Here are some of the most useful web tools available that can easily be incorporated into online classrooms. This is not a comprehensive list of Web tools, so if you'd like to suggest a web tool to be added to this list, please email us with your suggestion. For an extended discussion of collaborative tools and spaces, check out chapter six, "Technology: Trending to Community and Collaboration" of Jason Snart's book, Hybrid Learning: The Perils and Promise of Blending Online and Face-to-Face Instruction in Higher Education.
Eli Review is a great technology that supports peer review in both face-to-face and online classrooms. Eli Review was designed by instructors who wanted better technology to help facilitate:
External Course Management Systems
Many schools already have their own course management systems such as Blackboard, Angel, Desire2Learn, WebCT, and so on. However, some WPAs may be inclined to allow their instructors to use or create alternative CMSs for better access and usability.
- Weebly - a free user-centered WYSIWYG that serves as an excellent space to manage content.
- Google Sites - a great space that is completely linked with your Google account and Google applications (Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc.). It allows users to control who has access to content, host your Google Course Calendar, embed documents, links, and also allows students to upload hard copies of their writing, link to their online writing projects, or create their own blog within the site.
One of the main components for a writing class can be word processing documents and software. Regardless of your preferred choice, online writing classes require the submission and sharing of writing through a CMS, discussion board, or through files submitted to the instructor or to one another for feedback. However, in an online writing class, time and student/teacher collaboration is important for students to get feedback and write. It is important for students to be able to collaborate on assignments and feedback. This collaboration is the foundation of peer-to-peer learning and a crucial part of the learning process. Thus, it is important to create a knowledge making space where students can write, collaborate, and learn.
- Google Docs - a free online document space that allows for synchronous and asynchronous collaboration (students can collaborate on documents, presentations, spreadsheets, and even send out surveys for research).
- Firepad - a free web based writing space that is conducive for sharing ideas, code, and brainstorming.
- Etherpad - highly customizable and open source editor for online writing and collaboration.
- Zoho - a suite of apps to create online documents, spreadsheets and presentations (plus databases) that also allows you to create groups.
- Voice Thread -a free space that could be utilized for peer review as it allows for communication using multiple methods and multiple file types (useful for multimodal projects in an online setting).
- Wrike-a powerful work management software program.
Video and Screen Capture
Using video screen capture enables you to speak to your students as you walk them through an assignment, the schedule, the CMS, feedback, the direction of the class, and a multitude of examples. We recommend this as a form of connecting with your students on a personal level so they can hear your voice and know that there is a human being on the other side of the screen that is there to help, not just some robotic instructor who makes written comments on papers and then emails them back without the possibility of creating a discourse on the subject.
Connecting with students in an online space can be difficult. So often students feel the disconnect between the long emails describing assignments, course direction, course policies, reminders, and the multitude of written communication that can come from a typical writing class. In face-to-face spaces, so many questions and concerns can be answered and alleviated via understanding the class dynamic, quick personal discussions with students before and after class, and office conferences for extended clarification of assignments or just to see where a student is in the class. By using a video conference software, you can see the student, hear them, and gain a better understanding as to where they are with concern for assignments and class. You may have made a four minute video screen capture that explains the assignment, but the student may require a better explanation, one that is tailored to them as you talk and realize from watching their facial expressions and fluctuations in their voice that they still do not understand the assignment. A five minute video conference will go a long way compared to a four page email trying to explain the assignment you have already explained. Such video conferences may seem difficult if you are private, but think back to your face-to-face classes and remember how helpful speaking with your students can be - both for them and for you as a teacher.
- Skype - you can share screens to walk them through assignments and websites.
- Google Hangouts - share screens and speak to multiple students at once if needed (great for groups).
- Zoom -a free space that allows you to video conference with your students.
- WebEx-offers video conferencing for free and at different paid levels
- Adobe Connect-offers free trials and paid subscriptions
- Kahoot -a way to make learning more fun! This program allows instructors to create learning games or work with and/or adapt ones already in existence in order to create a more interactive learning experience for students.
- Poll-Maker -allows users to create question based polls and share the URL with anyone in order to get results/answers to questions posed; would be useful to get feedback on a course, or to show students how to collect data to use in their writing.
- Google Drive-offers collaborative spaces to share documents, create presentations, store files, etc.