Universal Design in Learning (UDL) has been around for a long time and is evolving with the digital times we live in. Cognitive science has shown us that there isn’t an average student anywhere, and that’s why it’s an illusory student. There are three core elements to UDL: Multiple ways of representing content (how of learning); multiple ways to express learning (what of learning); and multiple ways to engage (why of learning). Beyond Universal Design for Learning: Guiding Principles to Reduce Barriers to Digital & Media Literacy Competence covers the challenges and barriers to accessible learning. It discusses the role of universal design in gaining competency in digital and media literacy. The key point is to recognise diversity – to aim for the average learner is aim for that illusory learner. With the trend to more online learning, UDL is becoming more important to ensure access to the wider population.
Although this article is focused on higher education, the case for captioning could well apply to all education where videos are part of the delivery method. “The Case for Captioned Lectures in Australian Higher Education” concludes that for various reasons, captioning should now be considered mainstream so that more students can benefit, not just students with hearing loss. The article requires institutional access or is available for purchase. But the abstract below is a great synopsis as it gives the bottom line.
Abstract: This article provides a case for the benefits of captioning recorded lecture content in the Australian higher education sector. While online lecture captioning has traditionally been provided on a case-by-case basis to help students who are deaf or hard of hearing, this paper argues for a mainstream approach in order to benefit a range of student groups both with and without disability. It begins with some background on the regulation and technology context for captioning in higher education and online learning in Australia. This is followed by a review of the current literature on the benefits of captioning to a wide range of students both disabled and non-disabled, the perceived barriers to captioning, and how the increasing internationalisation of the university context effects captioning options, both culturally and commercially. The paper concludes by suggesting that it may be inevitable that all recorded lecture content will need to be captioned in the future and highlights the potential benefits to Australian universities to move quickly to embrace this existing technology.”
Authors are: Mike Kent, Katie Ellis, Natalie Latter and Gwyneth Peaty.
Universal design in learning (UDL) began in the 1980s as a way of designing learning programs to incorporate students with disability. Now it is apparent that UDL is increasing success rates across the spectrum of learners. To keep up with the digital age universally designed software tools are being developed and applied. UDL software is not specifically for students with disability. Rather it is to enhance the learning experiences of all students. In an interview with Dr Deb Castiglione, Nicole Martin and Trey Conatser of the University of Kentucky find out what UDL software can do for learners in a Q & A session. The way this is written is also a good example of relating information. Here is part of Castiglione’s response to the question, how is UDL different to accessibility?
“UDL is about incorporating principles and strategies to meet the needs of all learners (including those with disabilities) from the beginning of course/content design/development. By integrating accessibility practices into the mix, you can reach a larger percentage of student needs. For example, if you were to caption a video, not only would you meet the needs of an individual that is deaf or hard of hearing, but captioning also benefits English language learners, students with reading difficulties, as well as those whose hearing ability is affected by noise, or in situations where playing sound is not an option (e.g. no speakers, quiet environment such as the library, sleeping children/spouse, and so on).”
E-learning is taking off in this new digital age. Shane Hogan from Centre for Excellence in Universal Design based in Ireland shows how to make sure the maximum number of people can access and participate in e-learning programs. Using the example of creating e-learning for the public sector on disability equality training, Shane explains the steps they took in the development, and the ways in which content was presented. For anyone involved in e-learning, the 18 minute video is well worth watching to the end. He also addresses employee industrial issues and concerns over privacy and successful course completion.
In Shari Eberts’ blog article, Does Hearing Loss Make it Harder to Remember Things? she explains how people with hearing loss are using most of their brain capacity to interpret sounds. Consequently there is not much left over for remembering.This is particularly the case where there is a lot of background noise. In information situations, such as fire training, this is an important factor in ensuring everyone will remember what to do. In learning situations it also a significant consideration. This finding supports the case for instant captioning of live events and closed captioning in pre-filmed situations. A study on student learning also found that captioning helped learning. Where captioning is not possible, reducing cognitive load is another strategy. That means selecting places where background noise is minimal, speaking clearly and not too fast, using a microphone, and allowing sufficent time for questions. Other studies have found that visual information is more easily remembered by everyone, so pictures and videos would work well in information sessions and instructional situations.
Walking the walk and talking the talk in training sessions is an important factor in adult learning. So when running a course on digital access, the course designer and facilitator needs to think about both their learners as well as the learners of those taking the course. The way to do this was the subject of an interesting Masters study in Canada using ethnographic techniques. The conclusion lists some useful points that every course designer and trainer should think about regardless of the topic.
In her introduction, Keshia Goodwin makes some pertinent points, “The result of a design is dependent on the outlook of the designer, and the design process they use. In very general terms, standard designs follow the standard design iteration process: define the problem, collect information, brainstorm and analyse, develop, test, revise, repeat. The designer continues this process until the design performs as expected. There may, or there may not be feedback from the potential user of the design while the designer tests for solutions.”
“While developing my design I learned that not only did the learners need to be aware of what an end user may need; I, the instructor, needed to be conscious of, and accommodate learning barriers to my end users. I needed to be inclusive in my instructional approach, and, be accommodating to what my audience may need when I delivered training. The design, at that point, had come full circle, being inclusive and accessible to learners, and to the learner’s future audience”
The title of the study is, Inclusive Access: An Inclusive Design Approach to Digital Accessibility Skills Training
Listen closely. To some people, these are words are of little help. No matter how carefully they attend, some of the words go missing. The result is reduced listening comprehension. Hearing aids, FM hearing augmentation systems, and cochlear implants do not provide the speech clarity required to understand every word that is said. This is where captioning comes to the rescue. Research into captioning in learning situations is showing how much students of any age can benefit. This is regardless whether they have good hearing or not.
Anyone who has clicked a YouTube video for Google automated captioning knows it is useless, albeit sometimes funny. Automated captioning programs have improved a lot lately. For example, Interact-AS is designed for school children from about age 7 upwards. The teacher wears a microphone and the in less than two seconds words appear on the student’s computer or tablet. The before and after results show both children and teachers just how much comprehension is being is being lost.
You can read more about this technology and the benefits to students who didn’t realise how much they were missing. Children who are deaf or hard of hearing are usually diagnosed before they reach the age of 7. Low levels of hearing loss is not always apparent in children who, for example, might have experienced many ear infections. As a consequence they would miss out on the benefits of this technology. Perhaps this further research will reveal the need for routine hearing tests for all school age children. It will be interesting to see how this technology develops and how soon it will become mainstream for all students as an aid to staying focused and learning from both listening and reading. You can read more about the value of captioning in higher education settings for all students.