Skip main navigation

Can technology help us to communicate in an inclusive way?

Professor Mike Wald explains why recordings with captions and transcripts can help many learners understand lectures and seminars more easily.
PROFESSOR MIKE WALD: So I tend to use technology quite a lot to get over some of the issues that could make being inclusive a problem. Recording, recording lectures, I tend to use that quite a lot, either doing a recording in my office before the class or actually recording the class itself. And sometimes it’s better I’ve found to do a recording in your room or in your office because in that case, it might be something that works better not in a live situation. So for example, when you’re teaching a class of students, there is always an issue about the pace you go at.
Do you try and go at the pace of the slowest, the person who’s finding it most difficult to follow? So everyone can follow. Or do you try and make sure you’re keeping the most able student stretched at which point some of the others are struggling? And do you try and fit some midpoint in the middle? So depending on the type of material you are doing, if it’s very technical, sometimes it’s better not actually to present it live because there’s no way you can meet the needs of everybody. If you actually do that, for example, recording and put it online, and then you can talk about it in the class. But say go and have a look at the recording.
Go and play it back. And go over it as many times as you want. There is an issue about the time and effort you can spend on things like that. So I think you have to be very sensible about being able to reuse material. So I tend to think quite carefully about when I produce the material about how it can be reused in that way. In terms of the lectures in class, well, in those cases, you can use a lecture capture system, which you can just press record. But I tend to always produce captions and transcripts from those lectures for the reason that there are so many different types of students in the class.
We have international students who may or may not have a disability. We have students who might find it difficult listening to the lecture. So I tend to use speech recognition for the transcripts and the captions. Very occasionally, I will go through and edit them for small areas if they have to be absolutely accurate. But I found that’s one of the most valuable things you can do in the classroom, and it’s so easy to do.
In this video, Mike talks about the way he uses recordings, captions and transcripts to help him communicate his subject.

We tend to assume that if we are speaking clearly most people will understand what we are saying, but on occasions this may not be the case.
Have you ever been in a lecture, seminar or meeting room with noisy road works outside? Could you hear all that was said and were you able to fully understand everything when the noise stopped? Perhaps you missed a vital point! What happens when someone is speaking in a language we don’t understand or the topic turns out to be too complex? We have to piece together information and look for other options such as the minutes from the meeting or ask for the lecturer’s notes.
If you are blind, have a visual or hearing impairment or find it hard to concentrate, catching up can be a common occurrence and yet there are so many ways we can make it easier for everyone to really gain knowledge when someone is talking about their chosen subject or giving us information that has to be remembered and perhaps retold at a later date. Examples include the use of:
  • Notes or slides uploaded to a content management system or virtual learning environment 48 hours before the event.
  • Lecture Capture where the slides can be seen with the audio output combined to produce a video that is normally made available on a content management system.
  • Closed captions can help us understand content as well as provide access to video content for deaf and hearing impaired students.
  • International companies such as 3PlayMedia have been looking into Virtual Reality and 3D video captioning.. 3PlayMedia have more resources relating to making multimedia accessible as do Ai Media who have a free Captioning Guide for download.
  • Interactive transcripts with the video of the occasion that allows for searching of key points and annotations – Try Synote with your lecture capture system or upload a podcast and offer a synchronised transcript
  • Recordings on an individual’s own device to supplement notes. It is important to check the organisation’s policy, such as that offered by the University of Dundee.
  • Portable technology to capture an image of the slides or writing from the board – the results can be enlarged and read more easily with Optical Character Recognition or downloaded to apps such as OneNote or EverNote.
  • Use Microsoft 365 PowerPoint or Google Slides to share ideas online – You will need an account. If you want to guarantee your content becomes an Open Educational Resource, turn PowerPoints into accessible online presentations by using the free SlideWiki platform, which allows for online collaboration, slide adaptations by individuals and groups, user playlists, annotations, questions etc.
Can you add to the list of ideas?

© This work is created by the University of Southampton and licensed under CC-BY 4.0 International Licence. Erasmus + MOOCs for Accessibility Partnership.
This article is from the free online

Inclusive Learning and Teaching Environments

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education