The state of COVID-19 pandemic is still uncertain in Nepal. Students may continue staying at home for an uncertain period due to the virus. However, during the pandemic period last year, the education sector saw a big leap over demand and use of online technology in the education system. Here we are trying to discuss few major classroom technologies such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams & Google Classroom that emerged as good options for academic activities.
Zoom is the leader in modern enterprise video communications, with an easy, reliable cloud platform for video and audio conferencing, chat, and webinars across mobile, desktop, and room systems. Zoom Rooms is the original software-based conference room solution used around the world in board, conference, huddle, and training rooms, as well as executive offices. To use Zoom for education, the host has to sign in to www.zoom.us and use the account for free. The Free version is ideal for scheduling short video meetings.
Teachers can create their separate classroom links and invite students to meetings through an invitation link ,sent in their emails. Students can also join the classroom from Zoom desktop/mobile application.
The benefits of using Zoom is that you can see faces of participants in a single grid layout. As well you can also record video meetings.
But due to limitation of time approximately 40 min for the free version, the host who is conducting the Zoom meeting needs to buy a license for long meetings.
Desktop applications or mobile applications have to be downloaded and installed in-order to use Zoom more effectively. In times, It also has security related issues with link based invitations. Free accounts limits to only 40 mins of free session.
Microsoft Teams on the other hand also had a good catch for virtual classrooms. Microsoft Teams is the hub for team collaboration in Microsoft 365 that integrates the people, content, and tools your team needs to be more engaged and effective. Microsoft team is available on Windows and Mac operating systems (app). Teams can be used in mobile app, Web App or Desktop App. Microsoft teams have many features to compliment classroom requirements.
The benefits of using Teams is that it too is device independent and can be accessed from web browser or application. It has its native features of an office system which is supported and synced with desktop office applications directly.
Microsoft Teams is expensive in terms of individual use. Unlike a free Google account for the classroom, we cannot create teams with a free Microsoft account unless you have an Education account.
Google Classroom has become one of the most used asynchronous virtual classroom setup. With more than 100 Million users, Google Classroom evolved well with the blended classroom structures. The most powerful features of Google classroom is for creating assignments, submitting assignments and grading.
You can simply login to Google Classroom with your GMail account and start Classroom session. Google Classroom helps to manage assignments and keep track of student performance in one place.
The benefits of using Google Classroom is that you do not need to install any software as it is browser friendly and can be run in any browser environment including mobile apps. Its free to use for academic institutions. Google classroom can be a host space for conducting scheduled classroom and face to face classroom using Google Meet.
Google classrooms application is evolving however the rollout of new features is a bit late as compared to other platforms.
In our recommendation, Zoom can be used where you need to host face to face meetings for a limited time period and with best video conferencing experience. Microsoft Teams can be used for higher education where people are well-aware of the use of Microsoft 365 tools and its terminologies. Google Classroom can be started anytime with any scale of students and teachers for free. It is highly recommended for asynchronous teaching mostly for the schools residing in rural as well as sub-urban areas of Nepal, due to its accessibility and portability of use amongst students. With low bandwidth and Android dominated market in rural areas, Google classroom as well serves well in low bandwidth Android phones.