Brock University Professor Makes Online Learning Interactive, Engaging, and Personal
This is the second article in a two-part series outlining how Brock University uses Echo360 for online learning and video content management.
Formative Assessment Activities Keep Students Participating and Engaged While Learning Online
Keeping students focused in large-enrollment lecture classes is challenging during normal times when classes are presented face-to-face. Keeping them engaged during online lectures can be even more daunting. The lack of student engagement has been one of the criticisms that many colleges and universities have faced as they relied on video-conferencing platforms to deliver emergency, remote learning.
But one instructor at Brock University has shown that large-enrollment courses taught online can be much more than having students passively listening to lectures via Zoom. Using Echo360’s video learning and engagement features, Shawn Beaudette, PhD, an assistant professor of kinesiology, creates formative assessment activities that keep his students actively participating and engaged in their learning.
“I’m currently teaching a first year, musculoskeletal human anatomy course,” says Beaudette. “This course is offered in two consecutive terms. I have approximately 650 students, 400 of whom I taught in the Fall 2020 term, and the remainder whom I am teaching this term. I’ve tried to leverage the capabilities of Echo360 to make my lectures as interactive as possible.”
Beaudette asks his students multiple choice or image-based questions requiring them to label anatomical structures and embeds these questions within his recorded lectures. Students are required to answer the questions before proceeding, which makes his online presentation more interactive. The questions also help him assess how well his students understand the material presented. Additionally, these “low-stakes” assessments work to improve student metacognition, the awareness and understanding of one’s own thought processes. Students must immediately apply what they have learned. This helps them understand what they know or do not know, how they think, and what helps them to learn.
Short Video Lectures Make Content Easier for Students to Digest
When Brock University transitioned to online, asynchronous learning, Beaudette decided to adapt his lecture and lab materials. He broke down his traditional two-hour lecture presentation into shorter segments, making them easier for students to view. The polls and assessment activities he embedded in each video were designed to replicate the questions and discussions that would have occurred in his face-to-face classes.
“I wanted to make the content more digestible for students,” says Beaudette. “So, I broke up my 2-hour lecture into four to five sub-topics. I recorded a separate video on each topic using Echo360 Universal Capture and the result was a YouTube-style video that averaged about 15 minutes in length. Because the course was asynchronous, I immediately noticed that I was missing the dialogue and interactive elements that occur in my traditional lectures. So, that’s where the polling questions came in.”
Beaudette also wanted to make it as easy as possible for his students to learn online.
“I wanted to avoid students having to jump between multiple platforms,” says Beaudette. “Echo360 is integrated into our learning management system, which is Sakai, so that makes it a logical choice. It’s a one-stop shop for students. They only have to log-in once to access their video lectures and it makes it much easier for them.”
Facilitating Peer-to-Peer Learning through Synchronous Online Sessions
While anatomy lectures were delivered asynchronously using Echo360, the subsequent lab work was conducted synchronously using Microsoft Teams. Lab sessions were run by a teaching assistant (TA) and assisted by student volunteers who have previously taken the anatomy course.
“We wanted to facilitate peer-to-peer and small group learning,” says Beaudette. “Learning human anatomy is usually a highly kinesthetic, multisensory experience. So, we had to find a way to create that experience online. The TAs and volunteers walk the students through a software program called Visible Body, which allows students to complete online virtual dissections. It’s a good substitute for now and it allows students work with, manipulate, and learn from 3D digital resources,” Beaudette adds.
Interactive Lectures Help to Improve Student Outcomes
Beaudette stated that active teaching and learning methods can help improve student outcomes, especially in STEM courses.
“There has been research that has shown that interactive learning methods facilitate student participation and improve educational outcomes,” says Beaudette. “When I am in class on-campus, I would have typically used a live polling system to ask students questions. That’s what I am now able to do with Echo360. In each 15-minute video, I embed three to four multiple choice questions that allow students to immediately reflect on what they have learned in the video. The questions I ask also mirror my exam format, and the fact that everything is recorded helps students review for exams.”
Interactivity Makes Learning “More Personal”
Beaudette says that student reaction to his online courses has been favorable. His students noted that the questions he included in his videos made the learning experience more personal and helped them better prepare for final exams.
“I ran an informal course survey in the middle of last term and received outstanding feedback from the students,” says Beaudette. “They really thought the integration of asynchronous and synchronous content was beneficial for their learning. They specifically noted the benefits of the polling questions. They said that some of their other courses felt rather impersonal and they didn’t have an opportunity to actually interact or think about the content and reflect on it. So, many of them noted the benefits of the approach we took for anatomy and how it helped them to remember content come exam time.”
Hybrid Approach to Teaching and Learning Will Likely Continue Post-Pandemic
When students eventually return to class, Beaudette sees benefits of continuing to include online components in their learning.
“I think some students gravitate really well to asynchronous lecture content, because they can access it whenever they want,” he says. “I also recognize that students have busy lives and having the ability to access what they need from their phone or from wherever they may be is definitely to their benefit. Anatomy is a content-heavy course, and the Echo360 videos allow them to revisit lectures regularly.”
Beaudette says that a hybrid approach to teaching and learning is likely to continue after students return to campus.
“I do think there is a place, at least in my case, for online asynchronous learning combined with traditional in-person lecture-based approaches. I think that certain students can benefit from such an approach. I have started to reflect on that moving forward as well. I’ve invested considerable time developing these online resources for students and I cannot see myself just dropping them. I think we’ll be using both moving forward and will find a hybrid approach to teaching and learning, which is equitable to a multitude of learning styles and preferences.”
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