The best ‘free’ video-conferencing software for 2020

This post was written by J.Greenwood (2020)

With the Covid-19 pandemic currently impacting educational institutions across the globe, many teachers are being tasked with delivering classes online. This blog post will summarise six of the best video-conferencing software programmes, as well as six file-sharing programmes for teaching online.

Features

  • Voice call: Yes
  • Video call: Yes
  • Screenshare: Yes
  • File share: Yes
  • Whiteboarding: Yes
  • Max. participants: 50
  • Max. meeting length: Unlimited
  • Record function: Yes
  • Contacting students: Adding Skype account
  • SKYPE LINK

Pros

  • Free to use. An application must be downloaded and an account created.
  • User friendly. Very simple to learn. 
  • Unlimited call length.

Cons

  • You need to find and add another user before you can call them.

Paid version

Skype also offers a paid version, where you can add credit to your Skype account. This allows you to call landlines and mobiles for a small charge. This is great if you want to teach a 1-to-1 over the phone, for example conversation classes, and your student does not have a Skype account.

Features

  • Voice call: Yes
  • Video call: Yes
  • Screenshare: Yes
  • File share: Yes
  • Whiteboarding: Yes
  • Max. participants: 25
  • Max. meeting length: Unlimited
  • Record function: Yes
  • Contacting students: Email
  • Google Hangouts link

Pros

  • Can link up with Google drive and docs, so files can be shared quickly and easily.
  • Functional layout, easy to move between the functions.

Cons

  • Requires a google account to access.
  • Not very well known, so students might not be familiar with it.

Paid version

The paid version is called G Suite and offers three upgrades: The basic (£4.18 a month) offers you 30GB of storage and up to 100 participants. The business (£8.28 a month) offers 1TB of storage and 150 participants. The Enterprise (£20.00 a month) offers unlimited storage and 250 participants.

Features

  • Voice call: Yes
  • Video call: Yes
  • Screenshare: Yes
  • File share: No (transfer)
  • Whiteboarding: Yes
  • Max. participants: 100
  • Max. meeting length: 40 minutes
  • Record function: Yes
  • Contacting students: Meeting link
  • ZOOM LINK

Pros

  • Incredibly easy to use. Just click the link and you can connect with almost any device.
  • No need to download an application or create an account.

Cons

  • Meetings can only be 40 minutes long with the free version.
  • No way to record and store meetings with the free version (paid version allows this).

Paid version

The paid version (£11.99 a month) allows you to host longer meetings of up to 24 hours for up to 100 participants. It also allows you to video record meetings. The Business upgrade (£15.99 a month) allows up to 300 participants which is ideal for webinars.

Features

  • Voice call: Yes
  • Video call: Yes
  • Screenshare: Yes
  • File share: Yes
  • Whiteboarding: Yes
  • Max. participants: 250
  • Max. meeting length: Unlimited
  • Record function: Yes
  • Contacting students: Through teams, or email
  • MS Teams LINK

Pros

  • Great for sharing photos, documents and other files.
  • Most universities have 365 Education accounts BUT to access MS Teams it needs IT administration to action it.

Cons

  • The workspace can be difficult to navigate if there is a large number of files being shared.
  • A personal 365 Office subscription will not give you access to teams. You need to buy a specific plan.
  • Everyone who uses MS teams needs a specific licence plan (see paid plan).

Paid version

There are two paid versions: Office 365 Business premium at £11.28 per month which includes all MS Office products (Word, Excel, PPT, etc) and Office 365 Business Essentials £4.56 a month but no Office tools only Exchange, One Drive, SharePoint and teams.

Features

  • Voice call: Yes
  • Video call: Yes 
  • Screenshare: Yes
  • File share: Yes
  • Whiteboarding: Yes
  • Max. participants: 100
  • Max. meeting length: 24 hours
  • Record function: No
  • Contacting students: Email  
  • WebEx link

Pros

  • COVID 19 deal: Upgraded free account to include unlimited time (before only 40 minutes) and 100 participants (before only 50).
  • Intuitive controls, which automatically detect what file format you are sharing and adjust the controls accordingly.

Cons

  • Does not work as an app on devices, so needs to be accessed through a website each time.
  • No video recording or data storage options.

Paid version

The paid versions offer video recording and data storage. Also, there is the option to customise the meeting room with your business / education logo and they offer 24/7 support. Prices range from £12.50 – £25.00 a month. WebEX also offers WebEX Education an integrated platform for education institutions and Webex Events and Webcasting for up to 40,000+ attendees.

Features

  • Voice call: Yes
  • Video call: Yes (additional download)
  • Screenshare: Yes
  • File share: Yes
  • Whiteboarding: Yes
  • Max. participants: 5
  • Max. meeting length: unlimited
  • Record function: No (paid version)
  • Contacting students: Phone number or email
  • Free Conference link

Pros

  • Lots of good video-conferencing features and support.
  • Free account offers conference calling to 1,000 participants.
  • Free international conference calling to 15 countries.

