Embracing Universal Design through Innovative transcribing for Distance education.

Computer technology has enhanced how distance education can be delivered and managed. Despite various advancements in technology one of the main issues of distance education is ensuring that all students are facilitated well in their learning journey as a course progresses. This would include providing equal access to content and the ability to cater to different learners. This concern is further exacerbated by the type of materials used in distance education especially with the intention of delivering engaging content mainly via digital video and podcast, more so the latter. Text based content (such as PDFs and others) doesn’t present the same gravity of challenges.

At the same time, the rise of digital video, as part content delivery, has become wide-spread within the tertiary sector. This is due to the ease of production and the appeal it presents. Many lectures are captured and presented in digital video format as part of mainstream content delivery in addition to content such as seminars, YouTube videos, short presentations of concepts etc. These digital content items are then put together through various learning management platforms and made available to distance education students.

However, most of these digital videos aren’t transcribed or prepared to be ‘inclusive’ in nature in a way that promote or comply with Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles. Adhering to Universal Design for Learning framework principles is extremely beneficial as it supports all student learner types. However, many tertiary institutions lag in this regard and hence fall short in their ability to deliver, at scale, appropriate pedagogies in their offerings to all students. Most institutions while aspiring to adopt UDL are held back either due to legacy content or limiting platform capability. However, most are in the process of becoming WCAG 2.0 compliant which certainly helps towards embracing UDL.
To bridge some of the issues above, here we share an AI based application called Voice Intellect from a local firm called Sonnant which has been used at several Australian tertiary institutions. Voice Intellect has the capability to not only transcribe digital video or audio but is also WCAG 2.0 compliant which promotes the UDL framework.

Videos that are uploaded into Voice Intellect are automatically transcribed with captions and can be played back at different speeds. The transcribed content is also indexed based on AI-driven voice analysis and all resulting texts are searchable and downloadable. Our trials showed that using Voice Intellect improved student engagement with lecture content and has improved student satisfaction. We also found students reporting a benefit from transcription and so the transcription services should perhaps be made available for all students as suggested by researchers. Anecdotal evidence shows that the application was able to cater for a variety of learner preferences due to its unique holistic and WCAG 2.0 compliant visual interface delivered through a web browser. The trial has also proved to be cost effective in comparison to incumbent services by a third and has now been primed for more content transcription for flipped classrooms. Other benefits of this application include consumption analytics that allows faculty to gauge how each student has accessed and searched the lecture content over time across the entire semester’s lecture series.