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Can't argue with results: Echo360 study sees class engagement rise 49%, exam grades jump 10%

By Michael Carney , written on March 4, 2015

From The News Desk

Every company will tell you that its product is the best thing since sliced bread. But when customers deliver the same sort of glowing reviews, the praise carries a bit more weight. Active learning pioneer Echo360 is getting exactly this kind of love today in the way of a live classroom study conducted by one of its users, Dr. Colin Montpetit, assistant professor of biology at the University of Ottawa.

Dr. Montpetit has published the findings of a semester-long study that followed 600 students across three large format, undergraduate biology classes, looking at the impact of Echo360 on student performance, engagement, and class preparation. The results, as they say, speak for themselves.

Class participation in Dr. Montpetit’s classes increased from approximately 50 percent to 99 percent after adopting Echo360 -- an even more impressive figure given the difficulty of engaging 200 individual students in a single 60 minute lecture. But Echo360’s live Q&A, survey, and chat tools, appear to have changed the math for the better. The study notes that the average student asked five to 10 questions per class, while 66 percent of students actively took notes during each class, typing an average of 350 to 500 words per class.

Beyond participation, Dr. Montpetit saw final exam grades increase between 3 and 10 percentage points from historical levels in his classes, while failing grades were reduced by 80 percent, suggesting that students were overall better prepared and had retained more information throughout the semester.

“The experience has transformed my classroom into an active learning zone,” Dr. Montpetit says. “Echo360 enables instructors to engage, support and communicate with every student in large lecture halls – something that was previously impossible.”

The real value of Echo360, according to Dr. Montpetit, and the reason he believes it’s proved so successful in his classes, is the platform’s ability to give teachers real-time feedback on student attention and comprehension. As a result, rather than plowing ahead with a prepared lecture, regardless of how it’s being received by the class, Dr. Montpetit notes that he was able to make adjustments on the fly to improve results. The Echo360 system also organizes lecture materials, including text, audio, video, quizzes/polls, and live-chat for later review, both by students and professors. It’s a feature I previously described as “TiVo for the classroom.

On the accountability side, the platform allows professors to identify students who maybe falling behind, such as those not attending or not participating in class, those routinely underperforming on quizzes. This individualized insight is almost impossible without such tools in a large-format class.

“When I started teaching eight years ago, I didn’t understand the impact of shyness on class participation,” Dr. Montpetit says. “Some students avoided participating simply out of fear of doing so publicly. With the option to ask private or anonymous questions, I’ve found students far more willing to engage. It’s helped me create a community of fearless learners.”

Impressive as Dr. Montpetit’s study is, it’s also a single limited look at the performance of Echo360 in the wild and does not definitively establish causation between the results and his use of the company’s active learning tools in his classes. It’s also important to consider the impact of his teaching abilities, and likewise the ways in which he incorporates Echo360 tools and motivates students to utilize them in their ultimate impact on classroom performance.

But while it cannot be said that Echo360 will improve student participation by 49 percent and exam performance by 10 percent in all cases, the fact that the platform drove such results in at least three classes cannot be dismissed. These are not small improvements, meaning that any semblance of repeatability would be a major win for educators and the company alike.