For the past 16 years, the amazing Jane Hart has analyzed and released a list of Top Tools for Learning. This year’s list, 100 of the most widely used tech tools by learning professionals, represents a bevy of useful programs trusted by facilitators, designers, and others in the training industry. You can see the list here, along with Jane’s insightful analysis and trends.
This year’s list inspired me to think about my own “top tools” for virtual facilitators. What are the must-have, go-to tech tools that I use on a frequent basis, and would recommend to other trainers. A few are obvious, like the virtual classroom platforms that fuel my daily work. And a few on my list may be a surprise. For each tool on this list, I’ve included a brief description of how it’s used, and a link for you to explore it on your own.
A quick but important note: nothing on this list is sponsored. These are just the tools that I use on a regular basis in my work.
What tools would YOU add to this collection? Be sure to share them in the comments so that we can learn from each other!
1. Virtual Classroom Platforms: Zoom, WebEx, Adobe Connect, GoToTraining
While it might seem unfair to lump these four platforms together in one group, instead of giving each of them a separate place on my Top 10 list, they would have taken up almost half of the choices, and they are obvious ones. These are the four most common online classrooms that I use with my large corporate and government clients on an almost daily basis. I’ll call them the “traditional” virtual classroom platforms because they’ve all been around for many years and are familiar to most virtual trainers. They support common collaboration features like chat, polls, whiteboards, and breakouts and they are relatively easy to use.
In addition to these tried-and-true programs, I’m also exploring new platforms like Butter, Lanes, WeConnect, and Jigsaw Interactive. Stay tuned for a future post with my thoughts on each.
2. Cyberlink YouCam
Some virtual classroom video settings now include settings for low light, skin smoothing, and virtual makeup. But when I’m on webcam in a platform that doesn’t have these settings or built-in filters, I turn to YouCam. This virtual camera software lets me use custom video settings, virtual backgrounds, live makeup, and filter overlays.
3. TechSmith’s Snagit
I like to teach virtual platform tools as we use them in an online class, and I use screen captures of the platform tools to help demonstrate them. For example, if we’re about to use drawing tools on a collaborative whiteboard, I’ll use a prepared slide with screenshots of the drawing tools to introduce the activity instructions. Snagit is my favorite go-to tool for screen captures.
Vimeo is my favorite video hosting platform. I use it to post how-to videos for my program participants to watch in preparation for a class. I also post videos with instructions for self-led assignments during blended journeys. And for providing video-based feedback to virtual facilitators and designers after they’ve practiced in our hands-on lab. Vimeo includes other features, such as screen recording and live streaming, that I plan to start exploring soon.
Most virtual classroom platforms have built-in polling, and many now include integrated apps to expand those capabilities. So whether I’m using Mentimeter inside a virtual class, or using it to gather input during a keynote presentation, it’s the one I turn to most often for collaboration. Its easy to use for presenters and participants alike.
I partner with a producer for every virtual class, and follow best practice guidelines to have a backchannel communication tool in case we need to reach each other outside of the platform. Enter Whatsapp – a simple method we can use for private chatting during a class. Sometimes we use it a lot, sometimes a little, either way, we use it to connect as needed.
For gathering participant input before a virtual class, and for collecting feedback after, SurveyMonkey is my survey tool of choice! I appreciate its analysis tools and the ease of downloading QR codes instead of links so that I can share the code on screen at the appropriate time.
A professional library including thousands of photos, graphics, and videos that I use to illustrate slides and other visuals. While there are many free photo sites out there, I find that I save tons of time by going to this one source to search for the perfect image needed. I subscribe to an iStockPhoto monthly plan but it’s also possible to purchase individual items.
Canva makes it simple to create beautiful documents. I use it for participant job aids, handouts, infographics, and more. I appreciate its collaboration features when sharing these items with my team and with clients. Most recently I used Canva to create a pre-work/ preparation assignment for a virtual class. It was visually appealing and had all the necessary information.
When scheduling coaching calls with my participants, or to set up meetings with my client contacts, Calendly removes the back-and-forth scheduling emails and provides a simple calendar solution. I can share a link that lets us compare calendars and find a mutual time to meet, OR I can embed meeting options into an email message that allows for one-click meeting setups. This scheduling tool has saved me SO much time as a virtual facilitator!
And now over to you. What tools would you add to this list? Please enter your thoughts in the comments below.