Funding Helps College Improve Engagement in Gateway Courses

Funding Helps College Improve Engagement in Gateway Courses

Instructors at Metropolitan Community College – Kansas City (MCCKC) are enthusiastic. Without having to change the way they teach or implement a complex system, they are helping more students succeed in gateway courses such as biology, chemistry, composition & reading, U.S. history, and mathematics.

“Three Title III grants from the U.S. Department of Education enabled us to invest in solutions to help instructors increase student engagement and provide more personalized instruction in high attrition courses,” says Dr. Melissa Renfrow, Title III Project Manager at MCCKC. “One of the solutions we selected which aligns with this goal is Echo360. With Echo360, our instructors have access to new types of learning behavior data for early intervention and a connected platform to engage students in learning both inside and outside the classroom.  Our instructors quickly became advocates of the technology and started applying it in innovative ways.”

Historically, MCCKC—like many community colleges—has lacked the IT infrastructure to support the integration of technology and data in teaching and learning. The U.S. Department of Education’s Title III Strengthening Institutions Program helps colleges and universities build the capacity to better serve low-income students. Today, MCCKC is in its third year of a five-year Title III project that targets developmental English, math, and reading.

The college is leveraging those funds to expand Broadband and WiFi, deploy supplemental tutoring for struggling students, provide faculty with professional development and course redesign support, and leverage instructional technology in traditionally difficult gateway courses. As the college works to improve gateway courses that have historically been barriers to student retention and success, faculty and instructional designers are using the Echo360 active learning platform to create engaging classroom environments, support students in and beyond class, and provide individualized support.  The Echo360 platform is built on native AWS cloud services to achieve a true multi-tenant solution that scales seamlessly and automatically.

Continue reading to learn how MCCKC instructors are leveraging the active learning platform to support their students.

Confusion button for students helps instructor intervene in real-time

Engineering instructor Dan Justice is a big fan of the confusion button for students in Echo360. “If students do not understand an engineering concept I am presenting, I encourage them to click on the confusion button in Echo360. There were a few concepts I assumed students just “got”, but after receiving instant feedback from the students, I realized I needed to redesign that part of my lecture.  I am pleased that I am able to adjust instruction in real time to ensure students are learning important concepts.”

Another instructor, Kim Luken, uses Echo360 to teach accounting I and II on campus and online. “We often start the class with a polling question,” Luken says. “I now can get a very quick snapshot of how well the students understand the material. If the overwhelming majority of them answer correctly, I know that I can move on. But if there is confusion or misunderstanding, I know immediately from their answers, and we can devote time in class to make sure students understand.”

More class time for group work and difficult concepts

History instructor Greg Sanford uses Echo360 in his classroom for student-to-student learning and group discussion. “I make learning history a more active experience by asking students to participate in discussions and group projects. I ask students a question at the beginning of class and they answer using Echo360. They then break into groups and discuss their answers. The students are very excited about using the technology. They prefer it to just a straight lecture because it gets them involved in their own learning,” Sanford adds.

“My goal is to devote more classroom time to reviewing difficult concepts and working on higher level problems in groups. I believe that it’s easier for students to master the material when they are actively engaged in their learning,” says professor Kim Luken. “To do this, I plan to use the personal capture features of Echo360 to flip my classroom. I want to push some of the easier accounting concepts outside of the classroom so that students can more actively engage inside the classroom.”

Making great teaching accessible to all students – both on-site and online

“Life sometimes gets in the way,” says engineering professor Dan Justice. “Many of our students have jobs (62%) and sometimes they have to miss a class. In the past, I would have dropped a student for missing two lectures in a row. But now, they can view the lecture online on their own time. The technology is helping to level the playing field and make learning more accessible to a diverse group of students.”

“I teach accounting both in person and online and want my online students to get the same benefits from live instruction as the students in my physical classroom,” says professor Kim Luken. “With Echo360, students in both my online and in person classes have the same access to learning content, recorded lectures, class discussions and other engagement tools.  Learning is now more accessible to all students, regardless of course delivery method.”

Here more about MCCKC’s work from Melissa Renfrow:

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