Closed Captioning Broadens Access

Success comes in many different forms. For some students progress is small and almost not visible, and for others it is sometimes significant and substantial. In both cases, there is something to celebrate.

Breanna is a Grade 11 student in School District 42 – Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows. She is an academic student demonstrating all the executive function and planning skills one would hope a teenager could possess. In fact, she is a delightful and inspiring young woman! She manages her time very well working a hybrid system of distance learning and face-to-face learning to her advantage. During this school year, the issue for Breanna has been access to curriculum. Breanna has a bilateral hearing loss and relies a lot on lip reading. Her high school successfully uses videos for teaching (the teacher speaks but is not visible in the videos) and that is problematic for her. She essentially cannot use the videos and hear with understanding. Most of the curriculum modules or learning guides are completed using this independent approach to learning at school. Although teacher tutorials are available for support, the teaching comes via the video modules. For example, all Calculus concepts are presented through demonstration videos narrated by the teacher. For someone with bilateral hearing loss, who is unable to make meaning from the auditory component of videos, this is a significant problem compounded over time. The team was faced with how to make the learning materials accessible and in doing so realized that accessibility for more than just Breanna was achievable.

breanna_2015_2upThe precepts of Universal Design for Learning suggested to Shelley Law, (Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing) and Deirdre Way (District Facilitator), that not only were students with hearing issues like Breanna at risk, but English Language Learners, students with auditory processing issues, autism and perhaps others were as well. All students needed a way to make meaning from the videos if auditory learning was not possible, or was not a strength for them. Therefore, a content delivery design change seemed in order! The problem they encountered was that vocabulary in high school content areas was dense and automatic captioning using on-line tools such as YouTube did not give accurate descriptions that Breanna could understand or benefit from. As a result, Breanna needed to spend extra time with the material so that the transient auditory information could be translated into meaning. The Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and Breanna’s parents spent hours with her helping to keep her marks up. It quickly became clear that it was not a sustainable solution.

In short, the district embarked on a project, supported by SET-BC, to ensure personnel (part time transcriber/captioner) and tools (laptop, Camtasia Studio, and Typewell) were available in the district. Their goal was to have existing curriculum videos captioned, thereby supplementing the visual learning component of the video and rounding out potential learning for all. As well, classroom instruction is being transcribed and is available for those who need it.

Now, Breanna and others have access to course videos that include much needed visual supports (on-screen text) that aligns with the speech of the teacher. This means all students have access to curriculum in a style that best suits their learning needs; with or without captioning. With this design change, Breanna’s marks went from being in the eighties to the nineties, but most importantly, she is not relying on others for learning the content. Her independence and hours of time are back.

The project concept was slow to get off the ground, but with the support of the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district in hiring a transcriber and video captioner, and technology provided for the project by SET-BC it is well underway. The results of the project are evident in the bank of captioned and accessible videos available to anyone across the province who would benefit. In time, they hope that all teaching modules with the helpful addition of captioning will be available for high school courses. Kudos to SD 42 and thanks to SET-BC.

To learn more about the technology used in this SETstory, search for it by name in learningSET.