Making Smarter Choices During A Crisis
The most recent information suggests COVID-19 is not going away any time soon; experts believe the global peak may be in 3-4 months. As this reality settles in, every day brings on an increasing number of school closures. With no time to adjust, institutions are scrambling to leverage any tools they can to teach remotely right now. It is a frenzied, scary time and frankly a new frontier for administrators, instructors, and students. Make no mistake, the next year will be stressful, but Echo360 is well prepared to assist schools as they shift from a predominantly residential learning model to a complete distance learning model in a matter of days. For the past 15 years, we have been supporting instructors for residential, hybrid, and on-line learning – we understand the challenge well, are eager to help, and are confident that institutions can pull this off successfully.
Our confidence in your ability to succeed during this tough time and our capability to support you is not based on wishful thinking, but on a deep knowledge on how millions of students across the globe learn. Institutions have leveraged Echo360’s online capabilities for several years to serve more students, address natural disasters, and meet the mandates of health emergencies like this one. Echo360 supports several online use cases without compromising pedagogical integrity. High-definition video and audio combined with integrated collaboration tools make online classes seem like face-to-face classes. The Q&A feature is just one of many engagement tools built into the Echo360 platform to promote interactive and engaging learning environments, both in class and online. Other tools include polling, discussion threads, and a button for students to flag in real time when they are confused. We don’t simply track video viewing; we track student behavior throughout the learning process from participating in live events as a remote learner to reviewing learning modules after the fact. These pedagogical analytics ensure students don’t fall through the cracks.
The Echo360 platform was built from the beginning to be a global, multi-tenant application and our systems are designed to scale as demand increases. We regularly leverage our automation to scale discrete, independent services up and down throughout the day to respond appropriately to changes in traffic and resource demands. Echo360 also has AWS Enterprise Support, the highest support tier available, which specifically covers these scenarios. At our request, AWS assembled a team of support and technical resources dedicated to our team during this acute situation. They are monitoring our scaling events independently so we can quickly resolve any capacity issues before they affect end users.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak originated in December, we have been working in partnership with our customers in Asia and Australia, who prepared for the start of the academic year assuming a high percentage of their students would not be able to attend class physically. While there was an initial rush to focus on synchronous learning, schools have realized what works best is a combination of approaches from flipped classroom, to live streaming, to remote student engagement. Given this crisis is likely to last for months, it is important to evolve to a smarter approach with online learning as your instructors get more used to teaching courses without students in the classroom.
From our experience working with institutions that were affected early in this global crisis, here are a few insights we’ve gained:
- Flipping the Classroom Is a Smart Approach: Delivering a previously recorded lecture before class (even if recorded from another term), then following it up with either a live or online discussion in class is a best practice for learning. (Bishop & Verleger). If students are off campus, they can be in different time zones, so letting them review the material and comment when they are in a convenient location to focus is smart.
- With Complex Topics – Supplement Class Instruction with Short Video Learning Objects: A best practice for remote delivery is to break instruction down where possible into shorter videos that each cover a single topic or related set of topics. Instructors are using Echo360’s Universal Capture tool to create learning modules from home with voice-over instruction.
- Leverage Your Institutional LMS/VLE Course for Easier Communication: With Echo360’s integrations you can: 1) Embed video content anywhere in your course materials; 2) Deliver video announcements to make remote students feel more connected, and 3) Create secure video assignments and give video feedback on student assignments.
- Live Stream Your Classes While Engaging Students: Instructors are making their live-stream classes more engaging by mixing in polls, discussion threads and Q&A, which again are proven to improve learning outcomes but also will generate helpful learning analytics. Instructors are also using the new live attendance feature to let them know who is participating remotely.
- Combine Zoom with Echo360: Zoom is an optimal collaboration tool where class size or group projects are smaller. Recording these live collaborative events and publishing them within a searchable video library will enhance the experience. Echo360 works seamlessly with Zoom to accommodate both live and on-demand use cases.
- Use Engagement Analytics to Identify Struggling Students: Instructors are learning to use the Echo360 engagement score index to identify students who are either not participating or unable to answer polling questions. This early warning indicator is equally predictive for live as well as online classes to identify students who may be at risk of dropping out.
Echo360 has been pioneering a smarter approach to classroom, video, and engagement technologies in higher education for over 15 years. We uniquely try to combine video, engagement, and learning analytics so that instructors can better replicate a live classroom even when students cannot attend. Our workflows, culture, and technologies originated from leading institutions like The University of Western Australia and the University of Michigan. We are architected by educators for educators. We are serving millions of students today. We understand your stress, but along with Amazon AWS, we have a world class team and platform ready to support you now and work with you going forward as we both explore new and better approaches to serving students during this difficult time.