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Partner Spotlight: 5 Ways to Make Education More Accessible and Engaging for Students

Partner Spotlight: 5 Ways to Make Education More Accessible and Engaging for Students

Today’s Partner Spotlight features Brad Turner, Associate Manager of Instructional Innovation at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His work focuses on assisting instructors with transforming the “traditional” classroom into a more engaging and active learning and teaching space.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst), where I serve on the instructional innovation team, has created our own “learning ecosystem”—a flexible environment that supports students of all backgrounds – with active learning at its core, supported by Echo360 technology.

We have an extraordinarily creative and resourceful faculty at UMass Amherst, who are using the Echo360 platform to transition from simply capturing the lecture to capturing learning. Technology is supporting our faculty in extending the learning experience during and beyond class time, improving their own teaching, and making classes more accessible. Here are five ways that Echo360 is supporting our learning ecosystem, and ensuring that we make education accessible and engaging to all our students:

    1. Live streaming. Our business school, the Isenberg School of Management, one of the best public business schools in the nation, has made use of Echo360’s live streaming features. Students are able to not only enroll in courses – even if they can’t always be physically present – but they can also participate remotely, just as if they were physically present in class. For business students on their way to conferences or interviews, our use of live streaming ensures that they don’t have to sacrifice quality instruction for pursuing careers and interests.
    2. Improving quality of instruction. Our students aren’t the only ones who benefit. Our faculty take great pride in their work and want to provide the highest level of instruction possible. A growing number of instructors are using Echo360 to record lectures for themselves to review how they have performed and identify ways to improve their presentation in future lectures.
    3. Accessibility. We work hard to meet the needs of all of our students, and Echo360 is a key part of that effort. Echo360 automatically closed-captions lectures, a useful feature for students who, for example, may have problems hearing. And the recorded lectures help us bring the classroom to students who may have difficulty getting there themselves. Many of our buildings are hundreds of years old, and it can sometimes be difficult for students to get in and out; Echo360 has played a role in accommodation requests through our disability services office, and has helped these students keep pace with their course work. (And, of course, it’s also helpful for students who are simply down with the flu.)
    4. Contingency planning. Winter weather in Western Massachusetts can be severe – In the winter of 2015 we had 3 consecutive Mondays in which the campus had to be closed because of heavy snow – but our students don’t have to fall behind. With lectures available in Echo360, instructors and students alike were able to continue as normal during the storms. With the lectures easily available, there’s little reason to miss class entirely.
    5. Flipped Classroom. Because Echo360 allows them to use previously recorded lectures in addition to creating new ones, a number of our instructors have been flipping their classrooms. Students view the material before the class begins, and then use the class time for activities – a more active (and effective) way of learning and applying the concepts from the lecture.

Since we began full implementation of Echo360, we’ve had the system installed in 102 classrooms, with the goal of reaching at least 113 by Spring 2017. Currently, we have more than 700 instructors in our Echo360 system, almost 500 courses with more than 12,000 automatically scheduled recordings using Echo360 and over 11,000 students in the system. As we move forward with the implementation, we plan to take advantage of the built-in classroom response and student engagement features of the system.

As the flagship of the university system in Massachusetts, we’re always working to make sure our students have access to the highest quality instruction that meets their needs, and, with a system like Echo360,there are many opportunities to improve both learning and instruction.

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