Effective Virtual Learning Tools, Apps and Supplies for College Student Success

by | 20 Jul 2021

Today’s college and university students have the option of taking online or virtual classes along with their traditional classes. Online classes offer versatility and flexibility to meet students’ preferences and schedules. For a variety of reasons, many students will continue to take at least one class online, even after the pandemic subsides.  

But in order for college students to have an optimal and successful experience with virtual learning, they need to have the right tools that will work best for them. A combination of digital tools, including apps and devices, plus some ergonomic products are a good starting point. 

There’s not a huge learning curve for most students when it comes to digital tools, as a majority of college students are part of Generation Z, the first generation of digital natives who have been using technology on a regular, if not daily, basis since they were toddlers. The Gen Z population is extremely tech savvy and can readily navigate multiple devices, software platforms and apps with ease.

Despite being technically advanced, students must still have effective tools for creating and completing their work, organizing schedules, boosting productivity, and communicating with their peers and instructors. Meanwhile, there are also older millennial and Generation X continuing education students or other adults who may have had less exposure to technology as their younger counterparts. 

In every case, in order to succeed and thrive in distance learning and virtual learning, there are certain tools they will need to have the best possible experience. 

What are virtual learning tools? 

What are some of the best and most effective tools that allow college students to succeed in distance learning and online learning? To create an effective virtual classroom or other distance learning environment, students and instructors need access to high quality digital tools and technology. 

A superior virtual learning experience requires digital tools that are simple and easy to use so that students can concentrate on learning without becoming frustrated. Virtual learning tools include a mixture of devices and software that can be combined to replicate the experience of a physical classroom. These can range from computers, laptops, smartphones, and tablets, to hardware accessories, to cloud software and mobile apps. 

What are some examples of learning tools?

A variety of types of learning tools can be combined to create a complete digital toolset that fits the needs of students in a virtual learning environment. This is a combination of both personal devices and items as well as software and hardware that the learning institutions provide. 

Virtual learning tools generally fit into the following categories:

  • Institution-provided Learning Management Systems that students and instructors use to access curriculum, content, learning materials, and to perform various virtual classroom activities. Some widely adopted LMS include Canvas and Blackboard. 
  • Synchronous learning tools, particularly video conferencing platforms and related tools. Video conferencing platforms that integrate with LMS to provide a live learning experience are highly effective.
  • Communications tools including devices, apps, or software to provide multiple channels of communication. Chat functions and one-on-one communication is also available via video conferencing solutions. 
  • Content creation and collaboration tools, including digital whiteboards, and document sharing apps.  
  • Productivity tools such as devices, apps, software for scheduling, note taking, and studying. These can range from calendar, to-do list apps, note taking apps. Some highly rated choices include Evernote, One Note, Notion, which work on a range of devices.

What are the best devices for virtual learning?

For college students, whether they are attending class virtually or in person, there are a number of must-have devices, including a laptop (either PC or MAC), smartphone, tablet or iPad. A student’s specific choice of computer and operating system may depend on the individual college or university requirements, or what field of study they are pursuing. For example, many students in fields like design, film, art, music may prefer or require a Mac, while students in other fields may prefer Windows-based PCs.

Learning institutions should ensure that the LMS and other collaboration platforms they choose are versatile and flexible enough to operate seamlessly on both computers and mobile devices, providing students with optimal user experience regardless of the device. 

Students in virtual learning programs can also benefit from additional hardware and equipment that can enhance or expand the capabilities of their laptops and other devices. Some examples include: 

  • A second large monitor for increased productivity or larger screen size. 
  • Flash drives and external hard drives
  • Reliable and secure Wi-Fi and router
  • Wi-Fi extenders for either at home or in a dorm room 

What supplies do college students need for distance learning?

Along with computers and devices, there are additional home office items and other supplies or materials that can improve the distance learning experience. 

Ideas include:

  • Items to create a good quality, ergonomic workspace, such as a quality office or desk chair, an appropriate size desk or even a stand-up desk 
  • An ergonomic keyboard
  • Noise-canceling headphones or earbuds
  • A webcam
  • A reusable digital notebook

What software do college students use for online courses? 

Along with LMS and video conferencing platforms, college students use typical office suite software for writing papers and assignments, productivity, research, studying, creating media and other content. Many popular software options are available in the cloud, and universities sometimes provide specialty software as required for specific majors. 

Some examples of cloud-based software and apps used by most college students include:

  • MS Office – Word, PowerPoint, Excel
  • Google docs and Google Drive 
  • Dropbox 
  • Canva
  • Research apps such as Open Culture and TED 

What communications platforms are used in colleges and why are they important? 

The difficulties and challenges most often associated with online learning are related to communication and interactions between students and instructors or students and their peers. If communications systems that institutions have in place aren’t creating superior quality interactions, the digital learning experience will not be ideal. 

Communications systems and platforms must be reliable, flexible, efficient, and secure to be most effective. This means replicating the in-person one-on-one and group interacting and collaboration found in the traditional classroom setting. 

Synchronous learning success also depends on video conferencing and collaboration tools. Lumicademy’s platform is designed with high-quality and secure technology, including video, audio, and collaboration tools to bring college students an optimal learning experience. 

Lumicademy’s video conferencing and next generation collaboration tools include HD quality video and audio, true end-to-end encryption and highest privacy standards. Lumicademy integrates with learning management systems including Canvas and Moodle. To learn more visit /distance-learning/

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