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Distance learning
tools for teachers:
Avoiding tool

Author: Heidi Vella

When education shifted online during the pandemic, software-based distance learning tools for teachers saved the day. Teachers could virtually connect and educate their students, and pupils could work with their peers despite not being in the classroom together—all through a variety of online distance learning collaboration tools.

While many innovative and user-led applications are available, for many school leaders, students and parents, this shift was far from easy. Not least because juggling the daily use of multiple distance learning tools can eventually result in tool fatigue.

Avoiding tool fatigue: Challenges of distance learning collaboration tools for teachers

Often referred to as the side effect of the modern office, tool fatigue happens when a person or team becomes overwhelmed or weary with the many online tools they need to navigate throughout the workday. Remote learning has brought this phenomenon to the education sector.

Too many options

On a daily basis, educators, students and parents are required to juggle multiple learning tools. In 2017, a League of Innovative Schools survey of leaders across 40 US public school districts found that 74% of districts used more than 26 different ed tech or software tools and products, while 17% used more than 100.

Thanks to the need for remote learning, the same survey done today would likely render even higher percentages and an increased number of software tools used.

Applications that a school might typically use in a single day include video communication platforms, such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams; creative collaboration applications, such as Flipgrid or Slack; as well as those designed to teach specialist subjects, such as Purple Mash for coding or SMART notebook. Then there are the everyday office tools that educators also use, such as email, calendars, data storage applications, search engines, instant messaging, word documents and presentation applications, such as PowerPoint. On top of that, educators might use project monitoring apps like Trello.

Finding comparable distance learning tools for teachers

Distance learning collaboration tools are a growth area for software applications, and you might find yourself drawn to deploying more and more online apps, until their purpose may begin to overlap. It can be hard to know when to say no to a new tool or application.

Teachers may become overwhelmed and stick to using certain tools they favor over others and then end up working in silos. When this happens, collaboration and workflows can become disjointed. This can be further exacerbated by different applications that are completely unconnected. It can be difficult to shift from one to the other, and tracking data can become harder because it's located in several different systems that aren't interoperable.

Educators, who are used to face-to-face communication and analog processes, may suffer tool fatigue. Eventually, staff may become frustrated and start to feel bogged down by the many tools they need to use. Instead of the tools helping them as they're supposed to do, the tools themselves prohibit productivity, especially as focus shifts from managing the task to the tool itself.

Prioritize interoperability of distance learning tools

Enabling integration and interoperability between applications is often the solution to tool fatigue. The purpose of distance learning tools for teachers is to help provide students the best learning experience possible. Fragmented apps that aren't interoperable and waste teachers’ valuable time by requiring repetitive processes (such as logging in), can have the opposite effect.

Streamlining distance learning collaboration tools using interoperability and a unified communications system can help solve the problem. The most valuable and commonly used tools—such as email, Microsoft Teams and Flipgrid—can be integrated into a singular unified communications system. This can create one central place to access programs, so navigating from one to another requires fewer steps. This can make workflows smooth and consistent rather than arduous.

Similarly, with various data points sitting within one software application program, it can be easier to pull data together to create a more complete picture of a child's progress. This can help inform educators and allow them to make better decisions about their pupils, helping make planning and teaching more efficient.

Interoperability of distance learning tools can also benefit students, many of whom, depending on their age, may need parental support accessing different tools and applications. A single platform that houses interoperable tools in an intuitive way can simplify access for students and parents, who may have never used these systems until required to do so for remote learning.

Productivity and efficiency can be greatly improved by using a single login to access a host of distance learning tools, rather than needing individual ones for every application. Users can quickly get used to the feel and function of the unified communications system, helping the school day run smoothly. Because access and navigation are easy, it can also improve student engagement and productivity.

Interoperability, however, isn't always baked in. Therefore, it's important to pick the right partner to provide your school district with the right unified communications system. Expert providers can review the distance learning collaboration tools and systems you currently have in place. Then, they can show you how you can improve your processes with an interoperable system, and they can support you over time as your needs and requirements evolve.

Access to quality digital infrastructure and equipment is essential to teachers and students alike, whether working in the classroom or remotely. In fact, the pandemic has shown how valuable online tools and applications are to modern-day education. However, it's time to make the tools work for your school district, rather than teachers feeling like they're working for the tools.

Learn more about how Verizon collaboration solutions can support distance learning tools for teachers.