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What Higher Ed Can Learn about Creating Engaging Online and Hybrid Learning Experiences from Bishop Garcia Diego High School

What Higher Ed Can Learn about Creating Engaging Online and Hybrid Learning Experiences from Bishop Garcia Diego High School

Leading Private High School Uses Echo360 and Zoom to Reach and Teach Students at Home and Abroad

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced its campus to close it was no surprise that, like many other schools, Bishop Garcia Diego High School, a private Catholic school in Santa Barbara, CA turned to Zoom to deliver classes remotely. The pivot to emergency remote learning was swift and with limited time to train faculty and staff, the focus was to provide instruction using video conferencing until the end of the term.

While video conferencing was adequate for emergency remote learning, school administrators and staff knew they needed to do more for the upcoming fall term. One major challenge was that the school needed to deliver instruction to its international students from China, Taiwan, Macau, Vietnam, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Europe.

“It was brought to my attention right away that we needed to be able to reach our international students,” says Director of Technology, Dan Yobubaitis. “They were now off-campus, many time zones away and we wanted a better way to use video. We wanted to take advantage of the strengths of video conferencing while incorporating video-based learning. Our teachers needed a system where they could easily and more efficiently create, store, and access their lectures and other course content.”

To help meet these challenges, Bishop Garcia Diego High School selected Echo360 as its video platform.

“Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the top priority at Bishop Diego has been to ensure that students, faculty, and staff remain safe and healthy, while continuing to lead the way in providing high-caliber, values-based education to all students,” says Karen Regan, president of Bishop Garcia Diego High School. “Due to the foresight and vision of Mr. Yokubaitis, being able to utilize Echo360 and Zoom has made for a seamless transition in a time of otherwise great uncertainty in the lives of the young people we serve.”

Time Zones and Distance are No Longer a Barrier to Learning

Students are not yet permitted to return to campus for live instruction for the current Fall term. So, beginning in September, every teacher at Bishop Garcia Diego High School records their classes and live streams them to students online using Echo360.  With Echo360’s Zoom integration, teachers use the video conferencing tool to converse and speak directly to students and establish that all important personal, one-to-one connection.

Videos recorded with Echo360 now give Bishop Garcia Diego HS the ability to reach its cohort of international students no matter where they are in the world.

“Once a class is recorded, it takes just seconds for that recording to be uploaded from Echo360 to Canvas, our learning management system (LMS),” says Yokubaitis.  “This is one of the features our teachers appreciate the most. Recordings are almost immediately available. Now, our international students can access lecture recordings on-demand, anytime and from anywhere. Domestic students can also access recordings in the event they miss class due to illness or other excused absence. Because all of our Zoom meetings and Echo360 recordings are available in our LMS, it also makes it easier for substitute teachers to come in and facilitate instruction.”

Yokubaitis says the school hopes students will be able to return to campus later this academic year, but the lingering presence of the pandemic makes it uncertain as to exactly how and when that will happen.

“We have to follow the state and county guidelines to ensure that students, faculty, and staff remain safe. But the combination of Echo360 and Zoom gives us greater flexibility to respond to unknown demands in the future. It has allowed us to future-proof our ability to provide an engaging learning experience whether that is online, hybrid, or face-to-face.”

Technology Carts Turn Every Room into an Online or Hybrid Learning Space

The timeline to implement Echo360 was challenging. The system had to be fully deployed and every teacher had to be ready to deliver online instruction at the start of the academic year. There was no time nor desire to purchase additional hardware that had to be installed. To meet this critical deadline, Yokubaitis worked closely with Echo360’s customer success and account teams to ensure the system would work with the technology currently available in each classroom.

Yokubaitis had another problem to solve. Although students currently attend classes online, he knew the school had to be ready for a time in the near future when students returned to campus and the school would transition to a hybrid learning model where students rotate between in-person and online instruction.

The solution: create a mobile technology cart positioned in every classroom and learning space on campus. Each cart is equipped with a high-end Mac computer installed with Echo360 Universal Capture along with a high-quality video webcam with a microphone.

“We have a cart placed in 29 learning spaces on campus, but they are not assigned to a particular teacher,” says Yokubaitis. “Since each cart is equipped with the same technology, teachers can walk into any classroom and effectively teach there.”

Live-Streaming to Overflow Classrooms

The technology carts will help the school comply with anticipated social distancing requirements when in-person instruction resumes. To comply, Yokubaitis says the school will need to teach in every available space including some of the bigger buildings, school gyms, and library.

“Because of social distancing, we may not be able to put 28 students in a single classroom. But with Echo360, we can live stream that class to an overflow room. At the same time, we still need to use facilities for the activities they were designed for, such as volleyball or basketball practice in the gym. To do that, our teachers need to be able to move around and teach from any space available,” he adds.

Teachers Can Just “Do Their Thing”

Implementing new technology is always challenging but teachers and staff at Bishop Garcia Diego HS met that challenge head on. After a short, progressive training course, they quickly became very proficient with the technology and were ready to begin teaching.

“We have an extremely dedicated and professional group of teachers,” says Yokubaitis. “They all have strong classroom management skills. That said, their focus needs to be on teaching, so having uniform technology in each classroom makes it easy for them to use,” he says.

Teachers begin their class by launching the Echo360 recording and Zoom meeting. They take attendance and begin to teach the way in which they have always taught.  Everything a teacher says and does is captured by the video webcam and microphone and recorded in Echo360.

“The beauty of it all is that teachers are able to just do their thing,” says Yokubaitis. “Some of them connect their iPad or other peripheral devices where they pull material to share with their students. They can talk to students directly using Zoom and they usually end the class on Zoom where they can answer questions and give assignments, just as they would in a normal class. But everything gets recorded in Echo360 and it is available for students later.”

Measuring Success: Technology That Meets the Demands of Today and Tomorrow

Although Bishop Garcia Diego HS has only been using Echo360 for a little more than one month, Yokubaitis says they have achieved their initial goal of being able to reach international students.

“I think we have achieved our goal of creating an engaging environment that allows us to take care of students not on campus who are legally absent. That includes our international students as well as students who may not immediately return because they live with family members who have pre-existing conditions or may be in high-risk groups. There are many other things we can potentially do, such as creating online learning programs at the high school level. We have invested in technology that will help our school continue to meet the demands of the future, whatever they may be,” says Yokubaitis.

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

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