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The New Echo360 Supports Advanced, Modern-Day Learning

The New Echo360 Supports Advanced, Modern-Day Learning

It was almost two decades ago, around the fall of 2000, that seasoned administrator, faculty member, and classroom technology maven Sherri Restauri, now the Director of Online Learning at Coastal Carolina University, began pushing to integrate video platform technology into the classroom. At the time, Sherri says, the technology was still in its earliest phases.

“Everything we did was homegrown.”

While she and her colleagues were eager to begin using advanced learning techniques, at first, their only choice was to make do with repurposed videoconferencing equipment. With that, they created rudimentary lecture capture videos of live lectures, recorded visiting speakers, and eventually, began to live stream graduation ceremonies. But it wasn’t enough.

The need for comprehensive, technology-enhanced learning in higher education clearly existed, but the tools and platforms themselves had a long way to go to catch up. Thus began Sherri’s journey into her expertise at determining not only what tools were most useful in a dynamic learning environment, but also who could best provide them.

Sherri’s experience managing technology initiatives at various institutions demonstrates that bringing technology into the classroom has taken its own motley journey. Working through a transition across multiple vendor platforms, she and her team broadened one university’s early lecture capture capacity twenty-fold, and soon began to expand basic-level, in-classroom lecture capture technology to include higher-level solutions, incorporating full-scale, pre-programmed touch-panel instructional podiums and integrated wall-mounted cameras.

At first, what many technology solutions offered via administrative and scheduling pieces, they lacked in learner-centric innovation. This meant that they weren’t yet combining useful administrative features with those designed for better learning. Sherri knew that both pieces were integral to a solution that worked for faculty, administration, and students.

“Faculty had to stand still at a podium and couldn’t walk around,” Sherri explained, demonstrating how flat the original tool designs were, to say nothing of enhancements in the future that would provide for much needed disability access and other components of universal design.

Sherri’s various roles as a full-time instructional designer, online learning administrator, part-time faculty at her home campus, and as an adjunct at a nearby community college meant that she used technology in a variety of capacities, at different institutions, and with many different platforms. When it came to integrating solutions, she understood the nuances inside and out.

“Unless you’re fluent in these technologies, it’s hard to understand how these things are useful from an academic versus a technical perspective.”

Sherri does understand, and well.

So it was that when she learned about the latest version of Echo360 in late 2016, she was thrilled.

“I became a massive advocate for the tool. It’s a game changer. My finger has been on the pulse of all these other programs.”

What Echo360 does relative to other programs, she says, is more than the latest lecture capture technology—it’s a tool that has finally caught up to and influenced the way that courses are being taught, for the better.

“It’s a means of student engagement and course content development,” providing what Sherri has coined as an “engagement philosophy,” wherein faculty teaching all course types—whether online, in-person, or hybrid—can incorporate the technology into their teaching. Furthermore, faculty can use the tool to understand more about how their students are interacting and engaging with the course material. This, in effect, improves not only how courses are taught, but also how students are learning.

Comprehensive training helps to make the most out of the tool.

Sherri recounted a course that was once submitted for her review that incorporated five different types of multi-media into its’ course plan. “That was really not necessary,” because it detracted from the course material itself by requiring students to repeatedly access different platforms, using different software programs. With the ability for faculty to complete a readily available training course on Echo360, that faculty member could streamline their multimedia use so that they were only using one platform for everything, enabling enhanced user navigation and usability across the LMS through direct integration with the Echo 360 tool.

The training itself has also developed beyond how-to functionality. “Now there’s a focus on pedagogy and best practices,” in addition to the mechanics of how to use the tool on a basic level, and forward, into how to become stronger teachers.

Currently, at Coastal Carolina University, faculty are able to participate in a course development training program to strengthen their courses pedagogical practices and designs. Courses completing these training programs are highlighted by the online learning department, with select courses from this group even recognized as exemplary cases of innovative uses of technology; many of the exemplary designees show extraordinary approaches to the use of classroom- and personal lecture capture utility as a form of interactivity and engagement with their students.

One such example is the popular Kitchen Chemistry course, which the instructor has designed to be taught straight out of his home kitchen.

Sherri points out about this one exemplary course from CCU, “It’s so much more engaging since it isn’t professionally produced.”

Incorporating technology into the classroom therefore encourages faculty away from traditional stand-and-lecture models. “We’ve seen faculty get much more creative,” Sherri says, and that’s a good thing.

In terms of how Echo360 will be used in classrooms in the future, Sherri sees no limit.

“Nobody else has the functionality embedded right now the way Echo does.”

Once faculty understand what they’re able to do to enhance the face-to-face components of their courses using tools such as workshops and webinars, they will continue to expand their use of technology in the classroom. The benefits, Sherri explains, extend everywhere from improving students’ study habits to the potential for significantly impacting overall student retention rates in the positive sense in all class formats of on-campus, online, and hybrid. That, in effect, is what using video platforms in the classroom ought to do.

Learn more about how to implement Echo360 at your institution and increase student outcomes.

 

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