Distance learning tools provide students with flexibility and convenience, enabling them to take courses at their own pace. In addition, it offers the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and skills while still retaining the freedom to pursue other interests or commitments.
Even through a computer screen, online collaborative learning tools can keep students interested and engaged. For all these reasons, it is not surprising that online education is continuing to grow.
During the last couple of years, many universities have had to adopt distance learning methods due to the abrupt pandemic. Nowadays, online tools simplify things for educators working with learners remotely. To be a successful online instructor, You don’t need to be an expert in technology; all you need is the right online learning tool.
This article shares the list of 10 best distance learning tools to use at the university level. You will also learn about different challenges associated with distance learning and how to mitigate them.
10 best tools for distance learning to accelerate virtual learning
Distance learning tools are evolving from a backup option to a mainstream learning approach. Listed below are some of the best tools for new-age teachers available in the market:
Google Classroom is an all-in-one distance learning tool designed for teaching and learning that makes learning flexible and available from any location. Google Classroom is available for free.
Google Classroom is a tool for managing general classrooms and monitoring student progress for online educators. With the help of a unique code for every class, teachers can invite students to a private Google Classroom where they can attach and submit assignments for simple assessment, grading and feedback. Teachers can also use an in-built tool named Originality Report to detect plagiarism.
Google Classroom is the simplest way to start your online learning experience if you are already familiar with Google tools.
Rocket.Chat is an open-source collaboration platform used to facilitate collaboration between students, teachers, and external collaborators. In teams, channels, and discussions, students, teachers, and outside collaborators can communicate about ongoing projects.
Rocket.Chat's open source technology and on-premise deployment make it a favorite collaboration tool at the European universities. It can be set up to work with large universities’ intricate IT systems and support GDPR compliance.
Moodle is an open-source learning management system (LMS) created to give teachers, administrators, and students access to a reliable, secure, and integrated system to develop individualized learning environments.
Moodle offers a potent collection of learner-centric tools and collaborative learning environments to empower scholars and teachers. Additionally, it has adopted the Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) to set its e-learning standards.
Moodle offers the most adaptable toolkit to support both blended learning and completely online courses. Anyone can use Moodle for both commercial and non-commercial projects without paying any licensing fees. You can take advantage of this distance learning tool’s benefits, including cost-effectiveness and flexibility.
Coursera collaborates with more than 275 top universities and businesses to offer adaptable, affordable, and career-relevant online learning to people and organizations all over the world.
Massive open online courses (MOOC) are a well-known offering from this e-learning software, and in some cases, it even provides degrees and certificates.
Markup is a visual commenting platform that empowers individuals and teams to give real-time, collaborative feedback on live websites and digital content.
In the world of digital content, creative feedback is lost in the shuffle of emails, project management tools, meetings, Zoom calls, Google Docs, and other tools. This issue is resolved by MarkUp, which enables quick, concise, collaborative comments on real-time digital content.
An international American business called Quizlet sells study aids and educational software. Quizlet is one of the most convenient ways to learn, practice, and become an expert in any subject.
Students, parents, and teachers can use Quizlet as a distance learning tool. This educational software uses explanations to demonstrate step-by-step procedures for solving challenging problems. Additionally, features like flashcards make it simple for students to study for tests using Quizlet.
Flipgrid elevates video-based discussion forums with teacher- and student-constructed videos. Teachers and students can create a grid about a specific topic and encourage peers and even people from around the world to record a short video and/or send a text message about the topic!
Flipgrid serves as a distance learning tool and is an entertaining way to start a conversation. You can post a topic and then encourage discussion among the members of your learning community. It’s an excellent way to increase students’ curiosity about new ideas, get them motivated to learn, and promote peer interaction!
The goal of Canvas is to improve student achievement, increase the impact of instruction by the teachers, and motivate everyone to learn together.
Furthermore, it is an open-source option with a variety of integrated tools to meet the demands of parents, teachers, and students who are not in the same location. In addition to providing data metrics (for administrators) to enabling performance evaluations (for teachers), this user-friendly app enables parents to see what homework their children need to complete.
