Tech Tools

Virtual Connected Classroom?

There are many applications that provide you with a tool to extend your classroom and student engagement beyond the face-to-face contact teaching session. CourseSites, Edmodo, FaceBook and ClassConnect are just some of the free tools available for you to create a new engaging learning space with your students.


A recent post on Faculty Focus explored the concept of lecturers connecting with students on FaceBook. Students are not always keen for their lecturers to become their "friends" and engage in what is usually a social playground, but there is an option of creating a separate closed class group as an alternative. Sonya Sharp, Tourism Lecturer and Technology Enhanced Learning Champion on the VC Cape Town campus has been using a FaceBook group to connect and engage with her students for a couple of years now. This is a closed group specifically to continue the conversation and collaboration on the module she is teaching. Like her, James Staples, ADC and Lecturer on the IIE BA Degree in Corporate Communications at the VC Durban North campus, has also promoted wonderful student engagement through his closed Facebook group. Cara-Lee Joubert at VC PMB is doing likewise. I am sure that there are others who have tried FaceBook to connect with their students and would be willing to share their experience with us. You may find this document useful too: A teacher's Guide to using FaceBook.

What are the alternatives? Well CourseSites provides one such alternative. The site provides lots of tutorials to get you started and helps you create a live classroom into which you invite your student group. Better still there is a mobile app that allows students to access your module site via their smartphone/laptop/tablet too. The features of CourseSites provides you with tools to create quizzes, discussion forums, instant messaging, sharing digital content, collaborating and even grading/marking student work in your module. I believe that a few VC Cape Town Lecturers are trying this application out. We would be keen to hear more from them.

Edmodo is another alternative and offers you a free secure social learning network to connect with your students - create a different group for each class/module you teach. Paula Hall, Lecturer at VC PMB is using Edmodo to connect with her students and will be sharing her new learning space at the upcoming IIE Celebration of Teaching and Learning in this regard.

ClassConnect was created by a high school student, Eric Simons.

"During my junior year of high school (almost two years ago), my chemistry teacher pulled me aside and asked the question that changed the focus of my life: "What would make you interested in learning what I'm teaching?" I was stumped. She didn't ask me to try harder, she didn't ask me to stay after for help or study more - she asked me to figure out how she could grab my interest. No one had ever bothered to ask me that before. A few moments later I replied, "let's get everyone working together on computers – I'll even build the software for us to use".

And that was the start of ClassConnect. For the next two years I designed, tested, and redesigned the software, getting teacher and peer input along the way. Suddenly, I couldn't learn enough about how teachers teach and how students learn. Education, once my nemesis, became my passion."

This is great for sharing documents, websites and videos with your students. 

Whichever application you choose to try, by connecting with your students, sharing content and thoughts, collaborating and engaging in discussion, you are making the shift into new learning spaces and modelling 21st century skills.  Social Media gives everyone a voice in the community. 

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