While this may initially seem like nothing too technically advanced, or mind-blowing, I do think there are a lot of awesome ways this resource can be used, especially when we get into some of the features below.
However, before digging into the features, I’d like to start with what I think is the biggest highlight of GatherEducation and that’s the fact that it can be used not only over wifi, but also over 3G and LTE cell services, which is something that isn’t possible with the majority of online course providers.
The main reason this is possible, is because the service doesn’t use video, only audio, text, and images, and so it can operate using significantly less bandwidth. While some may see this as a shortcoming, I think it opens up a pretty impressive range of learning situations, where wifi might not be available, but network coverage is. Plus, if videos are a component of a class, you can always ask the students to watch them beforehand.
Next, let’s check out the features. Overall, GatherEducation’s goal was to design an environment that was as close to a real classroom as possible. If you’ve ever been in an asynchronous, online class, you know that online learning has quite an uphill battle towards keeping students engaged, participating, and connected in a digital learning environment.
GatherEducation does a nice job of moving online learning closer to the real thing, by creating a synchronous space where you can actually interact with the teacher and other students through group chat, personal chat (i.e. student to student), and through audio.
In addition to those possibilities, you’ve also got the presentation board at the front of the digital room, where the teacher can go through slides, draw (similar to a digital whiteboard), or hand the controls over to a student to take over (and the teacher can always immediately take control back should the need arise).
You can also get student feedback through the thumbs up/thumbs down meter at the bottom right, in order to get a quick idea of where everyone is at with a topic or idea. Plus, you can send out multiple choice questions for the students to respond to as well, similar to classroom clicker sets.
Once all your students have made a selection, you can get a bar graphs of the results as well. And of course, everyone’s responses are anonymous so that only the teacher can see how each person answered.
And essentially, those are the features. It’s an incredibly simple interface, so much so that elementary school students would also be able to use it without difficulty. However, what I like most about it is that GatherEducation adds a level of connection and interactivity to the digital learning space that I haven’t seen in any other application.
Video chatting can be great, but it also doesn’t have a classroom feel to it, and it can have tons of connectivity issues. GatherEducation does a really nice job of creating a simple digital learning environment where people can come together to experience an online class with more of a collaborative, connected feeling.
As for pricing, it varies depending on the institution or organization you’re working with, but in general they operate with a pay-per-seat model, and for private institutions, it’s a 50/50 split (i.e. if your SAT tutoring class costs $200 per digital student, then $100 would go to GatherEducation). Which may sound pricey, but keep in mind, you can also be teaching the class to students in-person, and then also adding in a digital audience as well. On top of that, GatherEducation donates 1 seat for every seat you buy to a disadvantaged student who has a need for the class, which is a pretty great way to give back.
Like I mentioned before, if you’ve ever taken an online class, you are most likely familiar with the inherent challenges of teaching and learning in this setting. While I still don’t think we have a perfect solution for all those challenges, I really like GatherEducation’s approach, and I think it can be an incredibly useful tool for those situations where you need to teach online. They’ve done a great job creating a simple interface and digital environment that lends itself nicely to collaboration. If you’re planning on teaching online, I’d recommend checking them out to see if they’d be a good fit to meet your needs.
The opinions expressed in this review are my own.
I was not compensated for writing this review.