The annual conference of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) is one of the most prominent events for learning technologists and this year’s version was held from 5 to 7 September at the University of Liverpool with the theme ‘Beyond islands of innovation – how Learning Technology became the new norm(al)’.
(L-R): UCEM’s Dr Teeroumanee Nadan and Dr Tharindu Liyanagunawardena at last week’s ALT Annual Conference 2017 in Liverpool.
The UCEM session entitled ‘Captioning videos for accessibility: A case study of University College of Estate Management ’ was presented by myself and my colleague, Dr Teeroumanee Nadan, on the final day of the conference. As a supported online learning provider, UCEM faces unique challenges in engaging and retaining students. UCEM uses webinars to offer more opportunities for students to have real-time interactions with tutors and peers. At the same time, we appreciate that not all students are able to synchronously join webinars due to various reasons, including time differences, given that a third of UCEM students are international. Therefore, these webinars are recorded and uploaded to the students’ Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) for asynchronous access. However, accessing such recordings can pose challenges for some disabled students; for example, deaf or hearing-impaired students. In this pilot project, we trialled captioning of webinar recordings using Synote software.
Providing captions for videos is likely to be useful not only for students with disabilities but also to international students (who are likely to have English as a foreign language) and others who may be studying in a noisy environment, e.g. while commuting on the train. In our presentation, we shared our experience in this project, highlighting: 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 UCEM.
Other highlights of this year’s conference included the presentation of the 2017 Learning Technologist of the Year, decided by a panel which included our very own Dean – Online Education, Lynne Downey, and the launch of a new award recognising and celebrating outstanding research achievements in learning technology.
Next year, it will be ALT’s 25th annual conference . It is scheduled to be held from 11 to 13 September, 2018, in Manchester and I look forward to take part in another great conference, learning new things, sharing knowledge and networking.
Tharindu is an instructional designer and the chair of the Online Learning Research Centre at UCEM, UK. She holds certified membership of the Association for Learning Technology (CMALT) and she is also a fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA). She has worked in the industry as a senior software engineer before commencing her career in educational technology.