In his recent Echo360 instructor webinar, Anton Harfmann, professor and director of architectural engineering at the University of Cincinnati described the opportunities and challenges of using a Project-Based Learning (PBL) approach to prepare students for professional practice. With this pedagogical approach, students can internalize concepts faster as they apply them in practical, just-in-time delivery. However, sufficient variation and depth in projects coupled with the difficulty of learning a highly complex design and modelling software application makes teaching in this method more challenging. Professor Harfmann explained how he relies on the Echo360 interactive video platform to engage his large classes through project-based learning.

He showed webinar attendees how he records how-to videos for project assistance that are designed to teach his students complex software and the skills they will require when working in the field in their first cooperative work assignments. He also explained how his classes are recorded, automatically, for on-demand student use and are available in the LMS. In addition to video, Professor Harfmann uses engagement tools, like polling, and learning analytics in Echo360 to gauge student comprehension and modify his instruction to help improve student success. When evaluated by their cooperative employers, Professor Harfmann’s students have shown improved performance in their work assignments.

Cooperative Learning Curriculum Requires Students to Be Ready for Work

Beginning with their sophomore year, students in the architecture, architectural engineering, and interior design programs at the University of Cincinnati participate in a more than 100-year old tradition: working in their chosen field through the cooperative education curriculum. The curriculum requires that students rotate between a semester in classes on campus and a semester where they are placed in positions where they are paid to work with companies who participate in the program.

The challenges are high for students and faculty alike. Students attend required courses that are meant to get them ready for their first cooperative experience. Faculty members must make sure that when students arrive on the first day of co-op employment, they have the necessary skills to be productive and successful. For Professor Harfmann’s 185 students, this meant they had to master many new skills including:

  • Having a working knowledge of basic building materials and methods of construction,
  • Understanding how to transition from a building design to its actual construction, and
  • Understanding complex software and three-dimensional, building information modeling.

Video and Student Polling Helps Put Information into Practice in Project-Based Learning Approach

Rather than rely solely on quizzes throughout the semester, Professor Harfmann employs a Project-Based Learning (PBL) approach that requires his students to successfully complete an assigned project. No two student projects are alike; Professor Harfmann provides enough variations to allow each student to have a unique set of circumstances to solve. Harfmann’s lectures are designed to help students complete their respective projects. After each lecture throughout the term, students are required to immediately put into practice the information they learned. As a resource to help students in real-time with their projects, Professor Harfmann provides two types of video using Echo360: 1) lecture capture of his classes which are automatically recorded and available to students via the LMS, and 2) how-to videos for project assistance which mimic the building process students go through when completing their own unique projects.

To assess whether students have mastered the concepts necessary to complete their project, Professor Harfmann introduces student polling activities available in the Echo360 platform into his lectures.

“I try to introduce these polling questions whenever there is a difficult concept that the students have to grasp in order to move forward.” said Harfmann.

Based on student responses to polling questions, Harfmann can see whether they have the necessary comprehension of the material. Their responses help Professor Harfmann modify his instruction throughout the semester.

“Polling questions help in several ways,” says Harfmann. “First, students themselves can see whether they understand the concepts being presented. It’s important they know where they stand. But, since their answers are anonymous, there is little risk of embarrassment of not knowing the right answer. And most importantly, I can immediately see whether students are keeping pace with my presentation. If a large percentage of students don’t get the correct answer, I immediately know that I have to slow down, repeat, or review the information.”

Echo360 Learner Analytics Help to Refine Instruction

In addition to using polling questions, Professor Harfmann uses Echo360 learner analytics to further modify how he presents information to students.

“Having the ability to look at the data to see how students interacted with the videos is fascinating for me,” says Harfmann. “For example, I could see how often a video was watched and the specific spots where students pause and re-watch a video. When I see trends like that, I review the video myself and I can see why students might be struggling. It allows me to create other questions and activities that help to clear up the confusion.”

Video and Project-Based Learning Help Increase Student Performance On-the-Job

Since the introduction of Echo360 and Harfmann’s PBL approach, student performance in their cooperative work assignments has steadily improved.

“This is the most impressive outcome, in my opinion. We asked the co-op employers to evaluate the students and we have seen an improvement in almost every category. For me, this was the most powerful argument for both the lecture capture and the active learning activities during class. The video recordings and activities help better prepare students. They now enter into their co-op assignments with a higher level of skills,” says Harfmann.

You can listen to Professor Harfmann’s full webinar presentation

Questions? Learn more about how Echo360 can improve learning outcomes at your institution.

Contact Us