After taking over three dozen virtual classes and countless more online hybrid classes, I have learned firsthand how using web browser extensions for virtual learning can make a huge difference in how well I do in my virtual classes. While these extensions don’t help me with tests or quizzes, they do me with accessing online content and making it easier to use my computer for long periods of time. Here are my favorite free web browser extensions for virtual learning and how they help me in my online classes in college.
What are web browser extensions?
Web browser extensions are tools that users can add to their favorite web browser to increase productivity or add additional functionality to their browser that doesn’t come built-in by default. Some web browser extensions can be accessed offline or within other applications, though most require some form of internet connection. My favorite web browser extensions for virtual learning are a mix of productivity, accessibility, and educational tools.
Blue Light Filter Guard/Blue Light Filters
For anybody that is going to be working on the computer for a long period of time, I highly recommend downloading Blue Light Filter Guard (or a similar web browser extension) or enabling computer settings that block out blue light. Blue light can contribute to eye strain and eye pain, and studies have shown that it can also affect sleep patterns if people use technology before they go to sleep. Users can find blue light filter extensions on any web browser, or they can configure settings on their device to decrease the amount of blue light.
- Ten Ways To Reduce Eye Strain From Screens With Technology
- Assistive Technology For Fluctuating Eyesight
- How Tinted Glasses Help My Light Sensitivity
Grammarly is a free web browser extension that can check for spelling and grammatical errors in writing, and tell users how to fix them. This is a game-changer for online discussion board posts, as it can automatically detect when users make a spelling mistake or when something they are writing doesn’t make any sense. Grammarly requires users to set up an account but is otherwise free and available on Google Chrome, Safari, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge.
- Grammarly download links
- Tips To Make Proofreading Feedback Accessible For Low Vision
- How To Make Keyboards Easier To See
- How To Create Custom Keyboard Shortcuts in Windows
Microsoft Immersive Reader
It’s no secret that I love Microsoft Immersive Reader and use it frequently for reading documents and websites. Microsoft Immersive Reader simplifies the display of a website or document and can do other things like change the background color, increase the font size, adjust the spacing of words or lines, change the font type to something more readable, and even read text out loud. Users will need the Microsoft Edge browser in order to use Immersive Reader, but it comes built-in to the browser so there is no need for additional downloads.
For users of other web browsers who don’t want to switch browsers for Microsoft Immersive Reader, I’ll be linking a post below with similar apps that can simplify the reading experience with technology.
- Microsoft Immersive Reader Review
- Ways To Read Webpages Without A Traditional Screen Reader
- Five Ways To Simplify Reading With Technology
- Using High Contrast Themes In Windows 10
Pocket is another free web browser extension and app that allows users to save web pages and other content to read offline at a later time. It works beautifully with accessibility tools such as screen readers and magnification, and is also available on a large variety of platforms including iOS, Android, and even Amazon Alexa. Users will need to create a free account to use Pocket, but the web browser extension is available on Google Chrome, Safari, Mozilla Firefox (where it is already built-in), Microsoft Edge, Opera, and more.
- Pocket App Accessibility For Visual Impairment
- A to Z of Assistive Technology For Low Vision
- How To Make iPad Accessible for Low Vision
- Low Vision Accessibility Settings For Android Phones
- How Amazon Alexa Can Help You Read
- Creating Custom Flashcards With Amazon Alexa
While I may not encounter many ads within my online courses, I have definitely run into lots of ads on websites when researching information or reading articles. Besides being visually distracting, some of these ads can actually be dangerous for me if they have lots of animation or flashing lights. Because of this, I have multiple ad blockers enabled on my devices and I disable auto-play whenever possible, but once of my favorite ad-blocking web browser extensions is the classic AdBlock Plus, as it does a great job of blocking out advertisements on websites. AdBlock Plus is available for Google Chrome, Safari, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Opera, and more.
- Tips For Using Social Media With Photosensitivity
- How To Check Videos For Flashing Light Sensitivities
Turn Off The Lights
Turn Off The Lights is a web browser extension that helps to reduce the clutter around videos on streaming websites such as YouTube and Vimeo by darkening the display so only the video is in focus. I find this especially helpful when taking notes for a class, as I don’t have to worry about visual distractions and can easily focus on whatever I am watching. Turn Off The Lights is available for free download for many popular web browsers, including Google Chrome, Safari, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Opera, and more.
- Turn Off The Lights website
- YouDescribe Audio Described YouTube Videos Review
- How To Create Audio Description For YouTube With YouDescribe
By using web browser extensions for virtual learning, I have been able to access content more easily and have also been able to be more productive, as I don’t have to worry about getting distracted easily when working on my assignments. I hope that this post is helpful for other students as well!