We are implementing an A/V content management and lecture capture system at Emory University, Echo 360.
Echo360 allows users to schedule and record lectures and presentations from their desks (personal capture), the classroom (podium/classroom and system capture) or outside source (media import). All content managed in Echo360 can be made available through a web link or embedded content areas in a Learning Management System. The Echo360 interface allows users to track student interaction with the lectures and provides space for students to discuss the content.
Below are some of my thoughts and experiences with Echo 360 after 6 months of use.
Using Echo 360
- Personal Capture: We have had a few faculty members use the personal capture feature to record lectures at their desks and upload to an online learning environment.
- Pedagogy: This feature allows faculty to experiment with hybrid and flipped learning so they can offer lectures as supplemental materials like reading assignments and use more class time for discussions and activities.
- Technology: The tracking and discussion features surrounding the personal capture once it is posted on the course site are useful. The integration with the Learning Management System is also a great convenience for faculty. However, the limitations of the recording feature for editing and for switching between screen recording and webcam recording are clunky. If a user wants to record herself briefly at the beginning of a presentation, then share the screen for a slide presentation, then it would either need to be two separate recordings or the box where the webcam recording appeared will stay in place as a blank gray box throughout the screen recording. Because of these drawbacks, I am currently recommending to faculty that they use software like Camtasia to record personal lectures instead. These recordings can still be imported into the Echo 360 environment through the media import option.
- Podium or Classroom Capture: We now have all of our classroom computers equipped with the Echo 360 classroom capture client. However, we only have half of those rooms wired with mics to capture audio. We have a roaming mic we can move to any room to use for capture if needed.
- Pedagogy: Faculty users are both interested in making their lecture recordings available to students after class and hesitant to offer this “get out of class free” card. Those faculty members who had already embraced the use of I-tunes to offer their lectures have been first to make this change to Echo 360 and have been using it with success. They comment that students are glad to have access and have observed through tracking that students are using the lectures to study in the course.
- Technology: Users are pleased that they do not have to turn this system on- no additional technology support is needed once the user is trained to use the mic and the recordings have been scheduled. The system tray that displays on the computer is helpful because it confirms for users that the capture is recording and also offers them the opportunity to stop, pause or extend recordings.
The use of Echo 360 instead of I-tunes has resulted in one loss of functionality that users are not happy with- they cannot stream the audio from the lecture on their mobile devices and listen to the lectures in the car. They could download the m4v file and add it to their device to listen to, but this creates an extra step.
- System Capture: We have just installed our first Echo 360 appliance with an HD camera in our largest lecture hall. We are still in the early stages of this process and do not have a full class recorded yet.
- Pedagogy: Our faculty are most interested in this tool because it can also capture video. Some believe this is important because of the performance aspects of their lectures. Others are more interested in being able to include student discussion groups in the recording archive. I am curious to see how faculty experiment with this more versatile tool.
- Technology: This tool is more flexible than the personal capture tool. If a user moves from capturing screen display to video or does both simultaneously, students are able to close windows or adjust their size as needed when viewing recordings. However, these captures also cannot be edited. This restriction on editing is the biggest drawback of Echo360 that I’ve observed so far.
- Media Import: This is one of the most versatile options for Echo 360 and we have a few faculty using it already who are not using the other features.
- Pedagogy: This feature highlights Echo 360’s capabilities as a content management system. This tool creates a space for integrating media in the online classroom because of its compatibility with the Learning Management System and surrounding features. We are using this as the primary tool for offering multimedia in our online classes because we can track student interaction, create discussion spaces and streamline issues with video streaming.
- Technology: The first time we used this feature was to allow faculty who were in a room without Echo 360 installed to record their lectures as they would for I-tunes and import the recording into an Echo 360 site. Now we are also using it to support faculty who have multimedia components to their courses.
Administering Echo 360
As someone who is usually quick on the uptake with new tools, I have found the administrative interface and workflow for implementing Echo 360 to be less than optimal. The process for entering terms, users, rooms, devices and schedules into the system could be improved. It seems a little ad hoc instead of carefully designed.
It requires quite a bit of infrastructure to support the use of the tool as well. We have campus level support that I frequently have to call on. I have also needed support from the IT team we have at our school for desktop support of A/V components, media support and classroom technology support.
Overall, I am a fan of the potential of the tool, pedagogically, technologically and administratively, and look forward to each version improving the user experience. n.b. I am writing this the first week of classes while support for the tool and the scramble of last minute requests is intensive. After lectures are being recorded automatically on schedule, and I start to forget the system exists, my tone of praise is likely to be more enthusiastic.