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Our readers’ top ed-tech picks for 2012

These 50 educational technology products and services are the 2012 winners of our Readers' Choice Awards

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Here are our readers' top picks for educational technology products and services in 2012.

Here are the results of our 2012 Readers’ Choice Awards, which recognize the educational technology products and services our readers have enjoyed the most success with.

Last fall, we asked readers to give us their top picks for school hardware, software, websites, and services. Nearly 1,400 readers responded via one of our three websites: eSchoolNews.com, eCampusNews.com, and eClassroomNews.com.

In nominating their favorite products, we asked readers to tell us how they’re using these products to improve teaching, learning, or school administration—and to what effect. We then chose the 50 best responses, which appear alphabetically by product name and grouped into two categories: K-12 and higher education.

The result is a list of 50 ed-tech products and services that have proven to be effective, as vouchsafed by our readers—your colleagues—in schools and colleges nationwide. We hope you’ll find this information useful as you consider how technology can help transform education in your own schools.

Higher-education winners

2tor Inc.

2tor supplies universities with the tools, expertise, and capital needed to operate successful online-learning programs. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School is one of many institutions that have partnered with 2tor to create an online MBA program.

“2tor developed a virtual campus using a state-of-the-art learning management platform that allows students around the country to learn from UNC Kenan-Flagler faculty in synchronous and asynchronous modules. Social features are built into the platform to encourage interaction and virtual networking,” said Allison Adams, media relations director for the program.

“Through our partnership with 2tor, we’ve extended the reach of our residential MBA program beyond Chapel Hill around the U.S., and we plan to extend it around the world.  We are beginning to see great progress … and are gratified by the overwhelmingly positive responses from our students in the program. 2tor has been critical in our success.”

Avaya web.alive (Avaya Inc.)

This feature-rich web conferencing software is delivered as an online service, so there is no need to worry about software patching. Schools can sign up in minutes and be meeting online the same day. And web.alive’s 3D graphics provide a real sense of presence that engages participants.

“Web.alive is a virtual space that we are in the early stages of adopting as a collaborative learning opportunity on our campus,” said Terri Johnson, director of Carroll University’s for Educational Technology & Innovation. “Virtual environments seem to come and go, but there are three things that really make web.alive stand out: (1) the easy use for both students and faculty; (2) rich and robust analytics; and (3) excellent support staff at Avaya. They have been willing to take our suggestions, and their speedy and attentive response is just outstanding.”

Johnson added: “Web.alive can allow instructors and students to do just about everything they can do in a typical face-to-face classroom. … I cannot recommend this product enough.”

Canvas (Instructure Inc.)

Canvas is a simple but powerful learning management system that is offered as either an open-source version that schools manage themselves or a cloud-based model hosted by the company. Instructure plans to release a version in early 2012 that includes predictive analytics as well: On their course roster, instructors will see green, yellow, or red dots next to students’ names, indicating how at risk they are of failing or dropping the course. Clicking on a student’s name will take instructors to a page where they can see more detailed reports based on that student’s grades, class participation, assignment completion, and outcomes (whether he or she has mastered the content).

Canvas is “enterprise quality, yet the company has released the source code to the public,” said Greg Combs, an adjunct professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. “I’m using Instructure’s free hosted service to handle my classes (one class has 300 students).  We use the discussion boards, the online quizzes, the grade book, the messaging system, assignment submissions, blogs, and various other features. I can’t get over how easy it is to use.”

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