Which edtech online learning platform?

[Guest Blog] Which online learning platform?

Author: Terry Freedman

Terry freedman is a freelance ed tech writer and consultant. He blogs at ICT & Computing in Education, and tweets as @terryfreedman.


A comparison of three different platforms: Zoom, Google Meet and Google Classroom

If you need to run webinars or video conference calls for your customers, or make recommendations regarding one for your schools, what are the options? Well, there is plenty of choice, but in this article, we are going to consider only the three seemingly most popular ones at the moment. These are Zoom, Google Meet and Google Classroom. As always, which one is best depends on what exactly you wish to do.

Let’s start at the most basic level. This would be giving a lecture to a group of people. You may, for example, wish to update a number of teachers from your schools about some upcoming changes to a product. Or a teacher might want to address a number of pupils from a particular year group about arrangements for next week. 

In this kind of situation, the simplest option is Google Meet. The basic version is free and allows you to have a meeting with up to 100 participants for an hour. (The paid-for versions are more generous, of course.) Google Meet is perfectly suited to this. Moreover, although it’s a fairly no-frills application, it does have one very attractive feature: automated closed captioning (for English only at the moment). This speech-to-text facility is brilliant for addressing hearing-impaired people, especially as it has a high degree of accuracy.

You can also share your screen, so if you have a presentation or a video to show, you can do so.

If someone misses the talk, no problem: you can record it so they can watch it later – though bear in mind there’s a data protection dimension here so you may need to obtain permission from the participants. 

In a sense, Zoom is way over at the other extreme. Depending on the kind of licence you have (the price ranges from free to quite high), you can do all sorts of things.

For example, you can set up meetings with everyone automatically muted when they enter the “room”. This is to be recommended because it helps to ensure the least disruption possible as people join the meeting.

If you wish, you can organise groups into smaller groups, courtesy of a feature called breakout rooms. In this regard, Zoom enables you to more closely replicate the classroom experience than Google Meet does. 

In some of the plans, there is also a poll feature. This makes it possible for you to ask the participants questions and then display the results straight away.

Another nice feature of Zoom is that the people in the room can give you visual feedback through emojis like clapping hands, indicate whether you are going too fast or slow, and raise a virtual hand to ask a question.

Like Meet, Zoom also has a screen-sharing feature. It even allows people to annotate the screen being shared. There’s a whiteboard facility too, with a saving option.

Although Zoom is fully-featured, this functionality comes at a price. There is quite a steep learning curve, not the least of which is finding your way around the various menus. This process is not helped by the discovery that the web version, and the desktop app version, are different.

Thus, whereas if you decide to use Google Meet you can more or less focus on little more than sending people the link and reminding them of online etiquette, with Zoom you will probably need to prepare some instructional notes. It’s even worth considering having a trial run first for the people involved if that would be feasible.

That leaves Google Classroom. This falls between Zoom and Meet in a way. It has a video conferencing facility which is, in fact, Meet. Therefore in that sense, there is no difference between the two. However, Classrooms is more of a one-stop-shop. For example, you can’t store documents on Zoom or Meet, but you can in Google Classroom.

Moreover, you can set up timed assignments, and quizzes that are marked automatically. You can even set up documents to appear on a certain date and time, rather than have them available to be grabbed at any time, and therefore possibly too soon.

Zoom and Classroom are by no means mutually exclusive. It is possible to have face-to-face discussions in Zoom, and then place groups of participants in breakout rooms where they can examine and write on documents created in Google Docs, and stored in the Google Classroom. Indeed, this works very well indeed.

In conclusion, you may wish to take these factors into account when adapting, or advising others how to adapt, resources for online learning.

Terry Freedman

Terry Freedman is an independent educational ICT consultant and writer, having had a long career in Education, including teaching, advising schools and inspecting. He publishes the ICT and Computing in Education website at www.ictineducation.org, and the Digital Education newsletter at www.ictineducation.org/diged. You can follow Terry on Twitter @terryfreedman.

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