As Students Return to Campus, Video Learning Helps Mercer University Ensure Academic Continuity and Manage Future Contingencies
University Expands Echo360 Licenses Campus-Wide to All 12 Colleges and Schools
While students at Mercer University were completing the spring 2020 academic term remotely using Zoom, plans were already underway to have them return to campus for classroom instruction. To help ensure academic continuity when students returned, Mercer decided to expand the use of Echo360. Previously used only within the School of Medicine and College of Pharmacy, the university adopted Echo360 in all 12 colleges and schools by the fall term in 2020.
With Echo360, Mercer was able to reach students who had to miss class or were required to quarantine. They could also live stream classes to students who were dispersed to accommodate social distancing guidelines. The entire university can now use Echo360 to supplement face-to-face instruction by delivering both synchronous and asynchronous instruction online.
A Carefully Planned Pilot Project Demonstrates Feasibility of Video Learning
In July 2020, Mercer University was one of the only schools in the United States offering in-person instruction.
“Our goal from the very beginning was to come back in person,” says Dr. Susan Codone, professor of technical communication and Mercer’s director of the Center for Teaching and Learning. “When we went to emergency remote instruction in March 2020, we used Zoom but that was just a temporary measure to allow us to finish the spring term in May. We have three summer terms: a full summer term and two 5-week terms. We targeted our second summer term which runs in July as the term when students would return for face-to-face instruction.”
Mercer launched a pilot project with five on-campus summer classes. Instructors would present classes in person, but their classes would also be recorded and live streamed using Echo360. They needed to not only test Echo360, but also the audio-visual equipment required in the classroom and the faculty preparation necessary to effectively use Echo360.
“We demonstrated that we could use Echo360 to deliver instruction if we had to isolate and quarantine students,” says Dr. Codone. “The university leadership was confident that with Echo360, the A/V equipment, and with a properly trained faculty and staff that we would be able to sustain instruction and adapt to any contingency when all of our students returned for the fall 2020 term.”
Echo360 Rollout: A Study in Planning, Coordination, Execution, and Faculty Training to Promote Adoption
Pandemics notwithstanding, successfully rolling out any technology campus-wide requires meticulous planning, the ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously, and flawless execution. Dr. Codone and the Mercer AV team coordinated efforts across multiple campus departments to ensure the technology and processes would be in place by the time students returned.
“Our audio-visual team was terrific,” says Dr. Codone. “They inventoried all of the available equipment that we had on-campus and acquired additional cameras and classroom microphones that would be used to record and broadcast classes using Echo360.”
Dr. Codone and her team worked closely with administrators at each college and school to prioritize the classrooms in which Echo360 and AV equipment would be installed. She says that nearly every learning space on campus became a connected classroom.
“In some classrooms, we installed Echo360 Pro appliances. In other rooms, we worked with our information technology department to install Echo360 Universal Capture on every classroom computer. Every faculty member was also given instructions on how to download Echo360 Universal Capture to their computer.”
The last step was to train faculty on how to use Echo360 and Dr. Codone and her team conducted a series of live training sessions.
“With the help of our Echo360 customer success manager, Jason Gildner, we trained about 350 faculty members. We recorded those training sessions using Echo360 and created an instructor training course in our learning management system Canvas. This helped us train instructors who were not able to attend the live sessions.”
Analytics Offer Unique Insights into Student Behavior and Engagement
Dr. Codone says Echo360 analytics give instructors unique insights into student behavior and engagement. She works with faculty members to help them understand how to interpret the analytics.
“Faculty members sometimes don’t understand a student’s performance. Now they know that the Echo360 analytics will reveal the percentage of a video a student watched. Echo360 analytics will not only reveal if students watch videos but if they are asking questions or posting comments. Our faculty members are used to viewing Canvas analytics and now they have a second set of analytics that has been very helpful to them.”
Video Learning Supports Student Success During Stressful Times
Dr. Codone says student acceptance of Echo360 is very positive. She says students watch recorded lectures and are able to use the lecture transcripts created by Echo360’s Automatic Speech Recognition service to bolster their understanding and to review for exams. From September 2020 through March 2021, Mercer students viewed Echo360 more than 161,000 times.
“The availability of recorded lectures has been a benefit for our undergraduate students in particular,” says Dr. Codone. “It is especially helpful in the STEM disciplines. We’ve looked at the analytics for video views and see that some students watch videos multiple times. Being able to ask a question is also important. It helps instructors clarify confusion and student misunderstanding and it also helps to create a connection between teacher and student. Students are used to watching and having videos available. So, they have a very favorable impression of Echo360 because they see it as being routine and the service is very reliable.”
Ultimately, Dr. Codone believes that Echo360’s video learning has had a positive impact and has helped students succeed during a very difficult and highly stressful time.
“Our instructional integrity remained consistent, and I think that the additional reinforcement of having Echo360 videos helped us have a successful face-to-face academic year during the pandemic.”
—Dr. Susan Codone, Professor of Technical Communication and Director of Center for Teaching and Learning, Mercer University
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