourage and motivate students. Each answer is immediately scored and points are given if correct. Badges are also awarded
  • TedEd: TedEd provides all types of videos that are both entertaining and educational. They also have a web app that allows users to make their own video lessons that are actionable.

There are all kinds of game-based learning tools and gamification platforms available to educators now. Without a doubt this seems to be the wave of the future in education.

 Author’s Bio: Mary Colbert is a huge fan of gaming in general. Not only is she fond of gaming as a form of entertainment, she is a firm believer in the educational benefits of playing games.

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.

5 Ways Online Students Can Create a Distraction-Free Study Zone

The following is a guest post by Bailey Caldwell, a freelance journalist specializing in education. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us

Studying is hard for everyone. It’s difficult to get into the groove and hit a stride and where you study makes all the difference. For online students, getting into the zone can be especially tough since they don’t have the discipline of attending class in-person or the freedom to study on campus.

If you’re an online student, you need to create a distraction-free space where you can focus, push yourself, and still relax. But don’t fret! We’re here to help.

Here are five tips to get you started.

  1. Dedicate a study space.
  2. Get rid of distractions. 
  3. Take brief breaks.
  4. Switch up your playlist.
  5. Invest in fast, reliable internet.

#1. Dedicate a Study Space

Designate a space in your home as your dedicated study zone. Instead of bouncing between your bed, kitchen, or desk, pick a single spot you reserve solely for studying. Over time, your brain will recognize that space as a place to study, and it’ll become more natural to concentrate.

To start, make your space appealing. Hang up inspirational quotes. Bring in lots of lights. Add a plant or two. Create a space that you want to be in. If your apartment is an icebox or sweltering sauna, pick up a portable heater or fan to make it more comfortable.

Even if you’re at home all day, following your routine and getting dressed in the morning will help you catch your groove easier. The act of changing your clothes and starting your day as you would typically helps wake up your brain and signal that it’s time to get moving.

#2. Get Rid of Distractions

A distraction-free study zone can help you retain more information and produce higher-quality work. The only problem? It’s especially tricky for online students since they decide their schedule.

To start, put your phone on airplane mode. Turn off your phone, unplug from social media, and go offline while you’re studying.

The flash of a new text or ping of a new notification can throw off even the best of students. Before you dive in, put your phone on airplane mode or Do Not Disturb mode. This will disable any calls, texts, or notifications and still let you use your phone as an aid while studying. 

If you’re studying at home, put down your gaming console, iPad, or any other distraction. Keep them in a separate room or stash them out of sight. If you’re heads-down in a public area like a library or coffee shop, put some headphones on and steer clear of noisy areas. Find a private room or distance yourself from the crowd.

#3. Take Brief Breaks

Once you’ve created the perfect study space, get out of it. No, seriously. Even if it’s a stroll over to the kitchen or a walk around the block, taking periodic breaks while you’re studying will help you be more productive.

But here’s the caveat: keep your breaks short. Longer breaks make you more likely to get distracted. The point of a break is to rejuvenate your mind so that you can go back into studying refreshed and refocused. Do something that takes five to fifteen minutes—take a walk, make some food, call your mom.

If you’re writing an essay, taking a break enables you to write better. Stepping away from your screen allows you to look at the piece again with fresh eyes. It also helps you establish a healthy cadence. The faster you go, the more likely you are to burn out.

#4. Switch Up Your Playlist 

Swap country music for classical music. Or acapella for ambient noises. Studies show that classical music is the best music for studying. Classical, instrumental, and ambient sounds can help people better focus, retain more information, and spark creativity.

A little Bach never hurt nobody, right?

Classical music also helps put you in a more relaxed and positive mood. So even if you’re stressed about an upcoming project or exam, classical tunes can help cool you off.

(Pro tip: If the thought of listening to Mozart’s symphony bores you, try searching for the instrumental version of the songs you like.)

#5. Invest in fast, reliable internet

A stable internet connection is paramount to success in an online course. Don’t let a buggy connection disrupt your flow (or grade). Prevent your internet from going down by investing in fast internet.

Even if you prefer to study outside your home, it’s always smart to invest in reliable internet since you never know when you’ll need it. Plus, you can’t always bank on a coffee shop or neighbor’s Wi-Fi.

