Whether providing one-on-one coaching or trainings for groups of employees around the world, online instruction has benefits that go far beyond the convenience and scalability, Working online provides the opportunity to take advantage of collaboration, sharing and content tools that are not easily used in an in-person setting. Below is a list of the tools that I have found most helpful in my work as an online language coach at Lingo Live. Some are designed to help the coach make the most of his/her time, others are great when it comes to preparing lessons, and some help the learner keep and organize learning materials for later use. I have narrowed a huge list of tools down to the ones I love and use, and some alternatives that I have tried and find useful.
The most critical tool that we use is a way to communicate. All major videoconferencing tools arm us with the following very useful features: audio and video calls, file and screen sharing, and instant messages. Below are the ones I use most often to connect with my students.
Free, local installation, web application and mobile app. If you have any friends outside of your country, you likely use this already to keep in touch.
Skype can be unstable at times. Occasionally the connection fails, the call won’t go through, the server is down… all of these being independent from our skills and due to the software’s bugs. I prefer Google Hangouts
Like Skype, Hangouts is free. Hangouts is a web application with no download necessary. If you already have a gmail or google account, hangouts is easy to use.
Some companies ban Hangouts and Skype at the workplace, so In the rare cases when an alternative is needed, I’ve used Appear.in and Join.me.
It is a web application, so it doesn’t need to be installed. On first use, when the popup appears, give the app permission to use the mic and the webcam, open a chatroom, and send the link to whoever you want to communicate with. It is available on Chrome, Firefox, Opera, as well as iOS and Android.
Join.me is great if you are training larger groups or if your student is having internet difficulties. It allows you to call in through your computer or through a conference bridge with local numbers for many countries around the world. It includes screen sharing and a whiteboard, has web-based, computer app, and mobile app versions, and creates a custom personal link for your meeting. Join.me also has options to record the session without using additional tools (listed later in this post).
Another important need of ours! Teachers and students need to be able to share notes, and doing it live is one of the best things that has happened to our field in the last few years.
5. Google Suite
The go-to app in this category is Google Suite. It basically replicates the Microsoft Office Suite, so most people pick it up quickly. Not only can you share files quickly and easily, but you can edit together in real-time.
- Google Doc - to take notes, add comments, highlight, etc...
- Google Slides - to make and share presentations including drawings, videos and other media
- Google Sheets - because tables are still going strong. I personally find it very useful to track vocabulary, communication skills and grammar points for each students, all ordered by level. I can add a link to resources for each point and the student can freely navigate through it and consult anything he needs. Students can also download the sheet as a .csv file and upload it to flashcard apps or other programs for added practice outside of class. My long term students love it.
- Google Form- for quizzes and surveys. For example, I can send an audio file along with a google form quiz to test the understanding of the student and see the results automatically sent to my google drive. If you are teaching the same material to groups of people, you can use the same google form for each student and see all quiz results in one filterable spreadsheet.
- Google Draw - very close from a virtual board where you can type but also handwrite and draw. Ideal for brainstorm and visual explanations.
Similar to Google Draw, Ziteboard acts as a virtual whiteboard, allowing you to draw out difficult concepts together in real time. Everything on the whiteboard can be saved as a PNG for later reference.
Available for Windows as well as Mac, as a web app or through a local install, it’s a complete virtual binder. You can write, draw, insert different types of media and write over it, and then it can all be sorted through tabs and sub-tabs. Other perks include the option to share any tab or subtab with anyone you choose, as well as the possibility to view and modify the files from your tablet or smartphone.
Check out more of Lingo Live’s favorite collaboration tools here!
Online storage tools
The following three tools are totally available online as a web app, but can be downloaded and installed on your computer as well, in order to create and edit files whenever, wherever. They’ll be synchronised during the next Internet connection. You can also host, share, and allow modifications according to your sharing settings.
8. Google Drive
If you use the google suite, you know this one.
Bonus: you can also upload PDF files that you can convert to a google doc editable version and also MP3 files that you can insert in your google docs, and videos.
Bonus: Includes Skype chat in the GUI. Great for pictures.
Bonus: Allows an easy to get file download URL for any type of files, can edit and comment files, as well as chatting with the collaborators, from the web app.
All Clouds in One
If, like me, you use those three tools simultaneously, here are two tools to make your life easier by displaying the four accounts in the same dashboard, and can allow for transfer across accounts.
Local installation and web app, backup, migrate from one account to another, scheduled task
Web app, can sync any file from a bunch of cloud storage accounts, and allows FTP to cloud transfers
When creating trainings, you often need visual and audio content for during and after the lessons.
We have broken down content tools into three categories: Finding copyright free content, downloading content from streaming sites and creating your own audio recording.
Finding copyright free visual content
Sometimes you just need photos to spruce up a presentation or illistrate a point. Below are some sites that have content that can be legally used, manipulated and dispersed.
