Enhancing student experience through the adoption of Echo360 Active Learning Platform


A Q&A with Dr Joy McEntee, Dr Rebecca Vivian and Harrison Lees

Many believe that Echo360 is just an automated video recording tool and do not realise its extensive capabilities and potential for engaging with students.

Joy McEntee, Jessica Viven-Wilksch & Rebecca Vivian were awarded a 2018 LEI grant for their application titled: “Encouraging University of Adelaide staff to use the Echo360 Active Learning Platform and evaluating effectiveness in formally assessing”.

To prove the value of the Echo360 Active Learning Platform, Dr Joy McEntee, Jessica Viven-Wilksch & Dr Rebecca Vivian set out on a mission to showcase how this platform can not only assist in increasing student satisfaction and supporting staff, it also has the potential to improve the student learning experience.

As part of this grant project, students as partners were involved. Students were selected to assist in co-creating activities that were embedded in 6 courses in semester 2, 2018, and these student partners also assisted in the analysis of survey data after the activities were rolled out to classes and evaluated by students in the courses.

How did this project play out? What can we learn from this project? Let’s find out!

We interviewed Academic, Dr Joy McEntee, Researcher, Dr Rebecca Vivian and Student Partner, Harrison Lees on their involvement in this project, their findings, and their advice to others on using the Echo360 Active Learning Platform.

What was your role in the project?

Academic Voice, Joy McEntee:
I was one of the project leaders, with Jessica Viven-Wilsch and Rebecca Vivian. Jessica and Rebecca worked more on the evaluation side of the project, while I was one of the academics who co-created learning materials with student partners.

Researcher Voice, Rebecca Vivian:
Jessica Viven-Wilksch and I were responsible for designing and managing the research evaluation following the Echo360ALP activities. 

Student Voice, Harrison Lees:
Over the course of the project I undertook two roles, initially as a co-creator of lecture slides with one of the lecturers involved in the process, then following that I was invited to join the research team, analysing data from student surveys.


What did you learn from involving student partners to co-design activities? What approach to co-design did you use?

Academic Voice, Joy McEntee:
My approach is informed by Kelly Matthews’ work on students as partners. You can read more about that here. She says there are 5 good practice principles which I tried to employ:

  1. Foster inclusive partnerships
  2. Nurture powers-sharing relationships through dialogue and reflection
  3. Accept partnership as a process with uncertain outcomes
  4. Engage in ethical partnerships
  5. Enact partnership for transformation.


What did you learn from working with academics and professional staff to co-design activities? What were the most enjoyable parts? And what did you find challenging?

Student Voice, Harrison Lees:
Through my initial role I found that by designing lecture material myself I was able to better understand lectures I attended in other courses. Working with academics for the first time gave me an insight into the world of research (a career I hope to pursue now!) which I wouldn’t have been able to get otherwise. The biggest challenge for me was the breaking down of student-staff relationships and replacing them with professional relationships.


What was the most surprising discovery you made during the project?

Academic Voice, Joy McEntee:
I didn’t get many surprises from the students as partners work – as I say, I’ve been doing it for a while. I did get a surprise from the Echo360 work, however. Our initial analysis reveals that students find it enjoyable and useful (which didn’t surprise me), but what did surprise me is that it almost doesn’t matter to students if the lecturers aren’t very skilled at deploying it. Undergraduates are very forgiving if they see you’re trying to make something better.

Researcher Voice, Rebecca Vivian:
In terms of the project management, it was brilliant to see staff and students so willingly and enthusiastically get involved and become so passionate about the topic! In terms of research outcomes, it wasn’t a surprise, but our findings confirm that students really valued Echo360ALP activities in their lecture time (in balance with other active learning) and in particular being able to test knowledge and contribute equally and anonymously in front of their peers. We discovered strong correlations between their perceptions of Echo360ALP being a valuable use of lecture time, improvements in their learning and a desire to use Echo360ALP again in the future.


How will the knowledge that you have gained from this project influence how you teach in the future?

Academic Voice, Joy McEntee:
I will continue to work with student partners whenever I am able. In fact, I have invited one of the student partners from the Echo360 project to help me facilitate a program at the International Studies as Partners Institute to be held in Adelaide in July.

Researcher Voice, Rebecca Vivian:
These research findings will be translated into university presentations and resources as a way to engage and support more staff across the university in using and designing Echo360ALP activities for use during lecture time. 