It’s also smart to look at your laptop’s storage limit. Make sure your laptop has enough storage to handle everything from Science 3600 to English 101. If you’re continually saving documents or archiving lectures, you’ll need it.

Author’s Bio: Bailey is a freelance journalist whose work focuses on all things tech, cybersecurity, and internet. She enjoys researching and learning about new resources and technologies.

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.

5 Things to Consider Before Taking an Online Course

The following is a guest post by Emma Megan, a content creator specializing in education. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us

Introduction:

Technology has changed every aspect of our lives, and education is no exception. We’ve gone from learning through direct contact to acquiring knowledge from behind a laptop screen.

Online courses have revolutionized the convenience and affordability of education. Anyone who has limited finances and time can sign up for any online course that they’re interested in, but they should be sure to carefully consider the following things:

1. You will probably NEVER meet your professor

Online courses are designed to keep things simple and comfortable both for the students enrolled and the professors teaching the classes. Professors who teach online courses, record their lectures beforehand, and those lectures can be used to illustrate the same sequence for several years to come.

Just as a student takes online classes because of the lack of time and money, the professors have pretty much the same reasons to teach an online course. They don’t want additional pressure and stress from their side jobs; hence, you will hardly ever meet your professor.

If you are always seeking guidance and assurance, then you might not find it while taking online classes. Online courses are for people who are self-sufficient and independent, as well as for those who can comprehend instructions easily.

2. All online classes are not equal

Recently, online courses have experienced a growth spurt in their numbers. Now you can get a high school diploma online as well as a master’s degree without stepping a foot out of your house. All these courses offer something diverse, and they function differently from one another.

For instance, some online courses will require you to read and review chapters daily, while others will ask you to submit a written report every other day at 9 PM sharp. Not only the nature of work and assignments, but the duration and tuition fees differ as well. 

It is essential to weigh down all your options before deciding, to avoid complications in the future. You should also consider the possibility of transferring your online course from one university to another. Think of an alternative before even signing up for an online course as it can save you from plenty of trouble and stress in the future. 

3. You can interact with your fellow students

You might be under the impression that taking online courses mean that you won’t have to deal with a peer group, but online courses actually offer several ways to collaborate with fellow students. Most online courses offered by conventional colleges and universities have online chat rooms. These chatrooms and online communities provide several opportunities for people enrolled in the same online course to interact and help each other out. Discussion boards are another key means of interaction.

Even without an online community and chatroom, one can always try to contact their classmates directly. Almost all online courses show profiles of students enrolled in their curriculum to other students for this purpose. 

4. You need to be technologically advanced

Online courses are essential for our fast-paced world, which means they are in sync with technology. One should never sign up for an online course if they are not well-versed in technology or do not have adequate equipment.

A working laptop and a fast wi-fi network are essentials to have before signing up for any online course. The people managing your class won’t care if you are laptop broke down or your wi-fi didn’t work. They will want you to submit all your assignments and tasks at the assigned time, or else your grade will be affected. 

Believe it or not, accredited online courses have a way to weed out dishonest and students that are slacking. If you think that cheating in exams or delaying your assignments is a possibility, then you are in for a surprise. 

These courses have systems in place that enable them to maintain the integrity and credibility of their programs.

5. An online course is not for procrastinator

Online courses are not everyone’s cup of tea and are not the ideal model of education for procrastinators. One must have impeccable time management skills and restraint to complete these courses.

You might want to sign up for an online class because you want to be your boss, but that perk isn’t good enough if you can’t keep up with the obligations that come with it. There won’t be any professor and friend to remind you to finish your assignments or to prepare for a test before the deadline. You will be on your own and carelessness, and irresponsible behavior can cost you a lot.

Bottom Line:

Online courses have their pros and cons, and their efficiency and success vary from person to person. Thorough research and knowledge of the intended online course can help you reach a decision that will work best for you!

Author’s Bio: Emma Megan is a content creator who enjoys writing about education and technology.

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.

