The future of education is hybrid education, a fact that is now more evident than in any time before. The large scale disruptions caused by the current pandemic resulted in a mass electronic exodus. We have seen this e-migration first hand in the field of education as teachers and educators were suddenly forced to migrate all of their work to the cloud.

And now as we head back to in-class teaching, many teachers are still using one form or another of online teaching. Hybridity is here to stay and in some contexts it has already become the new normal.

As our dependance on the Internet increases, web and video conferencing tools have become increasingly important especially for us in the education sector. Fom hosting virtual classrooms to holding online discussions and meetings, synchronous forms of conferencing are becoming the norm.

In today’s post, I am sharing with you some of the best video conferencing and webinar hosting tools out there. You can use these tools to deliver online training, workshops, webinars, schedule and plan meetings, and more. All of these web conferencing tools support live broadcasting of presentations, screen sharing, messaging, and many more. 

1- Zoom

Zoom is one of the most popular video conferencing platforms out there. It is ideal for hosting online meetings. Here are some of the interesting features it offers:
‘Host up to 100 video participants, pro version allows you to add moreRecord your videos and save them locally or to the cloud.‘Multiple participants can share their screens simultaneously and co-annotate during screen sharing’‘Support scheduling or starting meetings from Outlook, Gmail, or iCal’‘Chat with groups, searchable history, integrated file sharing, and 10 year archive. Easily escalate into 1:1 or group calls’40 minutes limit on group meetings‘Video Breakout Rooms allow you to split your Zoom meeting into as many as 50 separate sessions for discussion, projects and more’.Private and group chat; Virtual background; WhiteboardingNo need for Zoom account to join a meeting.You need a Zoom account to create a meetingWorks on the web, Android, and iOSPremium version offers more features’.

2- Blackboard Collaborate

Blackboard Collaborate provides you with a secure digital space where you can connect face to face with your students, peers, and collaborators. Some of the main features it offers include: 
Interactive whiteboardPollingModerated breakout groupsChronological hand-raise notificationsSession recordingsPrivate meetings’ and more. 

3- Skype

Skype is another great platform for video conferencing. It offers the following services;
Supports up to 50 participants in a video or audio conference‘Easily share presentations, holiday photos or anything on your screen during a call with integrated screen sharing’.Call recordings and live captions and subtitles. No time limitsSupports private conversationsBackground blurIncludes chat feature and call reactionsSkype saves your recording for up to 30 daysWorks on the web, Android, and iOSSkype video chat application is free

4- Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams‘ star has particularly risen during the pandemic as more and more teachers and educators fall back on its services to host meetings, conferences and webinars. Some of the services it provides include:
Supports up to 250 members in a single Teams meetingUnlimited chat and search’10 GB of team file storage and 2 GB of personal file storage per person’.‘Real-time collaboration with Office apps’Screen sharing and background blurShare files with colleagues and work on them together.‘Unlimited app integrations with 250+ business apps to choose from, including Adobe, Evernote, and Trello’.‘You need an Office 365 account with the appropriate Office 365 license’Works on the web, Android, and iOSPaid version offers more features

5- Webex

Another powerful web conferencing platform. Webex works across different browsers and devices. Some of the features it offers include:  
Supports meetings with up to 100 participantsInteractive whiteboardingScreen sharing Messaging and HD videosAdvanced noise removal and speech enhancementGesture recognition and  automatic transcriptionCustom layouts and calendar integrations1:1 and group messaging, and many more.

6- Google Meet

Google Meet is definitely another excellent video conferencing platform for teachers and educators. Some of the features it provides include:
Host meetings from anywhere with up to 250 participants, record for later viewing, or livestream to up to 100,000 people’.Video meetings of unlimited length till end of September, after that 60 minutes limit for free users.Integrated with G Suite, so you can join meetings directly from a Calendar event or email invite’.Supports real-time captioning, scheduling, and screen sharing.‘With G Suite, every meeting automatically includes its own dial-in details. Guests can dial in quickly with just two taps on their smartphone’. ‘Edit documents, presentations, and spreadsheets in real-time with the entire team and track every change with version history’.‘Create a group calendar, organize files in a shared drive, and create group chats for up to 150 participants to keep the whole team on the same page.

7- Zoho Meeting

Zoho Meeting is an online meeting platform and webinar tool that helps individuals and teams collaborate and work together remotely. Some of the features provided by Zoho Meeting include:
Launch and join online meetings and webinars from your browser. No need to download any software.Face-to-face collaboration through video and audio conferencingConnect a monitor to deliver live presentations and demosRecord your meetings and webinars and store and play them online, share them using a link or download and save them to your local Drive.Join meetings and webinars through your phone, overcoming the problem of poor Internet connection.Add team members and collaborators to your meetings as presentersAutomatically add events to your email as you receive meeting invitations and webinar registration notifications in your inbox. Enable automated syncing of sessions you create with Zoho and Google calendars.Secure your meetings and webinars using features such as Lock meetings and password protection‘Plan meetings ahead and send email invitations to participants with the agenda, date, and time. For instant collaboration, start meetings right away and share the joining link with participants via chat, SMS, or email.’‘Get RSVPs from invitees and know who will be present beforehand. Edit or replan your meeting based on who is attending. Send automated email reminders with joining links and conference details before a meeting or webinar.’‘Lock confidential meetings to keep them secure from unexpected attendees. Get notified when someone tries to enter your meeting and let them in only if you want to.’‘Reduce disturbances and drive discussions in the right direction. Use moderator controls to mute all or individual participants. Also, remove participants when they aren’t part of discussion anymore.’‘Conduct video webinars by broadcasting live video feeds of organizers and co-organizers to attendees along with the webinar presentation.’

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