Blended Learning Design, Echo360 technology, LectureTools

Last week, I attended the Blended Learning and Teaching Course Design Institute hosted by Nick Baker of the Office of Open Learning and Lorie Stolarchuk of the Centre for Teaching and Learning here at the University of Windsor.

The first day focused on an introduction to blended learning, then how to design courses to promote active learning, planning for engagement, authentic assessment, and universal design in blended course settings. This was a review for me, since my one of my areas of research expertise is in online and blended education. The activities and resources were helpful in developing an understanding of how qualities of good instruction translates to the technological learning environment, and we got a preview of some of the affordances of LectureTools on the first day.

The second day,  Perry Samson from UMich, the creator of LectureTools, demonstrated how faculty can harness this tool for instruction and assessment. While we experienced some technical difficulties uploading and working with our own Powerpoint slides in the hands-on portion of the workshop, I could see that LectureTools would make teaching large classes more engaging than the traditional lecture. The pedagogy of mass instruction by transmitting information hasn’t been transformed, per se, but given financial constraints faced by postsecondary institutions, this does give faculty ways to increase opportunities for active learning by increasing student participation during lectures and allow faculty to conduct some formative assessments for learning.

I like how LectureTools allows you to ask students more than multiple-choice questions, including re-order, image-based and written response questions. When instructors choose questions that uncover misconceptions that students have, LectureTools has the potential to help students become aware of bottlenecks in their understanding of threshold concepts in their discipline or field of study.

We also had a chance to play with Echo360, which UWindsor is piloting in Southern Ontario. Again, we had some technical difficulties, but I was impressed with the quality of the video (HD) of the lecture capture and the various capture possibilities (personal capture, audio-only, with video, screen capture?, etc.). More on this later, when I have had a chance to implement this in real courses at Odette.

Having done some learning analytics work, I am interested in the learning analytics data (e.g. who’s watched what and how much, when) that Echo360 affords. I always feel conflicted in using this kind of data, as it seems like we can use this information in both positive and negative ways. As an educator, I’d like to be able to intervene and help at-risk students because I want to help all students achieve their potential. On the other hand, as an administrator, I’m aware that I can track students and have access to information that seems vaguely Orwellian in its surveillance aspect.


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