Increasing accessibility for students within a post-secondary learning environment is an ongoing challenge for the thousands of colleges located in the US. To varying degrees, educational institutions are seeking to improve and enhance campus facilities, services and courseware to be more fully accessible to people with disabilities as well as address all cognitive learning styles. Inver Hills Community College, part of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System (MnSCU), is an educational institution at the forefront of improving accessibility for its students. The college’s charge, for more than forty years, has been to improve its community by providing higher education for a variety of learners. With more than 70% of students from underrepresented populations and 20% first generation college students, Inver Hills Community College strongly believes that fulfilling this principle means making education accessible to all.
Self-Assessment Identifies Accessibility Opportunity
Recently, Inver Hills Community College administration established an Accessibility Task Force to review various aspects of accessibility on campus. In the spring of 2013, Inver Hills conducted a six-month self-assessment on its web accessibility using NCDAE’s benchmark and planning tool called GOALS (Gaining Online Accessible Learning through Self-Study). As an outcome of this self-assessment project, the Accessibility Task Force recommended that Inver Hills Community College instructors using videos for online learning should begin using captioning to improve accessibility for students and to continue supporting all cognitive learning styles.
“Nearly 25% of Inver Hills classes are offered online; an attractive option for people with disabilities, learning issues or social anxiety,” explains Rebecca Graetz, EdD, an instructional designer at Inver Hills Community College. “However, few students self-report a learning disability, and when they get to college there is an even greater reluctance to report, because they don’t want anyone to know. So it is not at all uncommon for an instructor to be unaware of a student with a learning disability – especially in an online learning scenario.”
Accessible Video Using Open Captioning
Graetz began implementing a process for creating accessible videos using open captioning after being approached by instructor Carrie Naughton, a teacher of online developmental math, who requested help in developing professional quality video for some of her classes.
Working with the Inver Hills Community College’s IT team, Graetz leveraged technologies from Kaltura, Automatic Sync Technologies, and D2L, to ensure videos were efficiently and accurately captioned in a short time frame. Naughton’s existing course videos used for online learning, located within the Brightspace platform, were first saved to the Kaltura MediaSpace video portal. As a Kaltura administrator, Graetz used the Kaltura Management Console and its integration with Automatic Sync’s CaptionSync service, to tag videos that needed captioning. Videos were automatically uploaded to CaptionSync, transcribed by professional transcribers, captioned, and returned back to the instructor through Kaltura for use in Brightspace.
“We processed 56 videos and the captioning was 100% perfect. And it was really smooth and painless,” says Graetz. “The Automatic Sync team was able to turnaround fully captioned, highly accurate videos in just three days. The process was quick, seamless and very, very efficient.”
Naughton was equally impressed. “Rebecca was very helpful in coordinating end-of-year funding that allowed me to get all of my Introductory and Intermediate Algebra videos captioned. The process on my end was very easy and quick, enabling my students to easily watch my videos through Brightspace, on Kaltura’s accessible video player.”
“My belief is that there is an increase in student understanding, made possible through the use of more diverse multi-media learning tools – audio, video, and open captioning adds one more piece to the learning puzzle.
Rebecca Graetz, Instructional Designer at Inver Hills Community College
Naughton strongly believes the use of video has enhanced her students’ online learning experience. “I believe that the captioning has truly enhanced the videos,” she says. “Students are better able to follow along while watching videos and students with language issues really benefit as well. I have had several students comment that the captioning has been really helpful. Since most of my students get their entire course content from watching my video lectures, it is really important that my students are able to access the videos easily and get the most out of the experience and I think that the captioning and the Kaltura platform have really helped.”
At the end of the day, Brightspace’s seamless integration with Kaltura and Automatic Sync, and the partners’ ability to quickly deliver a flawless video captioning solution, is the true success story coming out of the Inver Hills initiative.
The use of video captioning to enhance online learning has also provided Graetz with the ideal topic for her EdD dissertation, allowing her to realize her own educational goal. “My entire dissertation is built around the implementation of this project,” she says. “Over the two year period, we observed an improvement in student satisfaction thanks to the addition of open captioning on video-based content. And in my mind, even if one or two students are more successful because they have a video that is captioned and addresses all cognitive learning styles, then that is indeed a success.”
 Figures courtesy of Inver Hills Community College