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Echo360 Academic Champion Helps Adjunct Professors to Embrace Active Learning

Echo360 Academic Champion Helps Adjunct Professors to Embrace Active Learning

A Powerful Lesson Learned: Students More Successful When Challenged to Participate in Class

When he was a graduate teaching assistant, Dr. Khasad Yahu ZarBabal, Assistant Professor, Economics and Finance at Medgar Evers College (MEC) in Brooklyn, NY, learned an impactful lesson about the transformational power of student engagement.  One of his professors used student response technology and Dr. ZarBabal observed firsthand how students learned more when challenged to answer questions embedded into classroom lectures.

“While studying for my PhD, I was a teaching assistant to a famous economics professor” says Dr. ZarBabal. “It was a very tough class, the kind of class that MBA students feared.  But students really liked taking his course because during his lectures he would use clickers to administer mini-quizzes and polls to his students. It was the first time I had ever seen that. I saw how engaged his students were. They really learned a lot answering questions that were interspersed throughout his lectures. I said to myself, ‘If I ever become a professor, I’m going to do the same thing.’”

Fast forward to today and Dr. ZarBabal is doing just that at MEC, a Senior College within The City University of New York (CUNY). He makes extensive use of Echo360’s student engagement tools to encourage classroom participation by students in all of his courses. As one of the 2019 Echo360 Academic Champion Grant recipients, Dr. ZarBabal is using his grant award to teach adjunct professors how to use Echo360’s student engagement tools to encourage more active learning throughout his department.

“Our new degree program in financial economics is only 2 years old,” says Dr. ZarBabal. “It’s the newest program in the business school here. Historically, there has been a lot of variation in the way information was presented and that hasn’t always been good for our students. So, one of the things I realized I could do with the grant is to train our adjunct professors on Echo360. This will help us to standardize the way classes are taught.”

Using Echo360 to Ensure Consistent and Engaging Delivery of Learning Content

Dr. ZarBabal uses Echo360 to deliver face-to-face, hybrid, and flipped classes. All of his presentations include student response activities such as polls or questions, regardless of the course format.

“Echo360 helps me promote a more active style of learning,” says Dr. ZarBabal. “I include student polls and questions in my presentations. It helps students learn the subject matter. And since students can answer questions anonymously, this encourages more of them to participate. They don’t have to worry about looking foolish in front of their peers if they don’t know an answer.”

Adjunct faculty members teach the majority of the entry-level financial economics courses at MEC. To support these colleagues, Dr. ZarBabal hosted a number of training workshops throughout the semester where he shared his approach to active learning and demonstrated his use of Echo360 to increase student engagement.

“It’s sometimes difficult to reach our adjunct professors. Most of them have full-time careers, they are very busy, and they only teach here in the evening,” says Dr. ZarBabal. “But our adjuncts are also a highly motivated group. They see the value in using Echo360 to transform their lectures into an interactive learning experience for students.”

As a result of his efforts, Dr. ZarBabal says that Echo360 is now used in 75 percent of the introductory courses within the financial economics degree program and subject matter is presented more consistently across all sections.

“Using Echo360 has helped us ensure that the content we present is consistent across all of the classes and sections that are taught,” says Dr. ZarBabal. “Our presentations are now identical, except for the engagement activities, which each instructor chooses and creates on their own. This gives the adjunct the ability to customize student engagement activities based on the needs of the students in class.”

Using Echo360 to Launch a Fully Online Degree Program

In 2020, MEC plans to launch an online degree program in financial economics, the first fully online program within CUNY. Dr. ZarBabal is currently working to incorporate video and active learning into the program using Echo360. He also intends to use Echo360 Universal Capture so online students can upload their own video presentations as part of their course work.

“The online program will use all the capabilities of Echo360 – presentation slides, engagement activities, and video,” says Dr. ZarBabal. “However, I learned about Echo360 Universal Capture when I attended the Academic Champions workshop. This capability, along with the secure video assignment feature, means that I can create assignments whereby students can upload presentations. This will not only help students develop their presentation skills, but it will also help make the class more interactive and help create a community among the online students. This will help us to create a program where we can teach people everywhere; people from around the world could get a degree at Medgar Evers in financial economics.”

Watch the video and learn more about the 2019 Echo360 North American Academic Champion Grant Recipients.