Emphasis on Faculty Training and Development Helps to Drive Adoption of Academic Video in More Than 500 Courses

When Beth Ritter-Guth became Associate Dean for Online Learning & Educational Technology at Northampton Community College in 2019, one of her first tasks was to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the educational technology used on campus. She focused on adoption because she knew that even the best technology provides little benefit if it isn’t used. A tool that immediately caught her eye was Echo360.

Although faculty members had access to Echo360 for several years, they had been slow to incorporate the video learning platform into their instruction. Some faculty did not understand how video could help their teaching while others thought the system might be difficult to use.

Ritter-Guth realized that faculty members hadn’t been given the opportunity to discover how a tool like Echo360 could improve teaching and learning.

“When I first evaluated Echo360 I realized that we didn’t have enough people using it to justify the cost,” says Ritter-Guth. “But it was our own fault. We didn’t sufficiently promote and explain it. We needed to give our instructors a chance to see the value it could bring to their teaching.”

Ritter-Guth challenged her staff and the Echo360 Customer Success team to find ways to increase adoption. She pushed them to train faculty to help them understand how Echo360 supports a universal design for learning and how it can promote a more active, engaged, and personalized learning experience. She also wanted to dispel the notion that Echo360 was difficult to use.

During the height of the pandemic in 2020, they conducted a “Tech Olympics” to train instructors on technology including Echo360. Despite the pandemic, the event was highly attended and helped encourage usage. And beginning in the summer of 2021, instructors have been able to earn digital badges that demonstrate their level of proficiency with the system.

“Once instructors discovered how easy it was to use Echo360, they really liked it,” says Ritter-Guth. “Teaching with Echo360 became very easy for them and the learning experience was easy for their students. Echo360 is very tightly integrated with our learning management system, Blackboard. Students can access videos and all of their course materials using a single login. “

When the pandemic forced Northampton to close its campuses in 2020, Ritter-Guth and her staff doubled down on Echo360. They continued to provide training, support, and encourage its use. The sustained emphasis on instructor training paid off and Echo360 became a critical technology that helped the College deliver remote learning.  By the end of the Spring 2021 academic term, Echo360 was used to deliver asynchronous online instruction in more than 500 courses.

Helping Students Learn in Different Ways, On Their Schedule

Ritter-Guth believes that all lectures should be recorded because it improves accessibility and helps students interact with their lessons in multiple ways. She has noticed in her own teaching that recorded video helps students retain information.

“Effective online teaching is much more than creating a PowerPoint presentation and having students passively watch a lecture. With Echo360, students can watch a lecture, they can listen to the audio, they can read the transcript of the presentation, or any combination. With Echo360’s embedded polling features even online courses can be engaging and interactive. Students can also interact with their instructors and their peers, and this helps make the online experience more personal.”

According to Ritter-Guth, students place high value on having the flexibility and multiple options to access their courses when it fits their schedule.

“The video streams beautifully on mobile devices so it gives students greater flexibility to access lectures as often as they need and at times most convenient to them.  Being able to watch a  video several times helps reinforce learning. I think it helps students retain information and master complex topics.”

Finding New Ways to Use Video’s Full Potential

Ritter-Guth believes that the College is just beginning to tap into the full potential of Echo360.

“I’m very passionate about doing whatever it takes to get students to do the work in class,” she adds. “Students today are very comfortable using video and this opens up many new ways to teach with it. For example, I do all of my quizzing using video and you can create interactive videos using Echo360 student response and polling tools.  These are features that we will continue to emphasize in our faculty training. Instructors ask questions in class all the time. Now they can ask questions even when they record a video, just as they would in a classroom.”

Moving beyond lecture capture, Ritter-Guth and her team are looking for new ways to use Echo360.  One especially innovative project is in the College’s Smart Home – a residence that uses internet-connected devices to enable remote monitoring, management and control of appliances and systems such as heating, lighting, and home security.

For this application, Echo360 will be used in combination with gaming, AI, and augmented reality technology to create a “virtual laboratory” for problem solving. One example of how this “mashup” of technology will be used involves law enforcement students. They will be presented with scenarios requiring them to conduct a hypothetical criminal investigation where they analyze how the home’s Smart technology was used to commit a crime.

“We will use Echo360 to record examples of how criminals can break in and manipulate home technology. The recorded video will highlight things law enforcement will need to know in order to solve these crimes. It’s a very innovative way to use Echo360 that will enhance the learning experience for our students.”

Measuring Success: Increased Usage with High Marks for Reliability and Customer Satisfaction

Ritter-Guth’s experience as an educator who uses technology in her own teaching helped her to convince faculty members that video is a valuable classroom tool.

“I approach technology from the professor’s perspective,” she says, “and that has been really helpful. Our faculty members know that I wouldn’t implement something that I wouldn’t use in the classroom.”

Ritter-Guth says that Echo360 has proven to be a reliable and cost-effective video learning platform for the College. And it has received high marks in customer satisfaction from faculty members.

“Echo360 has all the tools built into it that an instructor needs,” says Ritter-Guth. “The captioning is easier to do, the cloud-based hosting and service is extremely reliable and it’s secure. Our emphasis on training helped to increase usage and adoption. Instructors who have completed the training and use Echo360 day in, day out love it. They are really happy with the system.”

As an administrator, Ritter-Guth says it is her responsibility to ensure that the College is spending its resources effectively.

“I need to make sure the technology we purchase actually gets used,” she says. “Echo360 is a tool that everyone can and should use in some way. Our instructors now understand the value video can bring to the classroom. As a result, over the course of the past year, Echo360 has become an essential tool we couldn’t possibly do without.”


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