In 2016, Echo360 Academic Champion, Dr. KhasadYahu ZarBabal created fully online versions of all the finance and economics courses at Medgar Evers College. Echo360, integrated with the school’s learning management system gives students access to video content, PowerPoint presentations, and other course materials. Dr. ZarBabal also designed low-stakes assessment activities into each course, using Echo360 student response features designed to encourage and increase engagement. Since 2016, he has used Echo360 to teach his classes face-to-face, using a blended or hybrid approach, and fully online.

But “Dr. Z,” as he is known to his students, could not have predicted that a global pandemic would force Medgar Evers College, part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system, to close its campus on March 9, 2020. However, his experience using Echo360 helped his students successfully make the transition from the classroom to fully online learning for the spring term. Since his campus has remained closed, he has continued to teach online using Echo360 for the intensive summer term, where a full semester is compressed into 5 weeks.

Dr. ZarBabal shared tips for successful online teaching and learning using Echo360 during our recent academic webinar,  Getting Back to Regular – Use of Echo360 for Online Teaching in the New Normal.

“Echo360 allows me to teach online in ways that go beyond a video conferencing experience,” says ZarBabal. “In addition to video and lecture presentations, the platform has engagement features that make the online experience interactive; students respond to questions and participate in each class. I also use the analytics the system provides to identify students who may be falling behind and use that information to motivate them.”

Here are just a few of the highlights from Dr. ZarBabal’s webinar.

Helping Students to Become Comfortable with the Technology – Engagement Starts with the Course Syllabus

According to Dr. ZarBabal, an important factor for teaching effectively online is making sure that students are able to effectively use the technology that delivers the class. His students learn from the first day that their online class with Echo360 will not be a passive experience.

Dr. ZarBabal embeds “activities” in his presentation slides. These activities include multiple choice, open response, graphic or image questions and even student-created discussion questions designed to promote deeper level understanding with the material. Student participation is measured and counts as part of their final grade. He even gives a small amount of extra credit to students who log into Echo360 on time.

These graded, low-stakes activities are also embedded in Dr. ZarBabal’s online course syllabus. His students must answer the questions contained in the syllabus and this helps them understand how to use Echo360.

“There are two main reasons I do this,” he says. “First, it helps students understand that Echo360 is an interactive platform. Answering the questions helps students become familiar and comfortable with the technology. Secondly, it also helps to ensure that students read the syllabus and a soft contract is established. The questions I ask make sure that students understand what they need to do in order to be successful. They need to know how they are graded, how I handle late assignments, incomplete work and so on,” he says.

Creating Instructor “Presence” Through Video

Dr. ZarBabal often uses video to demonstrate technical or difficult content. But his videos are more than just a voice over – Dr. ZarBabal likes to show his face to students to let them know he is there with them. His online students can see and watch him just as they would on-campus as he gives a hands-on demonstration of how to perform calculations using Microsoft Excel or how to use online trading software.

“I make sure students can ‘see me’ because I think that students feel closer to the material when they see there is a real human being presenting it,” says Dr. ZarBabal. “Even though the students are viewing the presentation online, video helps you show things and ‘be there’ with your students. This helps create more of a community feeling.”

He also prepares custom videos during the term to provide students with personal feedback.

“Videos help me make a personal connection with students,” he says. For example, after exams I will give them video feedback addressing specific issues where they may have had difficulty. This varies from semester to semester, of course, but video helps me speak directly to students and make them feel that I am trying to be as hands on as possible. Creating a video presence makes students feel that there is a real person behind the material.”

The Digital Version of Sitting in the Front of the Class: Using Echo360’s Analytics to Motivate Students

Dr. ZarBabal says that students new to his active learning approach may not understand why they should participate and how their level of participation correlates to their own success. He says it is important to explain to students how higher participation levels correlate to better outcomes.

Because Echo360’s analytics measure the level of student participation and engagement, he uses this information to encourage and motivate students to participate.

“Before there was online learning, there was the old adage, ‘students who sit in the front of the classroom get As and students who sit in the back of the classroom do not perform as well,’” he says. “That old adage can now be applied to digital learning environments. With Echo360’s analytics. I can show my students the relationship between higher engagement and higher exam scores. That is the moment when students begin to understand that all of this is for their own good. It is an excellent way to motivate them,” says ZarBabal.

We have just scratched the surface and discussed a few of topics Dr. ZarBabal shared in his webinar. To learn more, listen to the complete webinar archive and discover how he uses Echo360 to create an exemplary online learning experience for his students.

View the webinar archive, Getting Back to Regular – Use of Echo360 for Online Teaching in the New Normal.

Learn more: From campus video management, lecture capture, online learning, flipped classrooms and more, contact us to discover how Echo360 can help transform the teaching and learning experience at your institution.

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