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Common Sense


Best Tools for Virtual and Distance Learning

Making virtual learning or distance learning work for all students is challenging. You can have all the best tools in place, but without equitable access at home for all your students -- and adequate prep and training for yourself -- it's tough to replicate a traditional, in-person learning experience. This list assumes you've got those problems worked out and are focusing now on how to set up an effective virtual learning environment -- either adapting your existing curriculum, or designing a brand-new one from the ground up.

To help you along, we've grouped the tools according to some key needs teachers have when setting up virtual classrooms. These needs -- communicating and messaging effectively, facilitating discussion, assessing learning, delivering lessons, and more -- are also critical ways teachers can create remote learning experiences that keep students interested and active. Take note that we've also selected only the top two recommendations within each category. In each case, we've chosen tools that aren't just highly rated for learning but also free or cheap, making it easier for teachers to put together a toolkit that works for them. Of course, you'll also want to check them out for yourself. When you do this, we'd recommend taking time to dig into each tool's privacy and safety practices. To help, many of the tools on this list have privacy evaluations displayed next to our learning ratings on the review pages.

For more resources, check out our collection of distance learning templates and downloadables.

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Top Picks


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Parent, Caregiver, and Family Messaging


Messaging platform offers tight focus on school-to-home connection

Bottom line: Well-designed, highly effective messaging tool delivers on its promise to connect home and school.

Common Sense Selection


Multilingual texting tool enhances school-to-home communication

Bottom line: Easy-to-use tool for supporting communication and engagement with families in 100+ languages.

Video Lesson Creation


Crop, customize, and remix online video content with interactive tool

Bottom line: This is a valuable tool that teachers can use to flip classrooms or support student-led creation.

Common Sense Selection


Easy screen-recording tool facilitates outside-the-box instruction

Bottom line: This is an instructional tool that could reinvent classroom workflow, especially for classrooms in the Google ecosystem.

Student Portfolios

Common Sense Selection


Versatile digital portfolio appeals to teachers, students, and parents

Bottom line: A powerful multimedia learning and communication tool that demonstrates student progress over time.


Slick portfolio tool has cool features, limited feedback options

Bottom line: A neat tool for publishing online, possibly better suited to teacher content creation than student publishing.

Learning and Classroom Management

Common Sense Selection


Free LMS for digital classrooms packed with possibilities

Bottom line: This is an LMS that offers rich learning and collaboration experiences when matched with creative tasks and assessments.


Cool, customizable tool turns notebooks into workspaces

Bottom line: With some scaffolding, this could be a great way to capture, organize, and share info without juggling a class site, notebook, to-do list, and more.

Lesson Planning

Common Curriculum

Sleek lesson planner replaces bulky binders, promotes collaboration

Bottom line: Flexible and collaborative lesson planning, calendar design, and classroom site creator save teachers precious time.


Handy -- and free -- one-stop digital lesson planner saves time

Bottom line: This platform simplifies lesson planning with an intuitive, easy-to-use interface.

Communication and Discussion


Messaging tool helps classrooms forge and foster meaningful dialogue

Bottom line: This tool opens up avenues for conversation and relationship building between teachers and students.

Common Sense Selection


Comprehensive discussion platform develops critical-thinking skills

Bottom line: A great tool in any subject or topic for teachers looking to make discussion a central part of their classroom.

Assessment and Feedback

Intergalactic Mobile Learning Center

Free collaborative tools a bit clunky, but kid-friendly and cohesive

Bottom line: For elementary classrooms and virtual learning experiences, this collaborative app site will keep kids connected with the material and each other.


Nifty add-on enables audio and text feedback in Google Docs

Bottom line: If your classroom relies a lot on Google Docs, this might just be the feedback tool you're looking for.

Class Website Creation


Encourage student expression and maintain digital portfolios with easy-to-use blog creator

Bottom line: Edublogs is a fantastic platform for any teacher committed to providing consistent opportunities for creation and reflection.

Google Sites

Make your own website with easy, intuitive drag-and-drop features

Bottom line: With a few clicks, students can design a basic but custom, responsive website that allows for easy collaboration with their peers.

Slideshows and Lesson Delivery

Common Sense Selection


Engage and assess students with media, videos, and interactive slides

Bottom line: This is a great tool with a vast content library, and the teacher- or student-paced learning can unlock the potential of 1-to-1 environments.

Common Sense Selection

Pear Deck

Interactive slideshows offer a variety of ways to engage and assess

Bottom line: This is an appealing platform that can really ramp up engagement around formative assessment.

Get tips for using these tools in the classroom

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