Categories: News, Our Product

Tools that teachers love for fostering human connections in remote learning


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Josh Hale, Chief Product Officer

The global switch to remote learning has fundamentally changed the way teachers and students are using the itslearning platform. One of the clearest shifts can be seen in the huge uptick in teachers embracing tools like live video conferencing and interactive discussion boards that foster human connections when they can no longer see their students face to face.

Communication tool use has also spiked tremendously, with the number of one to one messages on itslearning up 325% in March 2020 compared to the previous 4-month average. That equates to almost 30 million messages in March alone! We’ve seen even greater jumps in use of our audio/video feedback tools (asynchronous a/v recordings), up more than 400% in March.

Our product and engineering teams are thrilled to see the increased engagement in our platform, and we’re working our tails off to improve our tools to support success with #remotelearning for teachers and students everywhere.

Given the popularity of live video conferencing, we first set off to make it easier to create Teams meetings within itslearning. Earlier this month, we announced that all schools using Office 365 Education could use Teams in itslearning for live instruction. To make it even easier, we made the Teams icon accessible directly from the text editor menu in itslearning.

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The feedback so far has been great, and we will continue to work closely with Microsoft to ensure Teams feature improvements work hand-in-hand with the itslearning integration. They’re working hard too, and have recently announced plans to roll out a series of updates specifically for teachers and students, things like:

  • To make video calls more inclusive, the raise hand feature will be rolled out globally in April 2020. It lets meeting participants indicate they have something to say during a meeting by clicking on a hand-raise icon in the meeting control bar.
  • Meeting organizers, especially teachers, often need to know who joined their Teams meetings. Coming soon in April. you will be able to download a participant report, found in the participant list, that includes join and leave times for participants.
  • Later this year, Microsoft will bring real-time noise suppression, which uses AI to reduce distracting background noise such as loud typing or a barking dog in Teams meetings.

Engaging Developments

Additionally, we have also seen an increase in many other product features in March 2020 including Announcements (up 389%), Assignments (360%) and Learning Paths (up 660%).

We’re also seeing increased mobile app usage as more than 400,000 new users installed the app to help connect from home.

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In these last few months, we’ve heard many remarkable remote learning adoption stories, including how Mooseheart Child City and School, just outside Chicago, is reinventing teaching and learning.

“We are so blessed to have a working relationship with a company that cares about education…. We didn’t know we would rely on a platform as much as we are. Every dollar we’ve spent has paid back multifold,” Dr Jeff Szymczak, Mooseheart Child City and School.

As the person responsible for the itslearning platform, it brings a big smile to my face to see so many of our core features being used more often, by more of our users. It shows me that teachers and students can rely on itslearning in this time of need and that they are discovering the value itslearning can deliver when they eventually return to their classrooms.

As another teacher put it in an article, “We get lots of nice responses from the children and the parents saying they are happy that we are able to continue in the same way as we did in class. We will continue to use itslearning in this way when we go back to school.”

In the meantime the Product and Engineering teams at itslearning will continue to stay focused on delivering more great improvements to our tools for teachers and students. We’ve got a bunch of exciting things planned for later in 2020, and can’t wait to see teachers and students continue to embrace our platform to further the impact of technology in education.

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Free Remote Learning Starter Kit


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