Example Online Tools



Online Tools for Facilitating Unique Learning Needs of Students


A brief explanation and links to further resources for using each of these to facilitate online cooperative learning with your students. 

This content was adapted from Anderson, S. Quality Online Teaching, Engaging Instructional Strategies, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. October, 2011. 


Story Telling Tools


Story Bird is a free program to connect artist generated art work with stories. This can be useful for creating social stories for students who need more rehearsal of appropriate social-interaction. Students who are challenged to write can develop their stories at school but continue work on them at home, with editing input by parents, grandparents and teacher etc.


UDL Bookbuilder (Universal Design for Learning)  From the website:

Use this site to create, share, publish, and read digital books that engage and support diverse learners according to their individual needs, interests, and skills.  Students, teachers and family members can produce audio books about the topic of their choice. 

Coaches or "avatars" read the words on the book to the reader.  The author of the book may also have the coaches ask questions about the content to check for student understanding.  The book and coaches also have the capacity to speak in Spanish.

Coaches Monty and Emma


Web page-based project sites


Numerous free services allow students to work collaboratively on a Web-based project that you assign; for instance, there are many host providers of a software technology called "Wikis"—quickly editable pages that can be worked on collaboratively from multiple locations.


Google Docs and Google Sites allow for synchronous collaboration. These kinds of spaces allow students to do things such as: write; link to other resources; embed images, videos or audio files; engage in threaded discussions; and view the changes made by others and comment on those. Many quality tools exist for this. The following links are to tutorials to help you learn more about this type of tool in an online course.



PBWorks is a host provider for the software known as "Wiki," which simply refers to "what you see is what you get" Web site-building software—in other words, Web design that can be done as simply as writing in a Word document. Project sites are easily created so that students can work collaboratively to research and author work on a particular topic. Wikis are particularly useful because they can grow very large and are incredibly "friendly" to hosting any other type of media or Web 2.0 tool.

The link above opens a Web site built with PBWorks to help others design with PBWorks. Videos are embedded within the pages for you to watch and learn more.


Google Docs

Google Docs afford less complexity than Wikis, but have the distinct advantage of offering the same page for simultaneous viewing and editing from different locations. This page opens with an introduction to Google Docs, but videos are embedded within to give you a tour.


Google Sites

A Google Site is more like a Wiki in that it is likely to have multiple linked pages and to look like a Web site. Templates create a fancy look and feel with very limited understanding of design. This link opens a pdf file where many Google tools for teachers are reviewed, including Google Sites.



A LiveBinder is similar to a Wiki-based site or a Google site. It allows anyone with Internet access to host a Web site that has multimedia and multiple pages or materials. As in a Wiki, different pages within a LiveBinder site can be edited from numerous locations simultaneously. A LiveBinder site has the familiar look of a "binder" of file folders; tabs at the top of the site take you to different "pages" that you create, and each page can contain text, audio, video, etc. This link will take you to TeacherCast where the LiveBinder is explained and modeled.


Checklist Creation site

This is a useful site when you need to produce checklists for assessment.  The drop down menu provides criterion for items on the list.  A JING tutorial may be found hereChecklists PBL  A helpful feature at this site is the option to have the checklist in Spanish.   



Concept Maps or Multi-User WhiteBoard


Visual tools can provide new ways of conceptualizing and detailing a shared project. Many free tools allow multiple users to create a graphic organizer or pictorial project together and simultaneously. Example providers include:



This links you to the introductory page for this free, multi-user tool for visualizing projects together.



This links you to an example concept map of Collaborative Online Tools created by Robin Good. Or check out this Jing of students MindMeister work in a Social Studies class. The movie shows the evolution of the concept map over the semester, and highlights some of the detail work done collaboratively. Along the bottom of the screen you can see the changing names of various contributors to the final product on this collaborative project.



This link is an introduction to a concept-mapping software. The introduction was produced as part of a collaboration between Joint Information Systems Committee-JISC and University of Westminster Education Initiative Centre



This is a beautiful interactive tool for setting up key points in a debate around a central theme.



This is a multi-user white board with audio, text chat, and video. Free and paid versions exist.



iPads are well suited to this app, which allows for the common sharing of a simulated whiteboard.



Social Networking Tools


Depending on the age of your students, they might be regularly operating in a social media platform such as Facebook or LinkedIn. Free social media tools allow for multifaceted interaction simultaneously with the whole class, although many of these features are also available within the course management software. Popular examples include:


How to Diigo for Social Studies Part 1  Part 2 Downloading the Toolbar from Firefox

Diigo is a Social Bookmarking site. You can use it to organize your findings so you can refind them again on any computer, and also to take notes, make comments, and share your work with others. This is a very helpful tool for students with organizational issues, and teachers who have to organize so much!


Facebook for Educators

Twitter Projects for the College Classroom

Google Plus Guide for Educators


Students might create a special Facebook page to interact during a class project; or students might use Skype or a similar chatting/instant messaging tool to interact with a group of people around a shared project. VoiceThread allows students to interact with voice, video, or text around a shared set of images. See examples from the Whole Class page.



Synchronous Collaboration Via Web-Based Connections


Students may gather in a free Webinar space to share information and planning materials. Example providers include:




This tool allows students to create a video together, editing it online.




Mobile Learning


It appears that we are right on the edge of a potentially huge transformation in online learning with the advent of increasingly sleek mobile learning opportunities for faculty and students. The newest version of D2L on the iPad is beautiful, but very limited in scope. You can scan discussion posts with ease, but you have nowhere near the potential for interacting and building content that you have through a regular computer interface.  Mobile Learning has more/less relevance depending on your field of study. Some fields, such as medicine may be increasingly dependent on practioners having a confident knowledge of how to operate hand-held devices for recording patient data, seeking resources etc. When "location" or "mobility" matters significantly for your line of work you may want to investigate the options.



Licensed for ReuseCreative Commons Attributionhttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Mobile Twin Cities http://mobiletwincities.com/ Peter Pascale, Enterprise Architect Ron Lancaster, Director of Technology Pearson VUE http://pearsonvue.com Learnocity Learnocity Slides Must Not Be Remixed http://www.learnosity.com/




Interactive Web


Infinite examples of free or inexpensive resources for collaborative group work exist these days. After creating their work for a public audience, students can provide a link to their final project in the discussion area or dropbox, or in an e-mail for you to review. They might, for instance:

  • Create history tours of their local area using:
  • Research an area of environmental concern and demonstrate their learning through a publicly available site such as:
  • Interview business or community leaders and synthesize their findings through:
  • Document their content understanding in an educational forum so that rather than simply providing evidence that they've learned something, they are creating something useful for the larger world, wherein others may want to learn what the student has learned. Examples include: