Distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic: continuing education during quarantine

Distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic has been pushed to the forefront of many minds ahead the blanket closure of UK schools this Friday. It comes as universities in the country also suspend face-to-face learning. And while the severity of the situation extends far beyond education, and teachers’, students’ and families’ wellbeings are the priority, trying to continue education during quarantine is an important challenge. There are all kinds of factors at play here. But sometimes, the simplest solution turns out to be the one that can fix it all. As teachers try to provide distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic, they might find conference calls to be the perfect tool.

Distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic needs to be accessible

There are loads of great online-learning tools out there. The problem is that they often require relatively up-to-date and expensive technology. Lots of programs will only run on the latest operating systems. Similarly, many interactive activities are designed for touch-screens.

These kinds of tools work really well in schools and other educational institutions. There, all students use the organisations’ equipment. But the reality is that not all families can afford to have their children kitted out with the latest tech gear. Opting for sophisticated online learning programmes works well in some situations, but it’s not the best way of offering distance learning during the coronavirus. Too many students would be left out and left behind. And that might have long-lasting ramifications. As we figure out how to continue education through quarantine, we need to consider all families, of all means, and with a wide range of attitudes and abilities when it comes to technology.


Conference calls provide accessible distance learning

This is the first of the challenges of distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic which conference calls rise to magnificently. But of course, not all conference calling services are the same.

To make your remote classes as accessible as possible, you need to guarantee the conference call is simple and easy to access. Look carefully at dial-in methods as you choose your provider.

Here’s why WHYPAY? is a great choice: what you need is a conference call with a dial-in number. That’s exactly what we provide. To join any of our conference calls, you simply call the telephone number provided. Anybody who can access any kind of phone will be able to join your lesson. You can call from any mobile or landline.


Distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic needs to be affordable

Another key consideration is expense. Most children’s education is free. And those who are already paying shouldn’t have to pay extra. That’s why it is so important that distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t require special technology. Neither should people need costly subscriptions, paid applications, or any other additional expense. Of course, it wouldn’t be right for teachers to be forking out either!

But even some conference calls can end up costing either the organiser, the participants, or often both. Here again, WHYPAY? provides a great example of what to look out for when you search for tools to continue education through self-isolation.


Genuinely free conference calls from WHYPAY?

That’s because all of our conference calls are not only accessed using an accessible dial-in number, but a special kind of dial-in number. All WHYPAY? dial-in numbers begin with 03 – that’s our magic number.

This is important because according to Ofcom rules, calls to 03 numbers have to be included within the callers’ bundled minutes. That means that for the vast majority of people calling from within the UK, the call won’t cost them a penny. If anybody doesn’t have any inclusive minutes available, the call will still only be charged at the standard landline rate. That’s the same as calling any geographic UK number – those beginning with 01 or 02 that you know so well.

What’s great is that WHYPAY? also provides its service totally free of charge. So the classes’ organisers won’t have to incur any extra expenses just to be able to carry on doing their jobs as they quarantine!

If you want to provide straightforward distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic with easy-to-use conference calls, you can sign up for a free account right now. Just click the button below, or visit our homepage.

Create a FREE Teleconference

There are also a few additional features available that could be really useful for teachers or tutors. But more on that later…


Distance learning during the coronavirus shouldn’t depend on the Internet

These are uncertain times in more ways than one. Internet connection in particular has proven itself particularly uncertain. Other countries have already shown this, with users in Spain being asked to limit their Internet usage. Here in the UK, Virgin Media was amongst several network providers suffering outages. Our reliance on local networks of copper wires means our Internet will be even less reliable than many of our foreign counterparts’.

Even international platforms are struggling with the demand. The online giants Facebook and Whatsapp have even been affected. As people head into isolation, but want to fight loneliness during their quarantines, they understandably want to call loved ones. Many chose to do so over the Internet via Whatsapp calling. As a result, Mark Zuckerberg has had to increase the server capacity.

As such, it’s best to avoid distance learning tools which rely on the Internet. That will alleviate demand on the network, leaving more bandwidth for other uses. Conference calls will avoid issues with the Internet during the coronavirus outbreak, which could lead to frustrating and ineffectual educational experiences.

Opting for conference calling will also guarantee your lessons are accessible. After all, not all students will have access to any Internet, let alone a high-speed one.

If you’ve followed our advice and chosen a conference call provider which uses dial-in numbers, like WHYPAY?, then your remote classes won’t require any Internet connection. Just the capacity to place a standard phone call.


Call recording makes lessons unforgettable

While distance learning during the coronavirus certainly brings lots of challenges, it can also have some great bonuses. One of these is how easily you can record lessons. With the call recording tool, you’ll immediately create an invaluable learning resource for students.

If you hold remote lessons via conference call, having this kind of recording is as simple as clicking a box. With WHYPAY?, you just select the call recording function when you schedule the call.

The organiser – the teacher – will receive an email with a link to download the recording. At the time of organising the call, they can add the students’ email addresses so that they can register to download the recording, too. If you prefer, you can also download the recording and circulate it manually after the call.