Shutterstock is the most popular royalty free content site on the web for images, videos and audio. If your company has a subscription, this is a great option to find any content you need.
If not, below are some great free options.
Free Image Alternatives
Free Video Alternative
Download audiovisual content
For videos hosted on the biggest platforms (Youtube, Vimeo, Dailymotion etc,), one can use external websites to download the content onto your computer.
Files can be saved to video or audio. For language teachers like me, audio is helpful for when I want a student to get the most out of the audio only, without the use of any visual clues. The audio only option is also helpful for sharing relevant Ted Talks or lectures for the student to listen to outside of class since audio files take less room on a phone or computer.
Note for the techies: If the teacher wishes to use a particular audio file that has no obvious download possibility, the browser dev tools comes in handy. Inspect the page element with the target audio file, and grab the url from the dev console. I personally use it for my favorite source of audio files for language teaching, with the consent of the podcaster (I always link to the webpage at the end of the class, so he gets traffic in return).
Be careful to use the content only for lessons as to not infringe any copyrights. If you are creating trainings that will be posted publically, make sure to check the usage rights before using any materials.
Recording your own audio
Depending on the type of training you provide, creating your own recordings for your students to use outside of class can be a great way for them to continue learning in between lessons. (Sample sales calls for sales training, examples of giving positive feedback for leadership training etc.) I personally often ask my students to practice the pronunciation of certain words or expressions that they are struggling with. I record the audio myself and send it to the student. In return, I ask that he or she sends me the recording before the next lesson.
For this purpose, two tools:
Audacity is a free tool with local installation for Mac or PC. Easy to use, and very handy. I use it for my students, but also for professional voice-over recordings.
Vocaroo is web-based so no download necessary. It's easy to use and straight to the point. Allows users to record a file and send it directly to any email adress.
Create Presentations and Edit Pictures
Slideshows are boring. So if you want to get more creative or need a change from the usual powerpoint, here are a few great tools you can use.
Not your regular presentation. Organize files on a big whiteboard and apply zoom, transitions, rotations, and other effects.
A free web app similar to Adobe Illistrator that allows to create awesome design using templates, pictures, fonts and other picture edition tools. It’s easy to use and files can be saved for consistent reuse.
Fear not, as I am not talking about the Microsoft Paint tool. This software is a free to download and simple alternative to Photoshop. Very straightforward and easy to get a grip of. However at this time it is only available for PC's.
Another free and simple alternative to Photoshop, but totally online and available for all computer types.
Gather, Save and Share Online Content
Searching for content online and keeping up with news in your field is time consuming. Most of us are also probably accustomed to the “bookmark and forget” process. Fortunately, here are some tools that can help with that.
21. Google Keep
I can not say enough good things about Google Keep. Allows you to take a picture and tag it to a note, record a vocal note, add a to-do-list, add reminders and tag to sort.
Bonus: can save any note to a goodle doc [gif http://gph.is/2aQeBN0]
Suscribe to a few feeds, create a “magazine” of your own where you can share the content you want to, and share this magazine with other users of your choice. They can follow it and get the content automatically.
Bonus: cross platforms (desktop and mobile).
Subscribe to some feeds, organize them in sections, create blog posts, monitor keywords of your choice… This tool is full of useful features to not waste time on content monitoring.
Bonus: can share articles in your feed through many platforms (emails included).
Register, install the plugin, and thanks to a simple button on your browser’s toolbar, save anything from about anywhere on the Internet to your pocket and add tags. You can then see all of your saves in your dashboard.
Bonus: cross platforms, and works with +1500 apps.
Suscribe to the feeds of your choice, then pick and share what you like, or post your original content. Other people can follow one of your board or all of them.
Bonus: can post automatically to Twitter or other social media platform.
Record your student's progress
Often, students don’t realize how far they have come and how much they have learned. For trainings that utilize role-play or language, recording initial lessons and comparing them to later lessons can be a great way to show students and other stakeholders the progress that has been made.
When I begin with a new student, I ask if it is okay for me to record them at some point. I generally do not tell them the day I do it so they don’t feel stressed out by the idea of being recorded which might affect their performance.
If you are not using a videoconferencing tool that has recording options built in, here are some tools to help you:
Video call recorder for Skype, Google Hangout, Viber, Webec, and many others. The tool can record the audio and the video at the same time, including screen sharing and chat. It allows you to share or upload to Dropbox, Youtube, and some other apps.
It was specifically designed for Hangouts, but supports GoToMeeting and WebEx. Like Callnote, it can record video and share screen. It also features an integration with Onedrive and Googledrive.
As the name suggests, this call recorder works with Skype, and records only the audio. Simple and straightforward.
This is where I have to put an end to this article. I hope I helped some of you with and that you got to discover a few tools that you did not know. Please do ask for more details or information about any tools if you need to!