So, I’m currently at the Adept UK conference in bonnie Scotland. During one of the presentations, recorded lectures was very briefly touched upon, and how will it be made accessible to d/Deaf or HoH students. Coincidentally, I was asked very recently by UCLan for my views on the topic, which I wrote a four page long report. I had initially planned to release the report tonight; but now is a good enough time as any.
It was recently proposed that all learning events are recorded and made available afterwards via the student portal, as well as key material being made available prior to sessions. In this document, I describe both the positive and negative aspects of doing so – as well as raise some concerns that will need to be addressed (with some possible solutions) prior to it going ahead.
Why is it important to students to have their learning events recorded?
Some students may not take all the information in the first time they are given it; whether it be due to a learning difficulty, neuroatypicality (being on the autistic spectrum), attention or retention issues, malnourishment, personal problems, intrusive thoughts, feeling anxious or even low mood. By having the lecture recorded, it means the student can go back and watch it again in an environment better suited to them at that specific moment in time. Items discussed throughout this document may also indirectly come under this section.
Why is it important to students to have key material they will engage in, in class, available in advance on Blackboard?
Some students have to have information modified or printed out on a different type of paper in order to use them in class; having notes and key material available means that the student can prepare themselves for the session. People generally don’t like attending something that they have no clue what is going to be discussed – preparation is the key to success. For students that have anxiety issues/disorders or perfectionism this allows them to feel more comfortable.
If the session is heavily using PowerPoint, then the student can print the resources prior to the session – depending on their learning style, it may mean that they can refer to them regularly whilst “listening” to what the lecturer is saying. They can also write notes next to slides.
If the student has communication needs, whether it be interpretation or if the person has an information processing disorder, it means that often when lecturers are talking about the PowerPoint, they student cannot read what is on the screen whilst listening or watching the communication support. Often lecturers will start to read a slide, and then go “off-script” – and if the student is still reading what is on the screen then they are missing out on the information that the lecturer is providing in addition to it. You cannot be looking in two places at the same time – it’s impossible. The majority of students that don’t need communication support will be reading the screen and listening at the same time – so are already included. Whereas students that need the support or have different needs aren’t being included in the session because their eyes cannot be in two places at once.
Why is it important to subtitle audio and video content?
Some people that have OCD ruminate about if they have misheard information; they can waste hours or days thinking/feeling/fixating on that – that they could have put to better use and have it not affected their mental health. Subtitles would help as they can read the information and listen to it at the same time.
Having subtitles available is not only good for deaf students, but good for everyone. Recently, I created a video on the importance of subtitles in education (which was picked up by various universities across the U.K.); rather than re-word it or come up with a different variation on the information, I have copied and pasted the bulk of the transcript below.
For students that don’t have hearing loss, there are many benefits:
Students that don’t have English as their first language may struggle when watching English-spoken media. By having subtitles, it means that if they are struggling to “hear” the words, they can see them and try and work out the context.
Every student is unique – they will all have different learning styles… some students may struggle to process auditory learning, and may prefer the visual or read learning. By having subtitles, you are being more inclusive.
For students that have resources that they need to watch within their self-study time; they may be somewhere that doesn’t allow noise from speakers or headphones. They may be in the library, in shared accommodation, commuting or perhaps even at work. They may even have a child, and be there watching it whilst the child is sleeping. By ensuring the content is subtitled, it makes their self-study time more appealing as they won’t have to put it off until another time.
For students that have a disability or deafness, here are some benefits:
If the student is relying on an interpreter to translate audio, then basically they aren’t watching the movie. It’s impossible to look at the interpreter and the screen at the same time. Because they aren’t watching the movie, they may be missing important visual cues as to what may be going on at the same time. All of this could be said about transcripts – if the student is reading the transcript, they are concentrating only on that. It’s also not fair on the interpreter; they have to absorb it, then translate it on-the-fly into another language, all whilst still listening to the original language to deliver the bit next. Things *will* be missed, no matter how good the interpreter is.
A student may have hearing aids and not identify as deaf – so may not have any communication support in place, or they may not identify as disabled, so may not have actually disclosed their hearing loss (or be unaware of it). Thing that come out of a speaker sound completely different to what comes out of a person’s lips, so whilst they may cope in a session, they may have issues with media.
There are also other complications the student may have – they may have an auditory processing disorder, or an attention issue – which may be helped by ensuring there are subtitles.
Non-disclosure of disability to peers:
If the student hasn’t disclosed to fellow students that they need the subtitles, then you may be inadvertently “outing” them when a student asks for them – or they may just sit there and not actually learn anything.
Without subtitles, anyone that has any form of hearing loss or needs access to the subtitles will not be participating in this activity; watching the movie. You are effectively excluding them from it. Not only is this discrimination, but you may be negatively affecting their mental health. By having no subtitles, you are not being inclusive.
Why YouTube is failing deaf students, despite their good intentions:
Now I’m going to talk about YouTube’s “automatic subtitles” feature. First and foremost, don’t use it. Full stop. Let me explain why… Automatic subtitles are never 100% correct. It’s impossible for their speech recognition to get it right as every person speaks differently, has different volume, tone, accent and so on. The moment you start an automatic subtitled clip, you’ve lost the interest and engagement of the deaf person. They’ve disconnected from you and the session. Imagine watching a clip, and the sound is all garbled, you’d turn it off. You’d lose interest. If students notice an incorrect subtitle, or something that doesn’t make sense, they then question the authenticity of the rest of the subtitles and stop watching. There is no point watching something that you don’t know if what it says it is saying is actually correct. It’s just wasting everyone’s time.