With call recording, the whole lesson will be immediately accessible to all students, even if they couldn’t make the call. It’s also a great way to consolidate learning, and a wonderful resource for revision.


Get the ultimate distance learning resource for free

To access the call recording function, WHYPAY? users need to be signed up to either the Plus or Pro package. While these are usually extremely affordable (coming in at just £4 or £8 a month respectively), we really do want to make learning as easy and efficient as possible during the coronavirus outbreak. And we really don’t believe this should cost anyone anything extra. That’s why we’re offering 3 months free on any of these packages. Just enter the discount code on our plans page!


Keep control of your remote classes with moderator controls

Another great benefit of using conference calls to offer distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic is that it’s easy to guide the class – maybe easier than a roomful of adolescents!

Moderator controls are another feature which you need to be on the Plus or Pro package to access. Again, you can get these for free for 3 months. Make sure you input the discount code when you register!

This will give you really useful tools for running remote classes. Particularly helpful for teachers and tutors using conference calls might be the advanced muting modes. As organiser, you can specify whether to mute guests as soon as they join, and whether they can unmute themselves or not.

By muting students while you speak, not only will you prevent any unhelpful interruptions, but you’ll also reduce distracting background noises. To maintain the flexibility of any great lesson, you’ll get to choose from the following modes:

  1. Conversation mode
    All participants can be heard (no one will be muted when they join).
  2. Listen mode
    Only Moderators (who dial in using the Moderator PIN) can be heard when they join. Guests are muted when they join, but can unmute themselves.
  3. Panel mode
    Only Moderators (who use the Moderator PIN) can be heard when they join. Guests are muted when they join and cannot unmute themselves.


Distance learning during the coronavirus doesn’t need to compromise privacy

An issue which can arise when trying to switch to remote learning is finding appropriate communications channels. Some teachers or students may feel uncomfortable reaching each other via their personal mobile numbers, for example. Retaining an appropriate professional distance is possible even if you opt for the simplest telecommunications technology, though.

Because WHYPAY? teleconferences are accessed with a dial-in number, no participant or organiser needs to know anybody else’s number. The only telephone number they need is the dial-in number which WHYPAY? provides. Everybody simply calls this at the same time. That eliminates the risk of any prank calls later in the evening, or any sense of discomfort that might arise.


Conference calls can help sustain the education sector during the coronavirus outbreak

By choosing free and easy teleconferences, teachers will be able to keep open and efficient channels of communication open with all of their students, regardless of their ability to access the Internet or sophisticated technology. Conference calls are a great way to deliver lessons that anybody can dial into, and can be a much more natural transition than many other educational tools.

But teleconferences can also help the education sector in other ways. Teachers and boards of trustees will be able to liaise easily, too. Maintaining communication and cohesion between classes and even between schools is a critical part of ensuring education remains equal and accessible during the coronavirus pandemic.


WHYPAY? makes it easy to schedule distance learning during the coronavirus outbreak

Being in self-quarantine can be really disorienting. Days aren’t structured they way they used to be. You might have new tasks, and new challenges to completing them. If you’re truly in quarantine, keeping track of time can even be challenging.

Luckily, WHYPAY?’s scheduling features make it easy to stay organised when it comes to remote lessons. Scheduling a conference call is really easy – and you can find full guidance here. Not only can you select the time and date, but you can also choose its recurrence. So if you give weekly French classes, you can continue to do so without having to manually re-create the event or the invitations.

When you schedule the call, you can invite your participants. If you have a list of students and their school email addresses, this is a quick and easy way to send out the invitations to everyone who needs to be in the lesson. The email invitations which WHYPAY? will send also contain a handy calendar attachment. That lets students easily download the call into their calendar software, and even set up a reminder. Poor memory won’t be any excuse for truancy!

Equally, you don’t have to input participants this way. You can send out your conference call details manually if you prefer. You also don’t even need to schedule the call ahead of time. While it creates helpful invitations and reminders, your conference call room is actually available to you 24/7. This can be particularly helpful if you’re pairing conference calling with other teaching techniques. For example, you might be trying to explain something to the class via Instant Messaging. If things are becoming really confusing, you can all decide at a moment’s notice to jump on a conference call and explain it more clearly.


Conference calling won’t require its own lesson

If you’re looking to provide distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic, think about using conference calls. It’s the simplest, easiest and most accessible technology you’ll find. Even the least tech-savvy teacher, student or governor will have placed a phone call in their time!

Of course, to really make the most of teleconferencing, there are always some top tips you can read up on. Luckily, our blog and helpdesk are full of advice. There, you’ll find loads of guides, like how to moderate a conference call, more general advice on working from home during the coronavirus outbreak, integrating WHYPAY? with systems like Outlook and much more.

Update 24 March 2020: Unfortunately, due to network capacity dimensioning we are no longer able to offer 3 months free on the Pro plan. A tenfold increase in demand for the custom 03 numbers offered on the Pro plan has outstripped our ability to supply these. The new discount codes MON3 AND ANN3 will still apply for 3 months free on our Plus plan.
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