Can VoiceThread be ADA Compliant?

It sure can!  One of the things I have been working on this semester is making my VoiceThread videos ADA compliant. As I began exploring this topic I realized that there was no easy way to get it done. You would think that in this day and age including subtitles for the hearing impaired would be an automatic thing in e-learning software such as VoiceThread, Adobe Captivate or Techsmith’s Camtasia etc., and with the click of a mouse they would be included, but they are not…

One of the things I have been working on this semester is making my VoiceThread weekly overviews ADA compliant. As I began exploring this topic I realized that there was no easy way to get it done. You would think that in this day and age including subtitles for the hearing impaired would be an automatic thing in e-learning software such as VoiceThread, Adobe Captivate or Techsmith’s Camtasia etc., and with the click of a mouse they would be included, but they are not…

Don’t get me wrong they all include a way to do it, but it is not easy nor is it fast. As you need to watch how-to online videos created by the software company and go to different online forums to learn how to do it.

Recently, Voicethread began offering a way to this, but it is not as user-friendly as the VoiceThread Standard site. You need to go to a different area that VoiceThread has created called VoiceThead Universal.  Besides the very different look that this page has, it does not do what you think it should do or at least it did not fulfill my expectations of what subtitles should look like. Interestingly enough the subtitles are added to the side of the screen as side notes instead of as subtitles. When I tried it I didn’t like the subtitles were positioned to the left side of the screen because it looked like an afterthought.

Recently, Voicethread began offering a way to this, but it is not as user-friendly as the VoiceThread Standard site. You need to go to a different area that VoiceThread has created called VoiceThead Universal.  Besides the very different look that this page has, it does not do what you think it should do or at least it did not fulfill my expectations of what subtitles should look like. Interestingly enough the subtitles are added to the side of the screen as side notes instead of as subtitles. When I tried it I didn’t like the subtitles were positioned to the left side of the screen because it looked like an afterthought.

So I spent the better part of a week working on figuring out how to do it so the subtitles can be included in the video. The first video which was about 2 minutes long took me about two hours to complete because I wasn’t sure if what I was doing would work and there was a lot of trial and error. Once I figured out the process I was able to complete each video in about an hour.

To get it to work the way I wanted it to, I had to use MS PowerPoint, Camtasia, Youtube, and VoiceThread. Which means that not only is it time-consuming but it is also costly, as you need to buy Camtasia, learn how to use it, and then figure out the rest of the steps. For me, that was not a big deal as I have been using Camtasia for a long time thus I have access to the program and I know how to use it.

Having said that not all online instructors are also Instructional designers, like me, and have access to different e-learning software.  Online educators are there to teach their subject matter, not to create instructional videos let alone know how to make them ADA compliant.  Teaching online takes is a lot of work as the educator needs to do everything an on-campus instructor does and also learn how to use the course management system their institution is using as well as other technical skills that they need to acquire. That is a lot of work! So adding another hour to the workload every week, is in my opinion, a lot of time just to include subtitles to a VoiceThread video.

Despite the fact that it was a time-consuming process, for me learning how to do this was worth it in the end because I made my student feel included in my online course. That to me was more important than my time. After all helping my students learn in any way I can is the reason I became an educator.

If you want to see what one of my VoiceThread videos looks like with the subtitles, here is a link to one of them: https://youtu.be/5yXZiDW_N2I

Happy Teaching,

Katherine

Advertisements

Office Hours???

When I taught on campus I always held office hours and yet no one came to visit me unless I asked them to or they thought that they were in some sort of trouble, i.e. too many absences, failed an exam, plagiarized on a paper etc. Since I have been teaching online I have not held traditional or regular office hours. Should I hold office hours online? Perhaps I should not have office hours at a specific day and time since being online offers me and the students the flexibility being on campus does not. Of course I am more available to my e-students more than my on-campus ones since we all email all the time as well as the questions and answers discussion thread on Blackboard, but I would like to chat with them once in a while and would also like to see them, so for I have used skype, but that also becomes a bit cumbersome as we all need to go outside of blackboard. Currently, I meet my students online via video chat whenever they need to speak to me. It is a more on-demand office hours. When students want to speak to me they ask me to meet them on campus instead of online. For some reason, they tend to avoid speaking to me online even though I try to schedule a time that is convenient for both of us.

