Using interactive online resources on iPads with Surfly

Co-browser 5/5

Interactivity 5/5

Value for money 4/5

Device compatibility 5/5

Surfly overview

Surfly is a co-browsing tool which allows you and your students to directly collaborate on web-based teaching resources and websites. It was originally designed for corporate purposes (customer support etc) but also works well for online ESL teaching!

Key advantages:

  • Allow your students to directly interact with the slides from any device, including iPads, other tablets, phones, etc.
  • No downloads/ apps/ software needed – everything is done within your web browser.
  • Browse any website and play online games together.
  • Upload and collaborate together on documents (pdf, docx, images, etc).
  • Built-in video and audio.
  • Simple chat tool for sending messages, example sentences, corrections, etc.

Limitations:

  • Not available in mainland China unless your students have a VPN.
  • No recording option – you need to use a third party recording software or ask your students to screenrecord from their end.
  • Limited annotation tools – you can’t type words or draw directly on the screen (with the exception of a simple pen tool designed for quickly highlighting parts of the screen, which disappears after three seconds).
  • Only works with web-based resources and files you can directly upload to Surfly, you can’t screenshare applications on your computer. 
  • No video filters or virtual backgrounds (although you can use ManyCam to achieve this).
  • Occasional technical glitches e.g. with correctly resizing screens (see video for solution).
  • Not free – after the 14 day free trial, plans start at $31/ month.

This guide will answer some common questions for teachers using Surfly and share helpful tips specific for using the Abridge Academy resources specifically. 

Starting a session

To start a Surfly co-browsing session, simply open the Surfly website, log in, then enter the Abridge Academy website and click “start”.

You will need to log in to the Abridge Academy site then navigate to the lesson slides. 

Once you are all set up, click “participants” then “invite” to get the invite link to send to your student to join.

Unfortunately Surfly is not available in mainland China. It has been blocked by the Chinese firewall. Some students may be able to bypass this by using a VPN – however, do be aware that this will slow down the connection. You may need to use alternative teaching software.

Simply copy-paste the invite link and send to students via WeChat / email / WhatsApp or your usual method of communication. 

Unfortunately it is not possible to schedule classes in advance on Surfly. You need to start the co-browsing session first, then send the unique link to your student just before the start of class. Surfly does not have the option for a fixed invite link, recurring meetings, scheduling, etc. 

Co-browsing

Surfly is a co-browsing tool. This means that both you and your student(s) can directly browse websites together, collaboratively. 

During the co-browsing session, you can give your student the ability to interact by clicking on “participants” in the top right corner, then “give control” next to their name.

This sometimes happens on older devices or if Surfly is unable to properly detect their screen size. 

We were able to resolve this by first making sure the screen size had been set to match the student’s screen (using the “screen size” button in the top right corner), then giving control to the student, who needed to click on the full screen button again from their end. Please see the end of the video above which illustrates this process.

For some reason this also opened up a second tab on the student’s web browser – they can just close this to return to the Surfly session, which now has the correct screen size. 

Unfortunately this is usually caused by a weak internet connection – either on your or the student’s end. Please check your Wifi speed, sit closer to the router, switch to ethernet, or upgrade your broadband speed to resolve this. 

This is really easy to do just by opening more tabs within Surfly and navigating to these extra sites. If you wish to upload documents, worksheets, images, etc this can be done using the “document upload” option in the menu.

Document collaboration

Surfly also includes the ability to directly collaborate on shared documents, including word documents, PDF files, images, etc. 

Simply click on “document upload” in the menu then select the document. You can easily edit and annotate on the document using Surfly’s built-in tools. At the end, you can click “download” to save the document to your computer.

using interactive online esl curriculum resources on iPads and collaborating on documents via surfly

Chat tool

A final useful feature of Surfly is the chat tool. This is a simple chat box you can open up by clicking on “chat” in the top right menu.

In the chat box, you and your students can send messages about technical issues, write example sentences, or give corrections when they are speaking. 

Note that it is not possible to share files etc. via this chat – it is for text only.

how to use interactive online slides on ipads with surfly - chat tool

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