Brock University Expands Online Learning to 19K Users
Echo360 Helps University Deliver Online Teaching and Learning Along with Robust Video Content Management
This is the first article in a two-part series outlining how Brock University uses Echo360 for online learning and video content management.
In 2019, Brock University selected Echo360 as its video content management system. The University selected Echo360 because it could provide a secure and reliable repository for educational multimedia content along with comprehensive yet easy-to-use tools for video recording and interactive learning. Instructors, students, and staff can easily create video, share those videos with individuals, groups, classes, and the public. Echo360’s features make it easy for anyone using the system to create, manage, and discover academic video content.
When the pandemic forced the University to close campus and move all teaching and learning online in March 2020, administrators quickly realized that Echo360 gave them more than video content management. It could support their transition to remote and online learning.
Beginning in March 2020 and continuing through the Fall academic term, Echo360 became Brock’s primary means to deliver online asynchronous teaching and learning. Online learning expanded to nearly 99 percent of classes taught and a high of approximately 19,000 active users – instructors, TAs, and students combined – all using Echo360.
A “Single Button” Makes it Easy to Create and Deliver Learning Online
Although Echo360 supports both synchronous and asynchronous online learning, Brock University’s Centre for Pedagogical Innovation believed that asynchronous learning better suited the needs of its students.
“We felt that asynchronous teaching and learning helps us better meet challenges around accessibility and the fact that our students are spread out over multiple time zones,” says Associate Director, Technology-Enabled Learning Matt Clare. “It also gives instructors the opportunity to develop thoughtful, well-produced instructional videos.”
Clare says that because Echo360 had been used exclusively as a content management system, it was not connected to capture devices in the classroom. But Echo360 Universal Capture gave instructors a way to easily create and share classroom presentations and content. Universal Capture was increasingly deployed on instructors’ personal computers at home throughout the Spring and Fall. Instructors were able to remotely record lectures and presentations and upload them to the University’s learning management system.
“Echo360 integrates with our learning management system, Sakai, through a simple content embed button,” says Clare. “That single, ‘blue button’ makes it easy for instructors to upload their lectures and content. It is all very straightforward, and students can access their classes online through a single login. This integration and ease of use are the main reasons why Echo360 became our primary tool for online lectures.”
Online Flipped Classes Using Microsoft Teams Support Synchronous Learning
Some classes require a synchronous online learning component and Clare says instructors use Echo360 and Microsoft Teams to create online flipped or hybrid classes.
Clare adds, “We’ve had instructors create the lecture portion of their class which is delivered asynchronously using Echo360. But they still want to have direct contact with their students, so they schedule the subsequent discussion session using Microsoft Teams. These are live, synchronous sessions and while I wouldn’t call it classically flipped, we do have the capability to deliver classes in this way and instructors can take full advantage of it.”
Video Transcripts Are Made Available to Support All Learners
To address issues around accessibility, the University turned on Echo360’s automatic speech recognition (ASR) transcription service for all videos. The ASR service translates the recorded audio into text and gives students the ability to read, search, and download the transcription. Echo360’s Transcript Editor also allows instructors to easily edit transcripts for greater accuracy.
“We have a duty to accommodate every student we accept, and one way in which we address those accommodations is through high-quality human-assisted captions,” says Clare. “But in anticipation that there may be unidentified students who require accommodations or others who would benefit from this, we wanted to give everyone access to a basic transcript.”
Clare says that even high-quality human assisted transcripts can have errors, especially when there is discipline-specific terminology. Additionally, human-assisted transcripts are expensive and take time to create.
“We have an excellent caption provider but there still are errors with specific terminology and the turnaround time can be up to four days. They are also expensive to create and that makes it difficult to create transcripts and captions for every class. With ASR, captions are available in about an hour. The quick turnaround of ASR allows us to quickly put a transcript in the hands of an instructor to correct. ASR gives us a way to more affordably create transcripts,” says Clare.
Video Assignments Allow Students to Participate in a Traditional Classroom Activity While Online
Even though all classes are online, with Echo360’s Secure Video Assignments feature, students at Brock University are still able to participate in that time-honored tradition: the classroom presentation.
Echo360 integrates with the University’s learning management system assignment tool. Once students submit their presentation, instructors are able to “lock” the student created video and prevent further editing. This gives instructors a secure option for reviewing and assessing student presentations that is consistent with their grading expectations.
“The fact that Echo360 supports video assignments has been very helpful,” says Clare. “Students can easily create a presentation on their laptop or smartphone. They use the same embed button as their instructor and they can upload their presentation either to the assignment area for review by their instructor or to the discussion area for review and comment by their fellow students. This type of assignment and assessment is something they would have done if they were in class, on-campus. It makes the online learning experience similar to the face-to-face experience,” Clare adds.
Technology Reliably Scales to Meet the Demand for Online Learning
Initially, administrators thought instructor videos might be viewed only once. That turned out to be not the case.
“The viewership of our videos on the Echo360 platform really surprised us,” says Clare. “We were surprised how high the actual magnification factor was for video creation to actual views. It demonstrates the value of video and the platform that gives students opportunities to easily review material presented.”
Despite a nearly ten-fold increase in the number of users and videos viewed, Echo360 reliably scaled to meet the increased demand. System reliability helped Brock make a nearly 100 percent transition to teaching and learning online.
“We had no problems whatsoever with Echo360,” says Clare. “It is designed for the Cloud and we’re really grateful for that. As we expanded usage, everything that we wanted to do simply required a little bit of investigation and we were able to easily execute. The increased use of video combined with the ASR transcripts and transitioning to asynchronous online learning; those are big wins.”
Clare goes on to say, “We’ve made it through extraordinary circumstances with very little warning. We’ve gone from a university that had roughly as many online courses this time last year as we do face-to-face courses today. A year ago, we had a few dozen courses online and now we have a few dozen face-to-face courses that require physical equipment on campus and a lot of protocols to make them happen. We’ve been able to entirely switch our focus from face-to-face to online learning. That is a measure of success for sure.”
In Our Next Article: Creating an Engaging, Interactive Online Learning Experience
The lack of student engagement has been one of the criticisms that many colleges and universities have faced as they transitioned to remote learning. But online learning doesn’t have to be limited to students passively listening to lectures via Zoom.
In the second article in this two-part series, you’ll learn how one Brock University instructor has used Echo360’s student response tools to create “low-stakes” activities that keep his students actively participating and engaged while learning online.
Learn more: From campus video management, lecture capture, online and hybrid learning and more, contact us to discover how Echo360 can help transform the teaching and learning experience at your institution.