The key is to be prepared:
It is important that you are prepared. Don’t go to play the media, in whatever form it is, and hope that it has subtitles. You need to be pro-active, not reactive. You also need to check the quality and accuracy of the subtitles; in the same way that you would watch a clip to ensure its suitability, you need to ensure it is suitable for everyone. Including checking the subtitles. If the subtitles don’t match the audio, then it’s not suitable to use.
Concerns & Solutions
Myth: Students won’t come to class is if material is uploaded before the session
Having heard this used as an excuse over the past year, I came to the conclusion that if students weren’t going to attend, they won’t anyway. Irrespective of there being materials made available before the session. Some lecturers refused to put materials on the portal until a few days later as they had different groups that were on different days, meaning they didn’t want to upload the information because it would mean students have the answers to questions which would be asked before showing the slide. Incase they “cheated” …!?!?
Materials would be uploaded after the lectures anyway (well for the lecturers that are organised and actually utilise the portal) – so for students that already don’t attend, it won’t make a difference. By uploading the materials before, then the student will feel prepared. If students feel prepared, the student will feel included and motivated within the session, and if they’ve pre-studied the topic (even only a little bit), they can contribute (or ask for elaboration) – which will in turn improve student-student relationships plus student-teacher ones. There is likely to be more motivation if the students feel prepared and included; which could actually increase the number of students attending the lectures. 24 hours before the lecture, however, won’t be enough prep time for students.
Myth: Students won’t come to classes if they are recorded and uploaded afterwards
For students that have commitments at home (carers/childcare), sometimes they genuinely are not able to attend the odd session; by recording it, the university is acknowledging that they recognise that each student is unique and that the university is fully committed to inclusivity. It means the student can at least watch what happened and can then undertake further learning in their self-study time. By not recording the class at all, then they are less likely to undertake self-study – because they won’t actually know what was discussed during the session.
Some students are genuinely ill and can’t attend a session. Some students become ill during a session and struggle to take everything in. As someone that suffers with cluster migraines (despite being on a lot of medication to stop them), they can come on completely unexpected, irrespective on what I’m doing; so I can’t make plans to make sure I know what’s happening during a session – it also means that knowledge delivered to me prior to the migraine within the session is highly likely to be lost. By recording the session, anyone that is unwell or becomes unwell can watch the session back at a later time.
Privacy & data protection:
By filming the class, then you open up the possibility of students being captured on film; whether it be visual or verbal. This opens up a whole can of worms when it comes to privacy and data protection (despite my knowledge of the acts, I’m not a lawyer, so can’t quote specific paragraphs of the appropriate legislation). You would likely need to update the student policies and go through the process of it being written, approved, implemented, then also being accepted by the students. You also then need to look at the policies of where the data is stored – if it’s in “the cloud” that isn’t run or controlled by UCLan, then you’d need to inspect every line of their agreements to ensure that it matched with the UCLan policies (having done this before for a charity myself, it was a complete nightmare to go through and have the various policies approved by the board etc. – so I can only imagine how much worse it would be for an educational establishment).
Quality of sound:
Whilst you may be able to record a good resolution of image, sound is a completely different game. Where sessions are undertaken that have student participation then there is no one area where sound would need to be recorded from. As a student that wears hearing aids, I am all too aware of how much noise is generated in the environment whilst in a session. A microphone over the students would likely record a lot of ambient noise; even the projectors create a lot of sound that most people can’t hear. Whilst recording the lecturer would be relatively easy with a wireless clip on mic, it would be more difficult to hand a microphone to a student if they wanted to speak… whilst not impossible, it’s more impractical.
Who would take responsibility for the setting up of equipment, and then making the film available to students? Lecturers would likely not want to do it as they already have a lot of pressure and things to do. Fellow students shouldn’t have to do it. How long would the recording be made available for? Who then schedules it for deletion? Who ensures that (due to data protection and privacy laws) the data does not get into anyone else’s hands and is secure – memory cards get lost.
If the videos will be made available for future classes (as in other groups/the following academic year), you will also need to ensure that the videos are accessible, irrespective of there being a d/Deaf student in the class.
This is probably the one that I can see which would grind the plans for recording and uploading to a halt. The cost may well be prohibitive. You are going to need a team of people working constantly to achieve it.
If subtitles are done for one student (irrespective of hearing status), they should be done for all (I listed all the inclusivity reasons under the subtitle section). Subtitling can take time. Multiply that by the number of lectures that are done on a daily basis across campus. That’ll create quite a backlog. By the time the materials are done and made available, it is likely the next session will have taken place.
Generally, interpreters seem to have an aversion to being filmed. I don’t know what’s in their employment contracts, so I don’t know if there’s specific things in there, so surely it should be part of their duties? So, for interpreters that refuse to do it, that means that an interpretation for a Deaf student that uses BSL would need to be done again before anyone had access to the lecture video – in order to ensure equality, you can’t have the lecture video made available and then do another “later” for the Deaf student. But then, if a Deaf student is ill, there will still need to be an interpretation done to ensure they can watch it at home like anyone else would. DSA won’t pay for support done where the student cancels after a couple of times… so where would the funding come from? You also need to ensure that the interpreter can be seen clearly on screen; so, you would need to green-screen overlay them on top of the video. If you do film them in the class, there’d likely need to be a two-camera setup.
My parting thought
A prepared, included and motivated student is one that is already willing to learn and engage with the lesson: if they’ve taken the time to let you know about their needs, then they are keen to learn.