Cons

  • More focused on conferencing calling.
  • Free version is for only 5 participants.

Paid version

The paid version offers more participants and toll-free international calling. The Starter package ($9.99 per month) offers 15 participants, audio recording and 100 minutes of toll-free international calls. The Plus package ($24.99 a month) offers 50 participants, video-recording and 500 minutes of toll-free international calls. The Pro package ($34.99 a month) offers 100 participants, video-recording and 750 minutes of toll-free international calls. 

Summary

All of the above programmes have great features, which allow you to teach online effectively from home.

THE BEST: AEUK recommends SKYPE because it’s perhaps the most well-known video conferencing and has the most features in the free version.

If you are looking to contact 1-2 students at a time, for short tutorials or classes, then Zoom wins for ease of use, simplicity and connectivity. It is pretty hard to get Zoom wrong, and even the biggest technophobe can easily access a meeting!

If you are working with a class consistently, whether large or small, Microsoft Teams is your best bet. The ability to upload documents for students to view later, and to have sub-threads for different discussions is valuable.

Ultimately, the best option is to learn a programme well and stick with it. The better you know the programme you are using, the more likely you are to be able to help your students if they have difficulty when teaching online!

The best ‘FREE’ file-sharing software for 2020 

 

Microsoft One Drive file-sharing

  • Free Storage limit: 5 GB.
  • Sharing method: Weblink.
  • Accessibility: No Outlook account needed to access files up to 100 GB.
  • Outlook account needed to access shared folders.
  • Paid version features: Office 365 Home Subscription.
  • From $1.99 a month for 50 GB+ storage.
  • One Drive Link

Google Drive File-sharing

  • Free Storage limit: 15 GB.
  • Sharing method: Weblink.
  • Accessibility: No account needed to access.
  • Files available off-line.
  • Paid version: From $1.99 a month for 100 GB storage.
  • Business Version: $12 a month for 1 TB.
  • Google Drive Link

Dropbox File-sharing

  • Free Storage limit: 2 GB.
  • Sharing method: Weblink.
  • Accessibility: No account needed to access Dropbox shared folders.
  • Send files up to 100MB.
  • Paid version: From £7.99 a month for 2 TB storage.
  • Paid version: Send files up to 2GB.
  • Dropbox Link

Evernote File-sharing

  • Storage limit: 60 MB a month.
  • Sharing method: Weblink.
  • Two devices only.
  • Paid version: £4.99 a month for 10 GB storage.
  • Paid business: £10.99 a month for Accessibility: Collaborative space.
  • Evernote Link

Box File-sharing

  • Storage limit: 10 GB.
  • Sharing method: Weblink.
  • File sharing up to 250MB.
  • Accessibility: No account needed. Sender is able to set security preferences on each individual link sent.
  • Paid version: From £3.80 a month for 100 GB storage and 2GB file sharing limit.
  • Paid Business Version: From £11.40 a month for unlimited storage and users.
  • Box Link

Microsoft SharePoint File-sharing

  • NOTE: Sharepoint is not available for personal use. It is for business and organisations. 
  • Microsoft Office for Education includes SharePoint and Teams.
  • Storage limit: 1 TB.
  • Sharing method: Weblink.
  • Accessibility: Need to be invited and have a Microsoft account.
  • ONLY available in paid version: Office 365 Business Premium (£11.28 per month).
  • SharePoint Link

Summary

Which software to use is dependent on your needs and what your students are used to using.

THE BEST: AEUK recommends One Drive because it’s perhaps the most well known and integrates well with Microsoft Office. 

OneDrive also allows you to work on a document online and save it to the service. This cuts out the need to download a file, edit it, and re-upload it. This can save you valuable time if you were marking multiple students homework that had been uploaded to the service for example.

OneDrive also has the ability to change the permission with each link you send out, so you can allow students to view files, download them or edit them. This ensures the level of collaboration on a file is up to you!

When you factor in all of these features and the fair price for the upgraded version, OneDrive starts to look like a great choice!

 

Digital resources and lessons for teaching online

 

Readings

online resources

Tests

online resources

dictogloss

online resources

Critical Thinking

online resources

Writing

online resources

Summary

online resources

Grammar

online resources

Topic-lessons

online resources

Listening

online resources

Argument

online resources

Vocabulary

online resources

New for 2020

online resources

Speaking

online resources

SPSE Essays

online resources

Shop

online resources

Academic English

online resources

More teaching online tools…

Padlet

An online bulletin board that you can use to display information.

Go Here

QUIZIZZ

Student-paced formative assessments in a fun and engaging way.

Go Here

Kahoot 

A digital student-response tool for quizzes, discussions, or  surveys.

Go Here

 Socrative

A quiz-based, formative assessment tool with multiple features.

Go Here

 Quizlet

A vocabulary and flash card learning website with lots of features

Go Here

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