Colleges and universities are at the center of massive changes right now – adapting to new learning models, and undergoing transformative student and staff changes.
As we continue in this unpredictable period, students will need more support – especially many students with disabilities.
But this doesn’t have to be daunting!
Here’s what you need to know about improving your accessibility for the new, online environment, supporting students during lockdown and how to engage students when they are feeling disconnected or anxious.
Remote learning support for students
It’s easy to feel disconnected from studies when daily life is stressful and unpredictable. And students will be conducting most of their academic and social interactions online in the coming semester.
Of course, it’s important to check in with students as much as possible to see how they are coping.
As far as online learning goes, there are also several great tools that can keep students more engaged and confident in their learning when everything else is uncertain. Some of these are tailored to students with certain disabilities, but many can support students across the board.
As we have discussed on our blog previously, remote live captioning can not only support students that are deaf and hard-of-hearing; those who have English as a second language; and those with disabilities including Autism Spectrum Disorder, dyslexia, intellectual disabilities and mental illness. It supports all students.
Captions have been found to improve comprehension, boost information retention and increase student confidence in their learning. This makes them an extremely valuable learning tool in unusual circumstances like the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Remote live captions can be set up for all the popular platforms including Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate, WebEx, and Adobe Connect. If there’s a platform you use that you’re not sure is compatible with captions, feel free to get in touch with us.
Captioning for pre-recorded media
If you have pre-recorded media or lectures that you want to make available with captions, this is also easy to organize. Files can be sent directly to a captioning service, and the turn-around is swift.
Transcription services can be priceless in online learning environments. They give students a full record of classes or meetings without them having to type everything out while they listen. This allows them to pay their full attention to the class. They can also refer back to the transcript when they need to study for an exam or prepare for an assignment.
Note-taking engages a notetaker to summarize a class or course content in a carefully formatted way so it is easy for students to absorb and understand. This is valuable for all students but can be particularly useful for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
For students whose first language is not English, subtitles can be arranged to translate content entirely from one language to another. This can facilitate much deeper engagement and understanding for a large number of students.
Video Remote Interpreting
Video Remote Interpreting (or VRI) is a tool for deaf and hard-of-hearing students to receive content in sign language. It is delivered by highly experienced interpreters and is a great option for those who prefer to communicate in sign language rather than receiving captions.
Students who are blind or have low vision will simply not have access to video content that doesn’t feature audio description. Audio description (or AD) describes the visual elements of a video in the audio file. Arrange AD to support any students who are blind or have low vision.
Valuing mental health for everyone
Many students – many people – live with mental illness, and many will be facing more mental health challenges in this difficult and uncertain time.
Understanding students’ changing needs – and that their learning might need to be more flexible – is very important during a high-stress event such as COVID-19. If a student reaches out, learn about their unique needs and ask about their learning preferences during this time.
We will discuss student mental health and how to support it in more detail in an upcoming Ai-Media blog article.
… for you too!
Don’t forget about your own mental health! We need to look after ourselves so we can look after others.
This might look like taking some time out every day to do some breathing exercises, or some physical activity. Or even just getting some sunshine or talking to a friend.
This way, you’ll be much better able to support your students and those you care about.
This article was written by Indre McGlinn for Ai-Media.