Instructional videos are widely used in education, especially in online-delivered education, because they can provide visual and auditory stimuli. The popularity of free video content sites, such as YouTube, offers an insight into the demand for videos and the power of this medium. Webinars or seminars conducted over the internet, are synchronous events that can bring people together from all parts of the world and can be used as a tool to improve student–tutor interaction, especially in online learning institutions. Furthermore, webinars can be recorded to allow for flexible access to this content (like a video). However, instructional videos and webinars can pose a barrier to students with disabilities, especially with hearing impairments, unless captions and/or transcripts are provided.
University College of Estate Management (UCEM) has been a distance education provider for the built environment for nearly a century and in the last few years, moved from paper-based materials to wholly online education provision.
Course materials are provided using a range of technologies such as podcasts, videos, interactive e-learning content, audio PowerPoints, e-books and webinars. As described in UCEM’s vision statement, part of its core purpose is to provide truly accessible, relevant and cost-effective education. As an online education provider, UCEM caters for students in various circumstances, including 10.2% of students currently registered with the disability and wellbeing service (Liyanagunawardena & Hussain 2017). Instructional media for UCEM courses are designed with accessibility in mind. Accessibility, here, refers to equal access to the content of learning materials by students regardless of their disability or impairment. For example, transcripts are provided for UCEM’s video and audio content.
In the UK, the Equality Act 2010 imposes a duty on service providers to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to enable disabled users to access their services, although what constitutes a reasonable adjustment is open to interpretation. As an online education provider, UCEM faces unique challenges in retaining students. To combat this, UCEM introduced webinars to provide opportunities for students to have real-time interactions with tutors and peers. However, the use of live webinars is problematic in terms of being able to create the necessary accessible features required for some disabled students.
Webinars can be made accessible using various methods such as: using professional captioning services to caption the live webinar; providing an attendee or attendees permission to create closed-captioning text during the live webinar; or providing a transcript with the webinar recording. Even though the first option is ideal, it is expensive.
By attending this session, delegates will be able to appreciate: the importance of making webinars accessible; the various options available; the difficulties organisations must overcome; and lessons learned through a trial carried out with a small sample of deaf students at the University College of Estate Management.
Equality Act 2010 (c. 15), London: The Stationery Office [online]. Available at: www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents [accessed 23 March 2017].
Liyanagunawardena, T.R. & Hussain, A. (2017). Online Distance Education Materials and Accessibility: Case Study of University College of Estate Management, In E-Learning, E-Education, and Online Training, 79-86. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-49625-2_10
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Captioning for webinar accessibility #altc presentation for download. https://t.co/is6wRuqACK