Real-Time Interactive Instructional Tool Set Offers Unique Functionality at an Affordable Price
Ever wanted to just add PDF notes to your online classes and write all over them?
While the concept of video classes and learning over the internet isn’t anything new, edutech company Klounge is providing a whole new experience for online and classroom-based teachers with its real-time video and shared whiteboard platform called ‘Knowlounge’.
More than just another video chat app
For anyone who’s taught online using applications like Skype, you will have had times where you wanted to write directly on the screen, or even over your notes. Typing out text into chat can take time, and sharing your screen with others can cause privacy issues and is sometimes slow.
Knowlounge is built around its collaborative whiteboard rather than video conferencing and is designed so you can pop in and out of classes as you please. For students joining classes, the platform keeps it simple. Once the teacher has created a class, they can invite students via social media, and join instantly by entering the class code. Students can also enter classes as a guest user – without logging in, but only logged in users get full access to drawing tools.
Classes that you create stay open until you close them, meaning that you can continue to using the same number or link for regular lessons. Students only need to ‘turn up’ to class, with no need to worry about who is calling who, or inviting others to calls like in other programs.
Another bonus is that Knowlounge can be used purely through a web browser, with no extra software to install. If you’ve got a smartphone or tablet, you can still access classes from anywhere with the iOS and Android apps, with almost all the functionality of the web version.
Knowlounge isn’t just for online teaching either and is useful in a classroom setting which we’ll look at further on.
Free to use and cheap to upgrade
The best thing about Knowlounge is that it’s free for the most part. All features can be used at no cost, with the only limitations being a maximum of three participants and up to three pages per class.
Using 50 stars (the in-app currency) will let you have up to 30 users and an unlimited number of extra pages for that class. 100 stars cost just US $1 and can be bought through the iOS and Android apps, with a web version of the store coming very soon.
Full of features
As mentioned earlier, Knowlounge isn’t just another video chat app, and is specifically geared towards teaching with a bunch of education focused tools and features.
“Knowlounge is a game-changer for online teaching tools. It’s a fresh take on the ‘online whiteboard’ concept, with all of the tools that I’d need on one page,” says Billy Go, online Korean teacher. “I’m already using it for some of my classes and am enjoying it.”
Here are some of the main features broken down:
Whiteboard tools – Basic drawing tools are a given. With these you can create shapes, add text, and draw with a stylus or graphic tablet. Pointer mode lets you highlight things similar to a laser pointer. A static image of all the notes on the board can be downloaded for backup or reference.
Media – Upload images, PDFs and YouTube videos directly to the board. This is super useful to write directly on notes or worksheets. The ability to share YouTube videos means that you can also watch related content together and help give context.
Multi-board system – One great thing about Knowlounge is that students can break off from the main class into their own whiteboards to complete tasks on their own, or get one-on-one help. As a teacher, you can switch between your students’ whiteboards to monitor their work, and call everyone back to the main class at the click of a button.
Quiz Features – Sometimes it can be hard to get a sense of how much attention students have been paying, especially if teaching online. Knowlounge comes with live quiz features which let you ask multiple-choice or short answer questions. Questions can be saved too, which means you can prepare them beforehand. Quizzes work on all devices that Knowlounge supports, and the web version also offers hand written or longer text answers.
If you’re worried your students will cheat, set a time limit on your question. Questions can be saved to use again later, and teachers have the option to share results via the board if they wish.
Other features include live chat, comments, and custom backgrounds such as writing or graph paper.
Restricting board control and privacy
Going for a more traditional approach or your students can’t keep their hands off the controls? No worries – disable board sharing and they won’t be able to insert media, control the whiteboard or create quizzes.
Teachers also have the option to forcefully enlarge the webcam view for all users, so that students can take their focus off the whiteboard for a second and pay attention to the teacher. And, if there is anyone in particular that you don’t want in your class, they can be kicked from the user menu.
As for privacy, some people don’t want their classes appearing in the public feed, and you can choose to make all your classes private – or simply select your preference for each class. You can also keep a class public but give it a password to prevent unknown users from joining.
Designed for flipped learning
Many educators have switched to flipped classrooms in recent years and Knowlounge has been designed with flipped learning in mind.
Teachers can import YouTube videos into a class – along with notes or instructions, and students can leave questions as comments while they watch. If you have classrooms equipped with tablets or computers, you can also have students carry out work on their own whiteboards, or use the quiz function to make pop quizzes with just a few clicks.
If you prefer making your own videos, you can also use the company’s other app ‘Know Recorder’ to make your own video lessons via a tablet. Both Knowlounge and Know Recorder are certified technology partners of the Flipped Learning Global Initiative, meaning that they’ve been vetted to ensure they meet best practices.
“Any teacher could open up the Know Recorder app and intuitively figure out how to create a flipped video. And when coupled with Knowlounge, collaboration becomes a snap. Klounge products are a perfect fit for teachers looking to flip their classes,” said Jon Bergmann, flipped learning co-founder, and center of a global network of flipped learning early adopters around the world.
Of course, if you have a classroom full of students using Knowlounge at the same time on multiple devices, you’re going to get audio feedback. If the teacher turns on Classroom Mode, then all webcam and voice communication for students is disabled, which also saves data and improves network speeds. The teacher still has access to the webcam view, in case they want to invite another teacher to join them on the main screen.
If you’ve been considering upgrading your smartboard, Knowlounge is great solution if you don’t want to blow your budget. By using the app to write your notes on the board, not only can you save them for later, but you can also broadcast your class live for students taking part in distance learning. It can also be utilized for multi-class broadcasts, useful if you have a guest speaker which can’t make it in person.
Outside of class, it’s a great tool for remote meetings between teachers, or even group study sessions for students.