What impact on how students learn are you hoping this project might have?  Are you requiring them to engage or respond differently than before?

Academic Voice, Joy McEntee:
For the student partners, I’m hoping they got valuable professional experience, including working with technology and an insight into the decisions that underlie effective teaching.For the undergraduate students in the courses in the project, I’m hoping they learned the value of interacting, even in large groups, and gained some confidence with using learning technologies.

Researcher Voice, Rebecca Vivian:
Research shows that active learning pedagogies improve learning outcomes. Echo360ALP provides one way to engage large classes of students easily during lecture time. By engaging students in formative assessments, it allows academics to quickly identify misconceptions or challenging topics and allows students to apply their knowledge and acquire feedback instantaneously which they can take on board for future learning and assessments. We are hoping that this project inspires academics to engage students in active learning during lectures.


What advice would you give to lecturers and academics wanting to increase student engagement through use of technology?

Student Voice, Harrison Lees:
Students often won’t give lecturers a very large window to engage them, so in my opinion the most important strategy is to ensure that the introduction to the technology is precise, accurate, and engaging for students. If students find the introduction valuable they are more likely to stay engaged with the course.


Can you provide 5 top tips you would give to other lecturers who are wanting to utilise the Echo360 Active Learning Platform to increase student engagement?

Academic Voice, Joy McEntee:

  1. Don’t be scared. It’s easy to use and we have discovered that students are very forgiving if your intentions are good.
  2. Echo360 is ideal for handling large classes, where it can give everyone – even the shy – a chance to speak and interact anonymously. Students can ask stupid questions that have to be asked without fear of individual exposure and shame.
  3. Echo360 is ideal for formative feedback, but it can’t be used directly for summative feedback. Try to tie the formative activities to some summative assessment to maximise student engagement (e.g. have a series of formative quizzes and then a summative quiz that samples questions from the formative quizzes).
  4. Echo360 activities are fun, but it is possible to have too much fun i.e. to lose track of the educational purpose of an activity. Students soon tire of that. Be judicious and try to make activities consequential.
  5. Echo360 activities are designed for synchronous classroom use, but it is also possible to use them for “flipped” learning. For example, in one of my courses I get students to do independent readings before they come to class and attempt an Echo360 quiz independently. When they come to class, I show everyone the results of the quiz, and get them to discuss their different understandings of the readings. After that, I void the quiz and get students to take it again. Students are almost always more accurate the second time, after they have socialised learning.


Research Voice, Rebecca Vivian:

  1. Don’t be afraid to jump in and try! We found that even with technical difficulties, students were supportive and expressed a strong desire to use Echo360ALP. Start small, with one or two questions, and go from there!
  2. Reach out to your university network for resources and support! There’s the e-learning CoP, Learning Designers in the Learning Enhancement and Innovation (LEI) Unit, and even colleagues across the university who are willing to help.
  3. Students are keen to engage in the learning process. You could engage students in co-creation by having the class create formative assessment activities for their peers or questions that you could use for a future cohort!
  4. Students’ commented that Echo360ALP activities shouldn’t overtake or replace other forms of active learning, such as small group discussions. Balance use of tools with other approaches or find ways to use tools, such as Echo360ALP, to complement other activities.
  5. Students valued clear instructions about how to get started and use Echo360ALP and clear instructions at the start influenced their perceptions of the tool. Allocate some time at the start to help students familiarise themselves and provide supporting resources.


Blog Voices

Academic: Dr Joy McEntee
Dr Joy McEntee is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Humanities, Faculty of Arts at the University of Adelaide. As a recipient of the Echo360 Champion grant, Joy has been instrumental in developing best practice methods for the adoption of 360 into teaching practice.


Researcher: Dr Rebecca Vivian
Dr Rebecca Vivian is a Research Fellow in the Computer Science Education Research (CSER) Group.  Rebecca has collaborated extensively with various stakeholders across industry, education, and government to deliver education and research initiatives.


Student: Harrison Lees 
Harrison Lees is a 4thyear University of Adelaide student who is currently undertaking a BE(Honours)(E&E) with BFin (Electrical & Electronics Engineering, Double with Finance). After completing this program, he is hoping to go on to complete postgraduate studies in in Electrical Engineering.


Interested in finding out more about Echo360?

We can help. Contact Learning Enhancement and Innovation.

Tagged in Learning Enhancement & Innovation, LEI Grants, Guest Blog