Updated: May 8, 2019
At the start of this project, Christa and I thought we would devote our final three blogs to Echo360. It’s a platform designed to enhance student engagement by incorporating interactive elements, such as quizzes and discussion boards, into lectures. You can also use it to livestream lectures or post them for later viewing — it even provides captions!
I’ll talk a bit about Echo360 and my plans for it in my last post, but I first wanted to share some reflections on the semester. These reflections are based on my own observations as well as discussions with students and other instructors.
I had a lot of fun experimenting with Flipgrid this semester. I think it has a lot of potential to increase student engagement and get them communicating science in creative new ways. I also realized that the novelty can wear off pretty fast and that requiring students to use Flipgrid for multiple assignments can drain some of the fun.
Going forward, I’ll reserve Flipgrid for a couple assignments aimed at getting students to explain a scientific concept or finding in a conversational way. Several students told me they picked up on some good communication strategies from watching their classmates’ videos, so I’ll keep the peer review component of these assignment. I also love how Flipgrid helped build a community in my class of 100 students — we knew each other’s names and offered each other words of encouragement at the start of a daunting semester.
I’ll use Flipgrid in my non-science communication courses, too. For instance, this winter I’m teaching Global Human Health & Disease. I plan to use Flipgrid for a critical thinking assignment where I ask students to think about a societal factor, such as poverty, corruption or discrimination, and consider its role in a particular global health challenge.
When I showed Flipgrid to my colleagues, some of them asked about privacy concerns and the possibility of contributing to student anxiety. These are important issues and I don’t know how best to address them. Next semester, I plan to convene a group of instructors and students to develop some best practices.
In the meantime, I’ll develop a contract for students to emphasize that Flipgrid is a safe space for practicing and experimenting, and that conversations on the grid stay on the grid. I’ll also make sure students know they don’t have to show their face if they don’t feel comfortable, and continuously remind them that my door is always open should anyone need an accommodation for any assignment.
I also plan to use WebEx Teams in all my courses going forward. Teams makes my life easier, and I think it knocks down barriers for students, too. They can ask me questions and get a reply in seconds. Similarly, I can post announcements and know that students will see them. I also like how Teams can keep a discussion going after the lecture has ended. When students are engaged, you want to give them space to continue the conversation. I can be there to moderate, or just to watch all the wonderful back-and-forth.
Teams is also great for group work. This semester, I had a couple issues arising from group work: Some students didn’t contribute enough; others did everything they could think of but found their contributions weren’t incorporated. Teams provides a record of these conversations so I can begin to assess how well groups collaborate, not just what they produce.
I do think Flipgrid and Teams are great tools for communication, collaboration and critical thinking. My work for the next semester is to carefully match these tools with my learning outcomes and assessments so that students see their value, too.