 

I think that if there was a skype type tool students might find it easier At this point blackboard does not offer a tool I can use exclusively for office hours or private chatting. In an older version, they had a chat tool that I used to talk to my students in real time. I guess they feel that I and the other instructors don’t need that kind of a tool. The only thing that is available is Blackboard Collaborate I thought it could a great alternative for virtual office hours as I can actually use it to talk to my students without having to log into different software. From the video that watched this tool is meant to be used for holding synchronous lessons, but it is not so good for private one-to-one teacher-student discussions or private office hours as anybody can enter the virtual room and be part of the discussion. Below you will find a link that explains what Blackboard Collaborate is and what features it has: https://youtu.be/PvoNGOKHY80

I believe that meeting with students  face-to-face or online is important. It allows the e-students to feel more connected to their instructor. So what are my choices? Either go into campus to meet with students, which in my opinion is odd, as the whole course is held online. On the other hand, the online options are to use skype or Google hangouts, which for some reason the students don’t like to use when I suggest it. I wonder why is that? Is it more intimidating to walk into your professor’s office or video chatting online? I think the second!

Katherine

Are you Moving Online??

Did you finally decide to teach your course online? That’s great news!! Transferring your on-campus course to an online course takes a lot of planning and up front work especially in the beginning. Having said that I have had a lot of fun learning  how to design and teach e-courses.  This adventure has made me a better educator and has changed the way I view teaching. So, before you even begin designing a course and putting a course online you need to:

  1. Learn which management system your university uses and take all of the workshops they offer.
  2. Learn all about learning theories and which ones work best in an online environment.
  3. Learn about different types of software that can help you make your course more interesting.

The learning portion will take you at least a couple of semesters to learn and then there is the actual designing and teaching/facilitating part.  So once I learned the how to manage an online course by taking several workshops and a few graduate courses in the Instructional Design department, from which I eventually received my MEd in Instructional Design, I naively set up a course on Blackboard and thought I could teach online… hahaha. Teaching an e-course is a lot different from teaching a face-to-face class. So be prepared, because there is also a lot of trial and error until you find your online teaching style, which let me tell you is quite different from your in-class teaching style. The primary reason being that the dynamics of an on-campus classroom are very different from that of an online one because the students can’t see the instructor and many times they feel all alone as they stare at a computer screen wondering: WHAT DO I DO NOW? or WHAT I AM I SUPPOSE TO DO FOR THE WEEK? etc. Priority number one is to keep the course flowing like you would in a face-to-face class which will in turn keep the students calm and relaxed because once something goes wrong the students will get upset and you will get buried under a pile of emails. In order to alleviate  the anxiety, insecurity, and frustration there are several things an e-learning instructor can do:

  1. Keep the course organized. That can mean something different to each instructor. For instance, I like to have my courses organized by weeks and each week has a dedicated folder that has all of the information students need to know what they have to do for a specific week. This alleviates a lot of the stress students feel trying to find where everything is and what they need to accomplish for the week.
  2. Be consistent. For example, my week begins always on a Tuesday and ends on a Monday. Having the same beginning and ending to the week throughout the semester provides students with the structure they need and that makes them feel more in control, as confidence is key for them to keep doing well in an online course. The other thing that helps is that I have one due date for everything, which in my case is a Monday, the end of our week, so students know when all of their work must be completed and submitted thus allowing them to balance their work week better.
  3. Communicate with students. During the semester I log in at least couple of times a day even on a Sunday since all of their homework is due on Monday night. There is nothing worse than a student asking for help because they are having a technical issue or question on a homework assignment and not being able to find their instructor. Even if I don’t have an immediate solution to a technical problem they always feel better if I respond to them quickly.
  4. Create E-Lectures. In order to guide my students, I design and build my own video lectures. I accomplish that by using Adobe Captivate Captivate 9 logo or Camtasia Camtasia. This type of software allows me to give my students the same kind of lecture without being in class. It also makes the students feel more connected to the course and to me as they hear me speak and explain for example that week’s topic.
  5. Create relevant assignments. As I teach Business Communications I select assignments that have to do with business, but I also like to use themes such as advertising or social corporate responsibility. This makes the students more interested in the course as I keep them wondering what we will be talking about the following week thus making them want to log into the course more often.
  6. Return homework in a timely manner. There is nothing worse than a student waiting too long for their homework assignment to come back with feedback and a grade. I have found that if I don’t return them quickly the students have moved on and even if they receive a low grade they will not revise their assignment. As this is a writing course the objective is to keep students writing and revising their work as much as possible as that is how one improves. Also, not returning the homework within 10 days or so causes the students stress out about their grades. As a result, they start sending emails complaining that they have not received their assignment and that they are worried about their grades which in turn I have to respond to which adds to my workload so I might as well just return their papers sooner rather than later.

 

Katherine