Echo 360 and LectureTools: The Next Generation of Lecture Capture


Echo 360 is an interactive lecture capture and sharing system meant to support a blended learning environment. Class material shared through Echo 360 can be accessed from any web-capable device at any time. This system greatly expands the number of students that an instructor can reach as well as the students’ access to learning materials.

Type: Website, Computer Program, and Application

Target Grade(s): 9-12 and Higher Education (can potentially be adapted for younger grades)

Subject(s): All

Price: Varies depending on plan and functionality

Links: Echo 360 YouTube Channel, Echo 360 Site, LectureTools Site

General Functions: The Echo 360 program centers around lecture capture. Instructors can film/record themselves presenting class materials as well as capture their computer screen as they go through their presentation. Students have an online profile where they can access the lectures uploaded by their instructor for further review or in order to prepare for the next class. Instructors can see who is accessing their lectures and how often they are accessing it. Echo 360 has also integrated a second program called “LectureTools”. “LectureTools” allows instructors to create interactive presentations for your classes. The system allows instructors to integrate images, videos, and links into their presentation and activity slides in order to enhance learning. Instructors can also create activity slides where they can quiz students and/or check for understanding using a wide variety of question/activity structures. The system automatically collects data on student responses that the instructor can view later. Instructors can also view what slides students either flagged as confusing or starred as being important information, allowing them to quickly identify and address any concepts students did not understand. Both students and their instructor can draw on the slides with a pen tool and participate in real-time, anonymous discussion/Q and A on the screen. Students can also type their notes as they view the slides and can export their notes later on for easy studying. Students can view their own progress as well and can access all of their lectures and notes from their online profile.

The Strengths

Everything is in one place

Students can listen their lecture, respond to prompts, take notes, and ask questions all on one screen. This means that students do not have to spend time swapping back and forth between the lecture slides and their notes, minimizing potential distractions. Everything from the student’s notes to their drawings and responses are saved to the student’s profile and can be re-accessed at any time. Since the student’s profile is saved on Echo 360’s cloud, they can access their full profile from any device with web capabilities. The student has a separate page for each class they take that is using Echo 360, automatically organizing their notes according to class.

Easy data collection

Echo 360 and LectureTools do a great job keeping track of meaningful data. During class, the instructor can see how many students have responded to their prompts out of all students who are registered. The system will automatically record student responses and provide clear data on how many students demonstrated understanding of the concepts being reviewed. Questions asked by students in the discussion as well as the responses are saved to the class discussion page. Even though students can post anonymously, the instructor has the option to see the student responsible for each post. The instructor can also see which slides have been flagged (confusing) or starred (important) and how many times this was done to those slides. All of the data that has been recorded is saved on the instructor’s profile and can be accessed at any time. Teachers/professors can easily add additional instructors to their course, making all of this data easy to share. This comprehensive data can be used to target the concepts students are struggling the most with and provides a constant check on student understanding.

Interactive

Though many instructors will use prompts or other forms of media during lectures, it is hard to check student responses. Some classes can use clickers to respond to prompts, but instructors are limited in what kind of questions they can ask. With LectureTools, it is easy to integrate different media sources and prompt students in a variety of ways. Since the prompts and activities are integrated into the presentation, students can seamlessly participate from their device. Multimedia slides help students stay engaged and can give students good practice when they go back to review the information.

The Challenges

Hard to get any meaningful information prior to registering

I initially heard about Echo 360 through an article that discussed blended learning and focused on Echo 360 as an effective tool. On the Echo 360 website, you can access a few testimonials, introductory videos, a link to LectureTools registration, and a list of things the system does. Where it was enough to get me interested, there wasn’t anything specific about the system’s functionality. It should be noted that you are encouraged to contact a representative to discuss the system in greater detail however, I feel that this unnecessarily complicates the process.

image

To make things even more challenging, there is no easy way to demo the system. To create a LectureTools login, your school has to be registered in the LectureTools system. If your school is not in the system, you have to contact a representative to get it added before you can register. Where this is not extremely taxing, it potentially makes the process a lot more involved and I was hesitant to go through the process just to give the program a ‘casual try’ to determine if it is something I would want to use.

What FUTD Recommends

  • Visit the Echo 360 YouTube Channel: Luckily, Echo 360 has a YouTube channel where they post all of their updates, walkthroughs, and more. Where it is not ideal, you can still get a good sense of how the program works by viewing some of the walkthroughs.
  • Download the free LectureTools app: Though the LectureTools app only supports student profiles, it includes a walkthrough presentation without requiring you to log in. This walkthrough discusses the various tools you can use (as a student) and allows you to test them out. It also gives examples of the different types of slides an instructor might create and discusses how they work. Partnered with Echo 360’s YouTube videos, you can get a good sense of how LectureTools works.

Mobile app only supports student accounts

Though the mobile app allows you to log in as a student and provides access to class materials, it does not support administrative functions. In other words, instructors can’t modify their classes or use some of Echo 360’s other functionalities on the go.

What FUTD Recommends

  • Expect improvements: Unfortunately, there is no getting around the simple fact that the app won’t support certain functions. However, Echo 360 is relatively new and growing and LectureTools, the system supporting the app, is newly acquired by the company. It is very likely that as Echo 360 becomes better acquainted with LectureTools, the LectureTools program and app will better align itself with Echo 360’s other capabilities.

Q and A system may pose problems

The Q and A system has been improved for students, but it still may pose problems in smaller lectures or in the typical classroom. Ideally, students type a question into the discussion during the lecture and either the instructor or a teaching assistant will type a response to the question. It was unclear to me, but you may choose to allow the student’s peers answer the question as well. No matter the case, unless the instructor has a teaching assistant, they will have to take pause in their lecture in order to write an answer or check for accuracy. Some questions may require greater thought to answer or could have potentially initiated a valuable class discussion had it been shared aloud. It also denies students the practice of conversational skills as they are no longer encouraged to communicate verbally to gain understanding.

image

What FUTD Recommends

  • Have a system: Think about how you would like to use this tool in your classroom and how questions should be asked according to that function. Since I like more discussion-based lessons, something that might be more ideal for me is to have students record their question in the discussion section after they have asked it out loud. This way, we can have the discussion I want but would also have the question posted for the student to reflect on later. I might even go in and answer the question after the lecture is complete to remind students what we discussed. Whatever system you choose to use, set clear expectations for students in how they are supposed to use this tool in your class.

(Disclaimer: FUTD is not associated with Echo 360, LectureTools, or their creators and does not benefit from use of this product in any way. Some information on this post may become obsolete due to updates to the site and/or application.)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s