We kicked off the new school year with some exciting updates to the Pearson English Portal. Alongside the new interactive ebooks and the Test Generator, we’ve launched another feature that will make teachers’ and students’ lives much easier: a Zoom video conferencing integration.
The abrupt shift this year to remote learning presented teachers who were used to teaching in brick-and-mortar classrooms with many challenges. Finding new ways to engage students and starting to use a range of new tools has been a steep learning curve for everyone. Technology has become more than just a classroom aid. It is now central to learning and, in many cases, is the only way to provide access to education.
At Pearson, we are constantly building new products and optimizing our existing ones to make sure that teachers get all the help they need. To respond to the surge in demand for tools that support remote learning, we’ve accelerated our efforts to expand the capabilities of the Pearson English Portal. Features like integrated video conferencing enable us to provide teachers with functionality that helps them create and manage virtual lessons.
To find out more about the new Zoom integration, we spoke to Sławek Grzmiel, Product Manager of Pearson English Portal.
Why we decided to build a Zoom integration
As schools around the world were forced to shut their doors, our focus at Pearson immediately shifted to supporting teachers teaching remotely. This shift prompted us to accelerate our plans to integrate video conferencing tools into the Portal.
“We didn’t just want to add a new feature, we also wanted to make it as easy as possible for teachers to start using it,” says Sławek. “Our aim is to minimize the learning curve and give teachers access to tools that they were already familiar with.”
Besides ensuring ease of use for teachers, we also wanted to make it easy for learners to find and join their teacher’s classes. The goal was to avoid confusing schedules and links that are hard to keep track of.
We decided to start with Zoom. Our initial research indicated that it is the tool that most teachers already use.
“Of course, Zoom is not the only video conferencing tool that we will integrate with the Portal. But before we start adding other providers such as Google Hangouts or Microsoft Teams, we had to concentrate on integrating the most popular tool first and improve how it works before we integrate others,” Sławek says.
How the new Zoom video conferencing integration will make your life easier
Setting up Zoom lessons in the Portal will save you a lot of headaches. Here’s how it can help your day-to-day routine as a teacher:
1. Use your existing Zoom account
Firstly, if you use Zoom, you can connect your existing account with the Portal.
You only need to do this once. Simply go to Settings and select Connected services. Once you’ve logged into Zoom, you just need to authorize the connection. Then you’re ready to go.
To use Zoom you need a free or a paid Zoom account. You will have access to the same features that are included in your Zoom plan.
“If you have a free Zoom account, your lessons will be limited to 40 minutes. We will give you a warning in the Portal to make sure you’re aware of this,” Sławek says.
2. Set up Zoom lessons directly from the Portal
Secondly, you can create and launch virtual lessons directly from the Portal.
“A huge benefit of this is that you won’t need to know every student’s details or manually add each of their email addresses to invite them each time to a class,” says Sławek.
This solution saves you a lot of time and minimizes mistakes. But how does it work?
Set up classes in the Portal, with a specific list of students. When creating a new Zoom lesson, all you need to do is select one of your classes and add them as participants.
The selected students will be automatically notified that they have an upcoming lesson. They will receive an email with the lesson details, a calendar invite, and the lesson link with instructions on how to join.
If you need help to get started with setting up Zoom lessons in the Portal, here’s a step-by-step guide.
3. Review all your virtual classes in one place
Thirdly, the new ‘Class schedule’ tab allows you to see all your upcoming events in one place. Events include classroom lessons, exams, and Zoom classes. This simple calendar gives you an easy-to-browse overview, so that you can see what’s coming up at a glance.
What’s more, as we integrate more video conferencing tools, we will expand the array of event types you can create and keep track of in the same calendar. You will see all your Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, and other events in one place.
You also have the option to add your events to your personal calendar. When you’re creating a new lesson, just click ‘Add to personal calendar.’ Then choose where you want to export the event to (Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook, Apple Calendar, etc).
How we ensure security for students and teachers
When it comes to video conferencing, security should always be top of mind. We are dedicated to providing the best and safest tools for our teachers and students. That’s why we’ve included an additional security element in our video conferencing integration.
As we were building the tool, we wanted to be absolutely certain that no unauthorized parties could join and disrupt any of the virtual classes. This is the solution we came up with:
“We don’t expose any of our Zoom links. The notifications that students receive contain links to the Portal. Students need to log in and authenticate themselves on the Portal, where they can join a class through a link that redirects them to Zoom. This way, we can avoid anyone who is not a member of a class and has not been invited by the teacher from joining the call,” Sławek explains. “We want full control of what’s happening. That’s how we can protect our students at all times,” he adds.
What’s next for Pearson English Portal
We will always continue to innovate and make sure that the Pearson English Portal serves the needs of our teachers and students.
We hope you find our Zoom video conferencing integration useful. Don’t hesitate to let us know your thoughts on how we could improve it!
Learn more about the most recent updates to the Pearson English Portal.