Benefits of Using Infographics for e-Learning

The following is a guest post by Ashley Halsey, a content creator specializing in education. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us

Modern learning has presented a wide range of new tools and techniques for educators to help foster knowledge and appreciation of knowledge in students of all types and of all ages. The opportunities that have been presented are varying and have a range of different effects on students, but they mostly work by helping teachers present and relay information more cleanly and effectively than ever before. eLearning as a field is part of this revolution, where major learning can now be done purely through the internet, without a teacher and student ever needing to actually come face to face. Within eLearning, as an internet-based experience, you have to be very innovative with how you communicate ideas. The ‘infographic’ is just one of many tools that you can use, so let’s take a look at what you can do with it.

A Process of Simplification

Using language to describe certain types of statistical problems or data sets can be difficult and can have remarkably poor results. If I tell you there are four piles, one with 6 beans, one with 2 beans, one with 18 beans and one with 9 beans, that can be quite a difficult image to hold in your head while calculating an answer. But, if they’re already depicted, you cut a step out and everything becomes much simpler to grasp. The process of removing that step from the intended receiver of the information, is a process of simplification which can be a really powerful tool for relaying information efficiently. The visual aspect cleans the whole operation up.

Source- https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1._Infographic_%E2%80%93_We_live_in_a_nano_world.jpg, attribution – InsightPublishers [CC BY-SA 4.0

To Help With Memorization

It’s often the case that an eLearning course will culminate in some sort of an exam or test that is in place to establish the success of the teaching and of the student’s knowledge and attention to the course. Likely, the student will be required to recall elements to the course from memory. The visualization of information through infographics is an immensely successful tool for aiding retention. Recalling images of text is almost always harder than recalling visualizations of information. Online teachers want you to remember what you’re being taught, thus making infographics an excellent option for you as you continue to find ways to aid success in eLearning.

Higher Engagement

Just like when you are designing a website of some sort, a wall of text will always make things a lot less appealing for the user. Text is boring and not unique. It can be beautifully written prose, but the medium of choice is so standard that it’s not going to leave an impression on anyone or draw the eye particularly. Infographics can look however you want, which can really draw the eye in. Representation of information through infographics is an excellent way to increase student engagement.

Source – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Secondary_Sources.png, attribution – Shonnmharen [CC BY 4.0

Space Saver

Organization and workflow are key in eLearning. It’s not as simple as being in a classroom where you can always ask your teacher for direct guidance through the material, you have to be able to find your path through the learning effectively on your own. Clutter is a critical issue for eLearning material, since that sort of course based disorganization and confusion can create the same detrimental effects in the mind of the student as they try and progress. As the old saying goes, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’. This is very true and very relevant with eLearning. You can save space and be wonderfully succinct through use of infographics in a way which helps aid the work flow of your students.

Conclusion

There really are no downsides to the use of infographics for eLearning. They help in almost every way that you could hope they would help. Infographics are an important and effective way to aid in online learning.

Author’s Bio: Ashley Halsey is a professional writer writing on all sorts of topics relating to the modernization of education and the future of EdTech. She has written for Last Minute Writing and Research Papers UK.

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.

The Powerful Impact of Virtual Classroom Software

The following is a guest post by Kamy Anderson, an expert in learning management system & eLearning authoring tools. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us

Information technology has revolutionized the learning environment. With the use of virtual classroom software or LMS software, education and training has become easier to use and more accessible.

Virtual classroom software is being incorporated into various organizations and learning institutions, and the worldwide e-learning market is expected to grow to $325 billion by 2025.

This is a trend that comes without an expiration date. Virtual classrooms have a lot to offer, and they’re reshaping the way we approach teaching and learning.

But what exactly is a virtual classroom? What are its benefits? Let’s find out.

What Is a Virtual Classroom?

In simple terms, a virtual classroom is an online learning environment. Through the use of specialized software, such as virtual classroom software or LMS software, teachers and learners can communicate, share ideas, collaborate, and more without ever being in the same room.

Of course, it’s necessary for both the learners and the educators to have a stable internet connection, and the virtual classroom software handles everything else.

This software provides:

  • Video conferencing
  • Audio conferencing
  • Online whiteboard
  • Learning materials
  • Live chat
  • Teaching tools and controls

With the use of virtual classroom software, the online learning environment is made to be very similar to the physical classrooms that we’re all accustomed to already.

The Many Benefits of Using Virtual Classroom Software

Seeing how virtual classrooms tend to mirror the physical classrooms that you can find in schools or even some companies, it’s easy to imagine that the two are not so different.

