Academia has entered uncharted waters as educators at universities and colleges around the globe have been forced to switch to remote teaching with little-to-no warning.

For professors with experience teaching online courses—or for those comfortable with the plethora of software options available—remote teaching may be a piece of cake. However, those with minimal experience teaching virtually may find the abrupt shift to remote teaching a daunting prospect.

Here, we outline the best free tools for making a seamless transition to the digital classroom, all while ensuring you and your students are fully supported throughout the process.

1) Flipgrid

Flipgrid is a social platform that allows instructors to create topic-specific forums referred to as ‘grids.’ Each grid is designed to match up with a specific course or unit, where students are invited to share their answers to questions or topics with asynchronous videos. These short clips can range from weekly reading reflections to mini-presentations and peers can learn from each other’s videos and provide feedback all on the Flipgrid platform.

2) Loom

If you’ve ever wanted to record your screen and annotate your recording audibly, rather than typing a long email, Loom is for you. With Loom, capture your screen, voice and face in one spot, recording your screen or a specific app and adding in any necessary commentary. Trim your videos and add call-to-actions to prompt your students to follow-up with additional material if needed. Your videos will be password protected or may require a school email address for privacy purposes.

3) Google Docs

The entire G Suite offers tools designed for peer-to-peer collaboration, though word processor Google Docs may be the most useful for connectivity between students and professors (or among classmates) in a remote learning environment. The cloud software application is easy to use for anyone familiar with Microsoft Word. It’s available on devices big and small (laptop to smartphone), all changes are saved automatically (previous versions can be accessed easily), and multiple users can be in the same file, collaborating or reviewing each others’ work, at the same time.

4) Zoom

A robust video conferencing app, Zoom integrates meetings, video webinars, phone calls, conference rooms and instant-messaging tools. With Zoom, professors and students can connect by utilizing audio and video tools—for synchronous remote lectures, asynchronous video assignments or even virtual office hours. Students can chat with one another in real-time, in secure password-protected virtual rooms. Breakout rooms can also be leveraged for different tutorial sections or for group-based learning.

5) Top Hat

Top Hat’s all-in-one teaching platform equips professors to deliver an effective remote teaching experience that maintains connections with students and preserves the key benefits of an in-class learning experience. For synchronous or asynchronous teaching solutions, Top Hat boasts integrations with both Zoom and Loom, allowing you to run a video lecture or embed lecture recordings into students’ courseware. Attendance and discussion features ensure students are present and engaged. All materials—discussion questions, ebooks, and assessments—are in one spot for students to access during a synchronous remote class or afterwards. Top Hat has also announced it is now offering free, secure proctored tests and exams students can take on their own computers at a pre-set time and from any location.

Click here to learn more about Top Hat’s virtual classroom capabilities—and reimagine just how much better online and blended courses can be.

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