DIY Virtual Classroom for Under $5 (Thousands of Users)
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► LOOK: A2 Hosting (w/Free Moodle LMS)
► LOOK: Kinsta Hosting
► LOOK: Cloudways (Free Moodle LMS on Cloud)
► LOOK: LearnDash for WordPress
► LOOK: StreamLabs OBS
Virtual Classrooms are suddenly an important part of our current education and learning system. Without them, education will stop. One of the biggest issues is, it can be extremely costly to teach your students and deliver your online class. Why not do it yourself and build a DIY Virtual Classroom?
Conferencing software like Zoom start at $14.99 / month for EACH TEACHER just for video conferencing. On top of that, it's not even a complete virtual classroom solution. Furthermore, the average cost (per organization) of the popular Blackboard Learn software is around $160,000 / year. Yes... that's annually.
How would you like to have your own eLearning platform and virtual classroom software? One that could be used by just a teacher, or an entire school? Let's discuss how to make your own DIY virtual classroom that can sustain thousands of users (instructors and students).
Use a Web Host that Can Support a DIY Virtual Classroom
You can get really powerful web hosting for as little as $3 per month. Some of these web hosting companies offer free open-source website builders and learning management systems. For example, Moodle is a free, open source learning managment system that can be used as an online virtual classroom.
With that said, there are literally thousands of different web hosting options. Here's the one's I use:
A2 Hosting: Beginning at $2.96 (at the time this short article was created), A2 Hosting provides lightning rapid host solutions. I utilize A2 Holding for some of my greatest website traffic internet sites as well as currently run an eLearning platform on it. If you get A2 Hosting, you can set up Moodle, a totally free distance learning as well as online class software application totally free. Much more on Moodle later on. LOOK AT A2HOSTING
Cloudways: Cloudways is a cloud hosting platform that is extremely flexible. Starting at $10 per month, Cloudways offers easy setup, great customer service, and several free Learning Management Systems you can choose from to install (including Moodle). The great thing about Cloudways, is the reliable infrustructure, speed, and cloud environment. LOOK AT CLOUDWAYS
Kinsta: Being one of the most exceptional, easy to use web hosting business, Kinsta starts at $30 monthly. Kinsta is a "Managed WordPress" host. If you aren't extremely tech savvy, Kinsta is certainly the way to go. If you go with Kinsta, you will certainly not have the option to mount Moodle. LOOK AT KINSTA
Use WordPress (Instead of Moodle) For More Options and Flexibility
If you decide to use Moodle, you don't need to install WordPress on your webhosting server. However, if you have a larger budget and require more flexibility, WordPress is the way to go.
However, WordPress alone is not a learning management system. You will need to install LearnDash, which we will get to in the next point.
First, what exactly is WordPress? WordPress is a free, "open-source" website and blogging platform. You can pretty much build any type of website with WordPress. WordPress is fairly easy to learn and doesn't cost anything.
If you go with Moodle, WordPress is not required. Pick one or the other. Even though both are free, WordPress will require LearnDash, which costs a little more money.
Let's talk about LearnDash.
LOOK AT LearnDash
Add LearnDash to WordPress for a More Power and Rapid Course Building
Remember, WordPress by itself is not a virtual learning platform. WordPress is, however, a very robust web platform for creating any type of internet site. With development experience, the options with WordPress are endless. WordPress is in fact the most widely-used web site system in the entire world.
So, you will need an addon, or "plugin" for WordPress to convert it to a DIY Virtual Classroom software. Use LearnDash for this. At the time this was written, LearnDash is priced at $159. This is a one time fee that comes with one year of support and updates. Does this sound expensive?
Well consider this ...
Remember what I said at the beginning of this article? Blackboard Learn typically costs an organization/institution $160,000 annually! That's every single year. LearnDash on WordPress is very comparable to Blackboard Learn. With that said, Blackboard is a little more powerful. But the price of LearnDash on WordPress is absolutely worth it.
Don't forget, there are also many different Virtual Classroom services that offer plans that cost from $19/month, for each teacher. $159, one time, for an entire school or institution is absolutely worth the money.
Again, you can use the free Moodle platform instead if you do not have the budget for LearnDash. Moodle gets the job done for free. Moodle also has an app you can download available for iOS and Android.
Remember, if you decide to go the free route and use Moodle, to sign up for A2 Hosting or Cloudways (not Kinsta).
Use YouTube to Stream Virtual Classroom Lectures
YouTube is the world's most reliable (and largest) video upload, embed, and streaming service... And it's completely free to use.
There are several different ways you can use YouTube. First of all, don't send the students to the YouTube website. Embed your videos directly into your platform's lesson page. Like at the top of this page. There's a YouTube video embedded there.
You can also embed Live Streams the same way. Then when the scheduled live stream occurs, it will stream in your Virtual Classroom. YouTube also archives and saves Live Streams that are under 12 hours long. This is helpful for students to go back and reference the lecture, discussion, or question and answer session.
YouTube is an incredible tool that is also totally free.
Download and Setup StreamLabs OBS (Free and Amazing)
It's an understatement to say that Streamlabs OBS is absolutely one of the most incredible cost-free/open source software apps an educator could have. I'm not exaggerating.
Streamlabs OBS was originally designed for gamers to connect to Live Streaming services and record their saved livestream. It is extremely easy to use and does everything you need for... well everything video related.
Like I said, you can record, live stream, or both. Also, you can capture any device you want. A camera, your screen, a microphone, all 3... the options are endless. It's actually very easy to broadcast what you are doing on your computer screen, and also setup your webcam to show you talking in the corner. It can integrate everything.
StreamLabs OBS automatically connects to YouTube, Facebook Live, Twitter, and a variety of various other platforms with Live Streaming services..
This part is my favorite. I use StreamLabs OBS all the time.
Download any free drawing application to your laptop. Stream your computer screen so students can watch you solve problems Live as if you were writing on a chalkboard. Keep your webcam stream of your face in the corner where students can see your face while your talking and writing on the "Virtual Chalkboard".
Just Download StreamLabs OBS and use it. It's free and awesome.
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