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Getting to know your platform

Watch teachers talk about platforms, then label parts of a platform.
This video is about getting to know our online learning platform. An online learning platform is vital for live online lessons because it’s what creates our virtual classroom. It’s basically video conferencing software. So we’re currently in Zoom, which I’m sure you’ve heard of and maybe even use already. There’s obviously other tools available, or platforms available, which we’ll look at shortly. But there are some features that are common to all online learning platforms and some features which are available in only some of them. So let’s have a look at what some of those features are. The first one is that teacher and learners can share video and audio.
So you can see my video here and you can see that my student Mariana has no video on at the moment. But we both have the opportunity to mute ourselves and unmute ourselves as we wish. And stop and start our video. Now if I move along here to the list of participants, I also have the opportunity to mute all students so that they can only hear me. This can be beneficial when there’s some kind of background noise or distortion with a microphone because it can be quite distracting. But if you mute all students then they can just unmute themselves when they want to speak.
Another common feature of online learning platforms is the chat box. If I click here this box appears and you can see that I’ve been chatting to students. So I can actually talk to everyone. [TYPING] And I can give an instruction at the beginning of the class and students can then respond to everybody in the class. Or I can speak to individual students. [TYPING]
I can give some feedback. I can ask if they’re OK. I can provide some support.
If I click on the three dots here, I can actually change that setting. At the moment, students can also talk to each other privately, but I can just change that to just everyone publicly if I wish. I can also merge my chat box to the window here so that it appears on the right hand side. And that’s useful because it means it doesn’t sit over the top of my video. If I click on the arrow here, I can close it or I can pop it back out.
Screen share is also common to most online learning platforms. And what this does, and we’re going to look at it more closely in a future video, in week two of the course, but by clicking this button I have the opportunity to share whatever I show on my screen. So if I show a PowerPoint slide or a Word document or a website students, will be able to see it as well. They can also share their screen as well. So they can show a Word document, for example, if they’ve written some homework and show us what they produced.
Another option, which isn’t available on all learning platforms, is an interactive whiteboard. So we’re going to look at this again more carefully. But for now, just very briefly, I just want to show what it is. So it’s basically like a board in a classroom. You can type text onto it, you can record vocabulary, you can record grammar information, but also students can annotate on it as well. So you can ask them to underline the word stress on new vocabulary for example, or type example sentences that you’d like them to share, something like that.
Most platforms give the opportunity to record the lesson. This means that we can share it with learners who weren’t able to attend, who were sick for example, or if students want to watch again in order to perhaps listen back to their speaking or to listen to some explanations that you’ve given. So that can be very useful. Of course, we always have to have permission from learners to do that, or their parents. Breakout rooms are also not available on all platforms, however they are fantastic for pair work and group work. So they are very desirable if you teach groups. They allow you to create small individual rooms that students go off to and work in separately.
So for example, and again we’ll look at this in more depth in the future video, but if I have 12 students in my class I can create six breakout rooms. And that means you’ll have two students in each room. So they disappear off into those rooms and you can drop in and see how they’re getting on as they’re doing their work.
Reactions are also a great feature of online classrooms. So you can clap, you can do thumbs up, laughter, surprise, heart, little celebration there, ta-da, and also raise hands. So you might want to use these particular ones at the top but actually students can use them as well. There you get, Mariana’s giving a thumbs up.
Now speaking of Mariana and students, let me just show you what students see. So this is Mariana’s phone. So she would be able to see herself if she had her video turned on. She can see me. And then she has the opportunity here to– at the moment she’s only listening, she’s not got her microphone turned on. So she can turn it on, she can start the video, she can share her screen, she can look at the other participants. And if she clicks on this ‘more’ icon here she will see these things here. So there is the chat, she can manage settings, she can minimise the meeting, and she can raise hands and use those particular icons.
So these are the features of an online learning platform.

In the previous step, one of the resources mentioned as essential for online teaching was an online teaching platform. In this video, our teachers talk about some of the different types of platforms you can use and some of the features the different platforms have.

Task 1

Watch the video and answer these questions:
1) What different platforms do they mention?
2) What different features/functions do they mention?

Check your answers

Task 2

Now let’s see if you can identify some of these features/functions on this screenshot of a platform for delivering live lessons. A mock up of an online platform with a number of different functions labelled 1-10 Look at the screenshot of an online platform and match the words below to the numbers (1–10) on the platform.

Chat box Interactive whiteboard
Video of teacher Video of learners
Breakout rooms where students can work privately in pairs/groups List of students in the room
Pointer Hands up icon
Audio control icon Video control icon

Check your answers

Task 3

Go to this Quizlet to match some activities with these platform features. To match the activities in Quizlet, drag and drop the matching texts onto each other. To navigate back to the course please use the back button in your browser.

A: Hands up icon B: Audio icon C: Breakout rooms  
D: Interactive whiteboard E: Chat box F: Pointer G: Share screen feature

Reflect and share

Which platform feature(s) do you think you would exploit the most? How?

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Teaching English Online

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FutureLearn - Learning For Life

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