Eight seconds. That’s a person’s average attention span, according to recent research. It should come as no surprise then that today’s digitally-savvy student has a hard time paying attention during a 50-minute lecture.  To combat the passive approach to the lecture, one professor at the University of Sheffield uses Echo360 to flip his classes, and has seen an increase in student engagement and deeper understanding of course content.

Improving Student Engagement

While the focus at Sheffield has been on implementing lecture capture at scale, the engagement tools available in Echo360 have helped many lecturers to embrace new methods of teaching. Gareth Bramley, University Teacher in the School of Law uses Echo360 to flip one of his undergraduate law modules.

“We use Echo360 in the Sale of Goods module. It’s an elective course that is taught in the students’ final year,” says Bramley. “I generally have 150-200 students in my classes. I particularly like the interactive elements of Echo360 that encourage student engagement. I’ve been trying to get away from the ‘traditional lecture’ for some time. While I may be enjoying myself during a 50-minute lecture, student attention wanes. The ability to pose questions to stimulate discussion helps keep them participating,” Bramley adds.

For Bramley’s flipped class, students are required to listen to audio recording prior to attending their lecture. When students come to class, Bramley will have his presentation uploaded to Echo360. Throughout his presentation he inserts a variety of questions – multiple choice, fill-in, and open-ended – to assess how well students understand the information contained in the audio recording and from his presentation.

“Initially we treated these recordings as if they were a traditional lecture but we learned the hard way that they were too long. A 40-50-minute recording is not the way to go,” Bramley says. “Now we try to keep them to around 8-12 minutes. This means we break those 40-50-minute lectures into five or six shorter segments.”

Bramley uses the student responses to stimulate discussion in class. Students particularly like the feature because their answers are displayed on a graph, and they can see how other students have answered. Every classroom session is recorded, which includes the ensuing discussion, and students can go back and listen to the recordings on their own.

“The ability to ask open-ended, free-form questions is very powerful. For example, I may ask students, ‘What do the parties in this particular transaction hope to achieve?’ It’s a broadly worded question and when they reply I select several of their responses and we discuss them in class. It allows me to see how students are thinking and I can very quickly clear up misunderstandings.”

“My prime motivation has been to increase student engagement. I can tell that the students are more excited and that there is a ‘buzz’ when they come into the lecture hall. Students come to class with their devices, log into Echo360, and they are ready to go. I can see there is a clear sense of enjoyment on their faces. Students are talking to one another about the ‘stuff that’s on the slide,’ not something random,” Bramley adds.

Does the Flipped Classroom Help Students Learn?

For Bramley, the results achieved in the flipped classroom are evident.

“When we look at student exams, we find that our students’ analysis is better now. This is because we devote more time in class to analysis and how to apply those skills at the end of the module. Students can now do more than simply recite facts; they can apply what they have learned.”

Bramley concludes, “With Echo360, I enjoy large group teaching now more than ever. It helps me to connect with my students in ways that I couldn’t before. I can see their level of attention and engagement, and I don’t ever want to go back to the passive lecture format.”

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