Remote teaching and Net Control 2

In connection with the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, many organizations and educational institutions are switching to different forms of remote work, teaching and training, and we receive many questions on how to implement and use Net Control 2 classroom management software in the remote education process.

In general, Net Control 2 products are designed and optimized only for use in local networks that offer better performance and low latency than Internet connections offer, lack of web servers for Internet gateways for its work and so on. Therefore, Net Control 2 software can utilize multiple different teaching and monitoring tools at a time without impact on the network resources. On the other hand, specialized remote access software for Internet, implements only a few of features that are available in Net Control 2, but is specially adapted for low speed connections and most often cannot be used without access to Internet.

In addition, the software that is designed for use in Internet must implement and use strong authentication, encryption and data protection mechanisms to prevent unauthorized access to computers in the web. While it is assumed that local networks are already protected from access from outside of the LAN with various software and hardware tools; the software that is designed for use in local networks may use more simple ways of authentication and data protection and concentrate efforts on the better usability and performance. So, Net Control 2 software is not intended for direct use in Internet and cannot connect teachers and students over this network.

However, if you need to organize the remote teaching process and use Net Control 2 software in the process of such training, several approaches are possible.

The purpose of this article is a general description of the possible algorithms. We do not describe each of the cases separately, since the implementation strongly depends on capabilities of the educational institution local network; and in any case the implementation of any of the methods must be done only by a qualified IT specialist who can correctly configure the existing equipment and software. Information provided below is not a step by step guide, it may be incomplete, and please use it on your own risk only.

  1. Students connect existing classroom computers over Internet, using Windows Remote Desktop software. In this case, students work with the classroom computers as if they sit in front of them in the lab. This approach allows using the existing software environment including Net Control 2 software installed in the network. Net Control 2 software supports Windows terminal sessions, and most often, no additional configuration of Net Control 2 software is required. Despite the complexity of some initial configuration (compared to the Case 2), the costs are offset by greater reliability and performance.
    This approach usually assumes the following requirements to the network environment of the organization.
    • The OS on the classroom computers must support Windows Remote Desktop connection (e.g. for Microsoft Windows, Home editions do not support RDP, and Windows Professional or higher edition should be used).
    • As a rule, you will need to set up static IP addresses for computers in the classroom, and configure “port forwarding” on the LAN router for each teacher and student computer (to forward “external” ports to 3389 local port of a concrete teacher or student computer).
    • On student and teacher computers you will need to create user accounts with strong passwords and limit remote access by these accounts only .
    • For security purposes, we recommend monitoring all incoming connections to the local network of the organization, and to turn off remote access services after end of the work.
  2. In a similar way, remote access to classroom computers can be arranged with third-party software like Zoho Assist, join.me, TeamViewer, etc. To organize the remote access, create remote sessions, obtain IDs and submit them to students, this approach requires presence of a teacher or other specialist in the classroom. After gaining access to the classroom computers, students and teachers can use Net Control 2 software and other resources of the classroom computers for their work.
  3. If you intend to organize a fully virtual classroom in which students and teachers use their personal “home” computers that are connected into a virtual network, you need to install the Net Control 2 software on the teacher and student computers, create a virtual network and configure the software to use resources of this virtual network. To organize a virtual LAN, you can use specialized software like Tunngle (free), LogMeIn Hamachi (free for up to 5 computers). If your organization has a dedicated server or a cloud virtual machine (AWS, Azure), you can install and configure OpenVPN software on the server and create accounts for students and teachers.
    In all such cases, the virtual LAN connection provides a virtual IP address that may be used for connecting computers in the virtual LAN. This virtual IP address of the teacher computer should be set in the student module settings of student computers, and the further operation for Net Control 2 software will be the same as in a local network (except the network performance of course).
  4. Using cloud platforms (Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure and others) you can easily create a virtual Microsoft Windows Server machine in the cloud, set up user accounts on it and install the necessary software, including Net Control 2. Teachers and students can connect then the cloud virtual machine using Windows Remote Desktop, work on it as terminal clients and use software and resources of the server. This method assumes use paid services from cloud providers.

Of course, this article does not describe all possible situations and cases. If you need more information regarding any of the described above methods, please do not hesitate to contact our support team.

Net Control 2 version 20. What’s New.

The specified features concern Windows version of the software only. Availability of features may depend on the software edition.

The new release includes improvements of core features (like file transfer speed), support of high resolution displays (including 4k displays), new features for 1:1 environment support, redesigned user interface, new chat tool, redesigned file manager, new bad language restrictions, support of kiosk applications and many other improvements.

General

Improved User Interface. New color scheme.

Support of high resolution monitors including 4K displays and screen scales above 125%.

Direct connections of Net Control 2 Classroom edition are reintroduced with a new, more safe realization. Both direct and inverse connections are available at the same time without enabling the compatibility mode. The new direct connections model is not compatible with older versions. If you use this model, please read documentation before upgrading.

Classroom Edition: a new self registration engine for 1:1 environment. Students can send requests to all teachers in the network, teachers then can select students they need to connect. Students can connect a teacher by selecting him in the list. Enhanced features include protection of incoming connections with a PIN, automatic acceptance of connections when a PIN code is provided, prompts to select a teacher on logon or on each disconnection from a teacher.

The file transfer subsystem is completely redesigned. Now the file transfer speed is 50-100% faster on large files and is up to 25x faster for small files.

User Interface improvements

Group icons may be customized with a custom text description, background color or image.

Redesigned, simplified the teacher options window.

Smooth scaling of thumbnails in the computers list.

Maximum thumbnail size is increased to 1020px (width)

More precise thumbnail position in the free layout view after scaling. Fixes the issue with the incorrect thumbnails order after scaling the layout to a very low scale value and switching back to normal.

The file transfer progress is displayed in the status bar only, file copying is performed entirely in background. Allows performing other tasks during the file transfer.

A default action of Broadcast Desktop or Control button on the top toolbar depends on the last used mode: control/view/control in separate windows.

The popup connection information window: significantly higher (almost realtime) update rate for the displayed user screen.

Remote Desktop tool

Significantly faster mouse response on the controlled computer.

Entirely redesigned Remote Desktop Viewer.

Several controlled computers may be displayed either all-in-one window (with ability to switch between them), or each controlled computer is displayed in its own window.

Joining/excluding controlled clients when multiple computers are controlled in one window. Now it is possible to exclude a computer from the controlled computers set to a separate window, or join a computer in a separate window to the common session.

Three stretch modes: normal (1:1), stretched proportional; stretched unproportional.

Fast zooming the displayed screen in the viewer.

Broadcast Desktop

Instructor can switch the broadcast desktop viewer on user computers between the full screen and windowed mode in a click, using a button on the Broadcast Desktop toolbar.

During a broadcast session, Instructor can enable the controlling mode on the user computers, so users can interact with the Instructor computer directly from the broadcast session. This applies also to user broadcast desktop sessions when a student is sharing his/her screen to others.

Program Management

Applications may be run in a special Kiosk mode. In this mode, students cannot switch to other applications, only the selected application is available.

Restrictions

Bad Language restrictions. The new tool allows preparing a list of “forbidden” words. When a user types some text that includes such words in any application on his computer, the teacher will be immediately notified about the event.

New redesigned restrictions window.

Internet restrictions: improved Internet restrictions profile editor.

Internet restrictions: ability to import a list of websites from an external file. New “Verify” tool provides an easy way to validate the profile before sending or saving.

Redesigned, improved program restrictions manager.

Chat

Absolutely new chat tool.

Enhanced text formatting capabilities include custom alignment, font styles, colors; for the whole entered text or a fragment.

Ability to insert graphic images from a file or paste them from Clipboard.

Support of emoticons.

Ability to insert to the chat a screenshot of entire Instructor screen’s or cut its part.

Ability to make and send small drawings instead of entering a text.

Ability to attach any file that becomes available for all participants of the chat. In this way you can easily share your work with students or get files from them.

Ability to scale the chat content (text size).

The chat window may be displayed within the main teacher console window or displayed as a separate window.

File Manager

File Manager was redesigned from scratch. More stable and easy to use.

File operations are more predictable due to they are always apply to the currently selected computers (in previous versions File Manager had its own list).

Standard classic NC-style file management: files are displayed in side-by-side panels, in resizable columns, may be selected and managed with standard keyboard shortcuts (like Insert, F2..F10)

Messages

Messages tool. Messages can include special macros in the text to display some computer specific information, like a computer name, connection name, user name, random numbers, split a class to pairs, triples etc.

Polls

Improved user interface for the tool.

Instructor can customize polls using built-in scenarios. Currently included scenarios allow determining users that give the fastest correct replies on a poll.

Whiteboard

Realtime update for the pen tool. Faster response on user computers for other tools.

Other

Help requests: for received help requests, Instructor can initiate a remote desktop session in a click, directly from the help request dialog.

A special button on group icons in the groups list makes possible to wake up student computers of the group in a click.

New numbering of versions. The software versions represent now a year and month of the release, as year.month, e.g. 20.3 is a version released in March 2020.

Redesigned Quick Run editor.

Redesigned Student Registration window in the teacher console.

Student Module

Redesigned Student Console. Provides better usability, supports high resolution monitors (4K) and scales above 125%.

Adaptive User Interface depends on the enabled features and current state of the student module (e.g. connected/unconnected).

Ability to repeat the last message sent from a teacher computer.

Redesigned Connect Instructor tool that reflects new connection features.

Student settings are adjusted to reflect new 1:1 features

Version 20 is coming soon!

We expect that a couple of next beta testing cycles in the coming weeks will complete the three-year development period of the new version. The new release introduces numerous improvements in the user interface, new features and multiple upgrades for the existing tools.

For better convenience of handling the software updates, more clear release version numbering, more predictable cycles of free updates, starting with this update, we decided to change the version numbering order.

Version numbers now include a year and month of the release, as also a unique build number. Thus, the next software version is 20.3!

A detailed list of changes will be published shortly.

In conclusion, we would like to remind you that all Net Control 2 SmallClass licenses includes one year, and Net Control 2 Classroom and PRO include two years of free updates to any future versions from the date of purchase. Within this period, all users of versions 11 and 12 will be able to upgrade their software to the version 20.3 at no additional cost.

Mac OS X Catalina and Net Control 2

(Updated) Net Control 2 Classroom and PRO version 20 already support macOS Catalina 10.15

Today, October 8th, 2019 Apple has released the next update for their operating system for desktop platforms Mac OS X 10.15 also known as “Catalina”. Among other great features, this version requires 64 bit support for all applications in the system. Despite Net Control 2 software just does not use large memory volumes and is optimized for the 32 bit model, with Catalina the presence of 64 bit versions of the software in a package is a mandatory requirement.

We are in the process of developing of the next major upgrade for Net Control 2 that will include full support of 64 bits for OS X, but meantime, please note, currently Net Control 2 Classroom and PRO for Mac OS X may not support OS X 10.15 Catalina. The preferred version is OS X 10.13 High Sierra.

Net Control 2 version 12.13

Based on a feedback from our customers, we are introducing with this minor update several improvements for Broadcast Desktop tool to make work with this tool even simpler and effective.

  1. Now an Instructor or User who broadcasts his/her screen to other users, can enable a special Control Mode. When the mode is enabled, all users that are watching the presentation can participate in it and interact with the Instructor’s (or a broadcast source) screen remotely, using a keyboard and mouse.
  2. In addition to the Control Mode, Instructors now can dynamically switch Broadcast Desktop Viewer window on user computers between the full-screen and windowed mode. This may be helpful, for example, for scenarios when a teacher explains some material first and then allows students to make some tasks on their computers not interrupting the broadcast desktop presentation.

This update also includes several other minor improvements and bug fixes.

Net Control 2 version 12.10

Net Control 2 Classroom, SmallClass and PRO for Windows are updated to version 12.10. This update includes several UI improvements and bug fixes in part of work with non-default workspaces; sorting groups in the groups list; significant improvements for the multi display environment and the appearance on a secondary screen.

This version introduces a new engine for automatic updates that should allow more smooth and effective update to newer versions. Beginning from the version 12.10, all minor and build updates will be automatically downloaded and installed, when allowed by the software settings.

Net Control 2 PRO supports setting up a custom domain for Active Directory authentication.

This version includes other bug fixes and minor improvements.

Net Control 2 PRO: The Student Module for OS X.

In addition to the Student Module for OS X for Net Control 2 Classroom (Standard Edition) released recently, we are happy to offer today the same product for Professional Edition (Net Control 2 PRO).

The Student Module for OS X for Professional Edition significantly extends features of Mobile Clients for OS X and is compatible with Connection Server version 12.

With the Student Module for OS X teachers can share their screen with students or a screen of any student with others, help students remotely using Remote Desktop features, apply Internet and Program restrictions, use various communication and teaching features, including polls, quizzes, messages, the virtual whiteboard and many other features. The full list of the supported features and other information, related to the new product you can find in the Student Module for OS X User Guide: https://www.netcontrol2.com/getfile.php?id=GUIDE212PR-MAC

The Student Module for Mac OS X is already available for all registered users of Net Control 2 Classroom and PRO version 12.xx in the Customer Area account, the “Downloads” section.

What’s new in version 12 of Net Control ² classroom management software.

This “What’s new” document includes a detailed list of new features and improvements in Net Control ² Classroom Management Software version 12. Please also see the following article for additional information regarding this release.


  • Two view types: basic and advanced. The Basic view provides simplified User Interface with the lesser interface elements in the main window, hides several operations that are intended for experienced users (command prompt, policies, file management). The view type may be selected at startup or changed later in the teacher module settings.
  • Unconnected computers are visible in all editions. The teacher module remembers inverse connections and displays them in the teacher console even when they are unconnected. This behaviour may be changed in the teacher module settings.
  • Teachers can rename inverse connections.
  • Standard Edition supports only inverse connections. Users of previous versions, for compatibility with the existing settings and environment, may request a special version of Standard Edition with the support of direct connections.
  • New search interface. Standard Edition can search the network for inverse connections, using quick search methods (multicast) and individual import of computers from text lists, network neighborhood, Active Directory and so on.
  • Search by Lesson ID. Student Registration tool supports special “Lesson ID” parameter. When a student has entered some Lesson ID parameter in the Student Registration window, a teacher can search the network for this ID, found student computers will be added to the workspace.
  • Temporary connections: found student connections may be marked as “permanent” or “temporary”. For permanent connections, the teacher module will be assigned to the student in its settings permanently, temporary connections will remain active until restart of the computer or the user log off.
  • Connection by Teacher Session ID. Students can connect a teacher computer themselves by providing the teacher module session ID (may be found in the teacher console, on About tab). As another way of connecting teachers in 1-to-1 or BYOD scenarios.
  • Student console on student computers may be shown remotely from the teacher console using the connection’s context menu command.
  • Lesson resources. A teacher can create lesson resources, as a text description, a set of files that will be sent to students, a set of local resources (links to programs, local files and documents, Internet websites). When created, lesson resources will be copied, displayed and available for all students that are connected to the teacher. Teacher can save and re-use the lesson resources at any time.
  • Three new animated backgrounds for quizzes, messages and polls.
  • Text messages may be shown in a windowed mode.
  • Timed text messages: the messages may be automatically closed after some specified time.
  • Locked messages: student cannot close the message until the specified time elapses, or a teacher closes the message window remotely.
  • Students can restore (show again) a last message sent by a teacher.
  • In addition to .JPEG images, “Messages” and “Question” tools support sending custom images in .BMP, .PNG and .GIF formats.
  • Poll (quick question): teacher can set up a think time to make a delay between displaying a question and ability to answer it.
  • Poll (quick question). The “Require answer” option makes impossible for students to close the poll window without choosing some answer.
  • Poll (quick queston): timed polls, the question will be displayed only within the specified time.
  • Poll (quick question): student responses are arranged by answer time. The corresponding places in the competition are displayed as signs over thumbnails in the connection list. A special new button in the teacher console is intended for resetting the signs.
  • Poll (quick question): after a poll, in a few clicks, a teacher can send messages to all students who answered correctly or incorrectly.
  • Quiz: extended statistics. A teacher can monitor student replies in Quiz Monitor window, in popup messages or in detailed view in the table.  The statistics include given and correct answers for each student.
  • A short sound signal will be played when a student raises hand on his/her computer.
  • Speech Manager: allows displaying video from the teacher’s webcamera on student computers.
  • Remote Desktop and Broadcast Desktop support custom, application-defined, non-system cursors, like brushes, pens in graphics software.
  • Broadcast Desktop: improved broadcast toolbar.
  • Student registration supports special “restricted” mode, when enabled, students cannot bypass the registration.
  • Lesson timer: the teacher can set up a lesson timer that is always visible in the teacher console.
  • Dragging and dropping a .JPEG/.PNG file on the teacher module window from an external program, sends and displays this file on selected student computers.
  • The battery status of a student computer is displayed in a popup connection status window, the low level battery notification is displayed as a popup sign over student connection.
  • When a help request notification received from a student, a popup sign appears over the student connection.
  • New help request interface in the teacher module: on a help request, a teacher can either begin a remote control session or chat with the requesting student.
  • New Avatar view instead of “icons view” in previous versions. Student connections may be represented by a custom image (a photo for example) or an avatar. The teacher module includes built-in the avatar editor, where you can create customized avatars for students.
  • Quick commands panel is displayed at right side of each selected connection for quick applying the most important commands.
  • Connection status window includes connection time.
  • Professional Edition: teacher settings and profiles may be stored on Connection Server computer.

Net Control ² version 12

We at Net Software P.C. are proud to announce today a new release of a next generation of Net Control ² classroom management software, Net Control 2 version 12, in Standard, SmallClass and Professional editions.

The main improvements of this version touched existing tools and features, enhancement of the user interface, expansion of the available functions of the tools. This major update includes also several new features that will make the process of co-operation and co-working with students even more effective.

One of the tasks that we worked on developing this version, was simplification of the user interface for users that do not require access to all available features, when displaying the extensive list of buttons for all the available tools in one window may be confusing. For such situations, the software offers two primary view modes: the “basic” mode for inexperienced users and the “full” mode for more advanced teachers. You can select the preferred mode at the first start of the program.

We have significantly expanded functionality for managing student connections in Professional and SmallClass editions, as also for inverse connections in Standard (Classroom) edition. Now you can easily modify such connections: rename them, add custom descriptions, re-position on the screen. You can see icons or thumbnails of turned off computers, as it was with “direct” connections in Classroom Edition of previous versions. Moreover, for Standard Edition, the inverse connections model is now the primary and the solely available type of connections by default. The previous versions compatibility mode is available though (for the support of existing installations and environments), but it is disabled by default for new installations, and should be specially enabled in the process of installation for existing environments.

We have added a new “avatar” view type for student connections. Now students may be represented in the connections list by a custom graphics image (a photo, for example), or an avatar created with the built-in editor.

Professional Edition now includes a redesigned  Connection Server Management Console, provides additional features for easy importing groups from Organizational Units list of Active Directory, can associate the teacher configuration and settings on the teacher computer with the account in Connection Server and store the configuration on the server directly.

Many of the features and improvements introduced in this version were suggested by our existing customers and were added according to your requests. We sincerely appreciate your feedback, loyalty and support, and we will be happy to hear your opinions and ideas regarding the new version also.

A more extensive list of the new features will be provided in the following post.

April 3rd, 2017