Although Udemy is just one of many platforms that offer MOOCs, it stands out because almost anyone with something worthwhile to teach can create, upload, and sell a course there. It also allows the instructor to interact via online discussion boards.
Udemy, one of the best tools for distance learning, is a top choice if you want to make educational content or sell professional development courses. It is a global destination for online learning, and they connect people through knowledge.
Blackboard is a cutting-edge LMS tool that is ideal for students in kindergarten through high school. This platform is user-friendly and accessible to all students on any device. Teachers have access to several third-party tools in addition to Blackboard Learn, which is helpful in course management, customizable open architecture, and scalable design.
You can test out its features, including Learn, Collaborate, SafeAssign and Ally, simply by registering in the open community. Blackboard is one of the best tools for distance learning for teachers who want to learn in a welcoming environment before switching to a paid LMS.
Why is distance learning important?
Distance education has scored highly on flexibility for students. Students from all over the world can study from the convenience of their homes or on the go because of remote access to distance learning tools and courses.
The ability to set up their schedules gives students the freedom to remain independent. After the pandemic, 73% of US students wanted to continue taking online courses. Additionally, they get to hone their time management abilities.
Online courses make it easier for students with disabilities to learn and participate than in conventional classroom settings. The online classroom allows students to interact in real time with their peers and instructors.
2. Personalized learning
Online learning, enabled by distance learning tools, is now a well-known alternative to traditional education. It gives students the freedom to pursue their own learning while tailoring the curriculum and their learning environment to suit different learning preferences.
Each student can set their own goals, move at their own pace, and engage in conversation with teachers and other students to customize their learning experience.
3. Acquiring digital skills
Learning the fundamentals of digital skills is the first step toward them entering the real world, which requires them to feel more comfortable using technology for school, daily activities, and future work/career.
4. Time effectiveness
One of the best pros of distance learning tools is that it saves you time on repetitive tasks such as reporting. Instead of keeping up with the classroom’s pace, eLearning allows students to learn at their own pace.
5. Innovative learning methods
Many educational institutions are moving forward in embracing technologies, even if they still use traditional classroom teaching. For instance, Chromebooks, flip classrooms, and digital whiteboards are replacing textbooks and markers.
EdTech enhances traditional teaching and learning strategies by enabling educators to impart knowledge to students in fresh ways.
6. Easier administration
Distance learning tools enable administrators to maintain constant learning and communication, ensure accessibility, prevent/stop bullying, and maintain online safety.
The challenges of going digital for universities
Although there are numerous benefits to universities adopting distance learning tools, the potential challenges cannot be ignored. Some of the most prominent issues with e-learning include the following:
1. Cybersecurity risks
Cybercriminals have created new strategies to attack systems to disrupt learning and take undue advantage because they are aware that educators are now dependent on distance learning tools. A whopping 17% of all data breaches in the past decade occurred in higher education!
We also see more and more attention is paid to data privacy and compliance: for example, Microsoft 365 was banned from use in German schools at the end of 2022 due to failing to comply with GDPR.
Schools and universities must apply additional cybersecurity measures to protect their students' data. The problem is, such solutions are often costly, which brings us to the next point.
2. Increased costs
The education sector often suffers from underfunding. In addition, spending on technology is not at the top of the budget list for educational institutions.
Due to the high costs of proprietary solutions, educational institutions increasingly use open-source software alternatives. Open-source solutions are often more affordable than proprietary solutions due to several reasons: learn why here.
3. Integrating the tool into the existing software infrastructure
Universities’ software infrastructure is usually complex. It’s important that the new software is adjustable and can be integrated with the existing tools seamlessly.
Universities can benefit from open-source data tools that are easy to customize and adapt to their complex infrastructure.
Seamless remote collaboration in higher education with Rocket.Chat
Rocket.Chat can be used for collaboration not only between students and teachers, but also among faculty members and staff, research facilities, and external partners. One of the best tools for distance learning, it is open-source and can be deployed on-premises, which makes it highly secure and flexible.
Explore Rocket.Chat for the education and unleash the power of collaboration between everyone involved in the education process.