Instructors and learners can still interact. They can use various learning materials, take advantage of the whiteboard, and more.

Having said that, even the simplest virtual classroom software has more to offer, and teachers and learners can achieve much more than they ever could in a traditional classroom.

Virtual classroom software and LMS software facilitate:

  • Enhanced collaboration
  • Improved learning processes
  • Better accessibility
  • Better scalability
  • Affordability
  • Effectiveness

Let’s take a closer look.

Enhanced Collaboration

If two schools or companies wanted to collaborate, they would traditionally have to spend a lot of time on logistics.

Which teachers and staff will be sent to which school? How will they get there? When is the best time for both parties to organize the visit?

Collaboration required a lot of time and effort, not to mention a lot of money.

With the use of virtual classroom software, educators and staff can now easily collaborate wherever they are located.

One of the main features of virtual classroom software is video conferencing, which enables uninterrupted communication and interaction between instructors and learners.

Improved Learning Processes

Without the use of LMS software, corporate trainers, teachers, and online instructors have access to limited resources to enhance the learning experience of their learners.

Many schools in rural areas, for example, don’t have adequate infrastructure to provide quality education.

New technology is here to change this! Virtual classroom software empowers learners to travel around the world without ever leaving their actual classroom.

They can communicate with experts from various fields in real-time and learn from them. They can participate in seminars and classes happening on the other side of the world.

This all allows them to learn and retain more information than they normally could in a traditional classroom.

Virtual classroom software also offers room for personalization. The teaching materials can be customized to suit the learning needs of different learners.

Fast learners can easily skip ahead, while those who are falling behind can go through the materials as many times as they need and learn at their own convenient pace.

Accessibility

Any learner who has an internet connection and a computer, tablet, or smartphone can access the virtual classroom. 67% of U.S. companies, for example, offer learning opportunities via smartphones.

This means that any learner who isn’t able to go to classes can still learn. Those living in rural areas, or those who are bed-ridden and unable to leave their homes can still receive a high-quality education.

No matter where the learners and instructors are located, they can communicate and learn when they choose to do so. This enables you to create a global classroom where all learners enjoy equal opportunities for learning.

Scalability

LMS software enables you to customize every aspect of learning and teaching. Depending on the size of your classroom and the skill level of your learners, you can easily scale your teaching offerings up or down.

This is especially useful to companies as the employees can focus on improving the right skills at the right time, allowing learning to become more flexible. For example, any business or educational institution will keep adding human resources or learners to it. In a regular classroom model, it can create infrastructural issues or a company will have to expand the training material to accommodate the new requirements while managing the learners and meeting compliances can become tough.

Now contrast this with a scenario where a virtual classroom software provides almost endless possibilities of learning anytime, anywhere. Teachers can take on larger groups of students and businesses can easily track the training process of bigger teams with diverse skill sets.

An LMS which is designed to be scalable enough to grow as per the increasing needs can provide the right environment while cutting down the infrastructural and manpower costs that are otherwise associated with traditional modes of learning.

Affordability

Whether we’re talking about schools or companies, using virtual classroom software has proven time and time again to be more affordable than traditional classrooms.

All the tools, equipment, and materials are digital and can be accessed wherever and whenever they’re needed.

Companies don’t have to build an actual classroom, and schools and students who don’t have the means don’t have to invest in textbooks or expensive school supplies.

Effectiveness

There’s no denying the effectiveness of virtual classroom software. In face-to-face education, students typically have a learning retention rate of 8% to 10%.

When it comes to e-learning, on the other hand, the learning retention rate is between 25% and 60%, which proves the effectiveness of virtual classroom software.

This is mainly due to the personalization of teaching materials. All learners can learn at their own pace, go through the different lectures as many times as they need to, and gain instant feedback on their progress.

The Bottom Line

Using virtual classroom software and LMS software can bring many benefits to learners and educators alike.

This technology has revolutionized education and made it accessible to all learners around the world.

This isn’t a technology that will replace teachers or educators, but rather a technology that helps them improve all teaching and learning processes and assist students in reaching their maximum potential!

Author’s Bio: Kamy Anderson is an ed-tech enthusiast with a passion for writing on emerging technologies in the areas of corporate training and education. He is an expert in learning management system & eLearning authoring tools – currently associated with ProProfs Training Maker.

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.