Using PDFs in Distance Learning

Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, many schools around the world closed their doors and shifted to remote/distance learning. Even though there was a major global disaster, we also saw how creative teachers and students can be in the face of adversity.

Everyone banded together to make distance learning work, and although there had been a slow shift toward distance learning already, the pandemic greatly accelerated it. Teachers used new tools and mediums to reach their now isolated students. They used video calls to teach them live or used forums to discuss topics with them asynchronously. Another useful tool teachers have been using is the PDF. PDFs are a versatile document format that gives the user a lot of options. Some distance classes are hosted live (synchronous) and some are delayed (asynchronous). Here are some ways that PDFs can help teachers and students continue to improve the remote classroom experience.


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5 Ways to Use PDFs in Asynchronous Learning

1. Worksheets- One good way to use PDFs asynchronously is by giving the students worksheets or homework to do. The teacher can send the worksheets to the email of the student (or parent). From there, the student can either print it and fill out the fillable worksheet or use an online PDF editor to fill in the worksheet, save it, then send it. Even if students are not in a live class, it is important that they still have an opportunity to practice and develop their skills in their own time.

2. Google Drive- Depending on which PDF editing service the teacher uses; you can use Google Drive to store and share documents. For teachers who want to give information to their students, this is a fantastic option. If a teacher is using a PDF editor like LuminPDF, they will be able to upload notes, syllabi, study materials, and even books to Google Drive. Being able to quickly access and download important information from the teacher is not only more efficient than email, but it is often easier using Google Drive since it can be accessed remotely, making it easier for young people to work from anywhere.

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3. Learning Platform- Different e-learning platforms have different systems, but one thing they almost all offer is access to materials for the class regardless of the synchronicity of the course. Most e-learning institutions will have an administrative section for each course that will have a tab for course materials or something similar. Here students will be able to download or read the material they need. This can come in many forms. It is not uncommon when taking a distance e-learning course to find entire books available from the e-learning course provider. This ultimately depends on the provider but having round-the-clock access materials is very useful now due to the uncertainty of everyone’s schedule.

4. Projects- Sometimes it is good for students to be able to work together on a project. Before, when more students learned in a traditional classroom setting, students got the opportunity to socialize more than they do now, and these social skills can be just as important to learning as the subject material. These projects do not have to occur during class time and students can network with each other to organize their project(s). The students can then share the document in PDF form by using a sharing space such as Google Drive. Then use an online PDF editor to work on it together as part of a collaboration.

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5. Study Guides- Lastly, with asynchronous learning, a teacher can provide study guides to the students to help them study and prepare. Sometimes during an e-learning course, the learning process will be asynchronous, but the exams will be given synchronously. If students are to be prepared for this kind of exam, they need to be able to access study materials at any time. So as was mentioned before, uploading such a study guide to Google Drive with LuminPDF is a great way to help students prepare.


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3 Ways to Use PDFs in Synchronous Learning

1. Share It- When working in a live classroom or (synchronous learning), The teacher will be working with an interactive audience for the duration of the period. The best way to keep their focus is to make the class more interactive – one of the ways to do this with a PDF is to share it. These classes will be conducted via some online virtual classroom application such as Zoom or Skype. With most of these virtual classrooms, there is an option to share the screen. When you do this, all the students will be able to clearly see what is being shared.

2. In-Class Activity- Since everyone can communicate with each other, the teacher can put people into groups to work on an in-class activity. To do this, the teacher needs to do three things. Firstly, prepare a PDF document using an online PDF editor or PDF maker with the activity. Secondly, the teacher should share and explain the task to the students. Lastly, the teacher can divide the students into rooms (This can be done in many virtual classrooms). From there the students can do their in-class activity.

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3. Note Taking- For students one of the biggest advantages of PDFs in a live online classroom is the ability to write notes directly onto the PDF. If the student has a PDF copy of their notes to go over in class, they would be able to make annotations to the PDF document. This can be either by typing or in some cases a stylus can also be used.
Over the past year and a half, teachers, students, and parents have come together to make a difficult situation better by working together and making sure that they have all the right tools to succeed. With e-learning and distance education that means not just hard tools like laptops and headphones but virtual tools such as video chatting applications and PDF editors, A class can be asynchronous or synchronous, but with the right tools and a positive outlook, the learning process can work for everyone.