Ivan Ivanov

Ivan Ivanov

Professor gets creative with Echo360 to engage students in the classroom and cut costs

Political Science professor, Ivan Ivanov, uses Echo360 in creative ways to engage his intro-level students.

Ivan Ivanov wants just two things from his two introductory political science classes: that his students are challenged, and that they take away basic foundational knowledge of political science. The rest is just gravy.

Four years ago, when Ivanov had just began teaching the larger, intro-level classes in the political science department, he could see that he was challenging his students, but whether or not they were truly learning was nebulous. Ivanov reflected on this year and noted that, “students didn’t like my class, and I struggled teaching it.” So he looked to different technologies and methods to try to re-vamp his course. “We need to be more actively engaged in getting students to participate,” Ivanov said.

Ivanov’s classes have strict attendance and daily participation policies. These two policies, he thinks, attributes to better student engagement and retention of the course material. But when he calculated his students’ final grades and saw the average was hovering around 70%, he knew he needed a change.

Ivanov used Turning Point technologies, better known as “clickers”, in his class to keep attendance and gauge participation. Each class, he would set different questions for students to answer with the technology. But after evaluating his courses, Ivanov had second-thoughts about the effectiveness of using clickers. “We figured out that it was an obsolete technology,” Ivanov said. But Ivanov also recognized the importance of integrating technology into his courses. “We need technology,” Ivanov said, “because just in the sheer size and volume of the class, we have to find a way to make it student-friendly and accessible so that everybody can get an A. There is no reason for us to assume that everybody cannot get an A.”

Ivanov visited the Center for Excellence (CEeL) in eLearning for help. He wanted to discover new technology to use after discovering the new university-wide tool, Echo 360. Echo360 ALP (Active Learning Platform), is the university's enterprise tool for classroom capture. It allows instructors to create and upload content, before or during class, and allows students to access it anytime, anywhere, from any device.

At CEeL, video strategist Tina Meagher, helped train Ivanov on how to use this new technology. After learning this tool and using the summer to reconfigure his course content, along with the help of his TA, Ivanov made the switch from Turning Point to Echo360, which, in Ivanov’s words, “is the way of the future.”

Ivanov says Echo360 has made a noticeable difference in his classes. Since he started using Echo360 in his classes, Ivanov has seen a small but significant rise in the average his students’ final grades. “The real value of Echo360 is the engagement,” he said. “The whole purpose is to get students to engage with the course material.”

Of course, adding more technology into a course can often increase the potential for distractions from the coursework. But Ivanov utilized his two graduate teaching assistants in an attempt to curb these distractions. Ivanov has his two TAs sit in the back of his 3-hour night class and monitor what the students were doing on their laptops. If it was excessively non-academic, Ivanov recounted, they would tap the students on the shoulder and politely remind them to return back to class. But the results of this approach were surprising. “It turns out that almost everyone almost all the time are using it to read through the PowerPoint slide, take notes, and use Echo360,” Ivanov said.

“Using technology is not only a good way to make the classes difficult and compelling but they also facilitate learning,” Ivanov said. “If we use technology properly, I think we have the opportunity to add more students to our programs without allocation of significant resources.”

For more information on Echo360 and how to integrate it into your courses, visit the IT@UC Knowledge Base (KB).

The Center for Excellence in eLearning also offers regular training sessions on Canopy tools throughout the year. Check faculty trainings page or Faculty OneStop for more details.