Faculty Guest Post: Echo360 to (partially) Flip a Math Classroom

Today our guest blogger is Dr. Jason Howell, an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics. Please note that as of August 2015, Echo 360 is no longer available to CofC faculty as a campus license. Mediasite Desktop Recorder is the new replacement allowing for media creation and media sharing.


I was very excited to learn that I was selected to attend the Spring 2013 Faculty Technology Institute as I was very interested in learning about some of the latest and greatest innovations that could help me improve my overall effectiveness as a teacher.  Having taught college math courses since 1997, my teaching style and techniques evolved to include many software and hardware tools, including programmable calculators, mathematical software, and even lecturing with a tablet PC, but I felt that I was not fully taking advantage of what was currently available in terms of instructional technology.  The TLT staff did an excellent job and the FTI showed me lots of new tools that were available to enhance student learning.

One of the instruction techniques that was covered in the FTI was the inverted, or “flipped” classroom, in which students are responsible for absorbing new lecture content outside of class meetings.  This way, class meetings can be devoted to more interactive discussions about the course concepts or, as is often the case with math courses, working more problems in class.  One of the tools introduced at the FTI for this purpose was Echo360 Personal Capture.

This software will record your desktop, microphone, and webcam (optional) all together to help you create lectures or presentations.  I decided that this would be a great tool to try out for myself – if I can get my students to learn some basic ideas or concepts though watching a video outside of class, I could then devote more class time to working problems, which students are always clamoring for!  I was teaching Precalculus (MATH 111) at the time, and we were getting ready to cover trigonometric functions, so I decided that my first experiment would be to create a video on finding coterminal angles and evaluating the sine and cosine functions at these angles (if you want to know exactly what I’m talking about, watch the video below!).

The Echo360 software was very easy to download and install on my old Toshiba Tablet PC (still running Windows XP Tablet) and I was up and running in no time. This is a relatively old computer but I really like it for writing – I’m left-handed so writing on a tablet doesn’t always produce good results, and I’ve tried many tablets but this one works best for me.  I started by creating a worksheet that was only partially complete – and my goal was to work through the worksheet on the tablet while Echo360 captured the screen and my voiceover.  I created the worksheet and produced a PDF version, and I annotated the PDF using a program called PDF Annotator (http://www.ograhl.com/en/pdfannotator/, I’ve used it for years).  Meanwhile, my discussions of the worksheet were recorded using a USB microphone, and the Echo360 software was launched to capture everything together.

One disadvantage of Echo360 software is the inability to splice two captures together to make another.  While this might seem annoying at first, it forces you to do two (actually good) things:

  • You really need to rehearse your presentation of the material before you attempt to record, as you don’t want to have to redo the whole thing once you’re a few minutes in. This is good practice anyway, just as going over your lecture notes thoroughly/rehearsing your lecture helps you become more effective in the classroom.
  • You do not want to set out to create really long videos – in fact, it’s probably a good idea to break a long lecture into a series of shorter videos.  Depending on your discipline, a few short videos may be better to retain student attention, and they definitely will be more convenient for the students to work into their out-of-class schedules.

After a few mulligans I was finally able to record two videos that split a three-page worksheet into two coherent mini-lectures.  The two videos can be viewed here:

Coterminal Angles: https://cofc.mediaspace.kaltura.com/media/Coterminal+Angles/1_i9xsilvj

Evaluating Trig Functions: https://cofc.mediaspace.kaltura.com/media/Evaluating+Trig+Functions/1_glewi067

Math Worksheet for Echo360 Lectures

**To access these videos, click or copy the link into your browser, login to Kaltura with your Cougars username and password, then click the link AGAIN to be taken to the video**

Once you create your videos using Echo360, you can share them on the college’s Echo360 server, and you can post a link in your OAKS course to the video. However, I don’t like the fact that Flash must be enabled in order for the videos to be streamed from the server – I find this quite limiting, as many students have iPads, iPods, or iPhones that will not play Flash content.  To work around this, I downloaded the m4v file and converted it to an mp4 movie file.  I then uploaded the MP4 files to Kaltura so students can access and play them on any device.  My MATH 111 students really liked the videos, especially the fact that they could rewind and play certain parts over and over – something they certainly can’t do in class!

Although these are the only videos I have done so far, I am planning on doing more as soon as I get time.  I think they could really help in many courses, such as Calculus and Discrete Structures.  In summary, the FTI was a great opportunity to learn some new and innovative ways to enhance student learning, and I successfully used Echo360 to create some lecture content for my students to view outside of class.

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