Please record what you can and where you can and take steps to make your recordings easy to find and study from.
This blog post will explore three areas where accessibility can be improved in recorded materials. These insights are based on our experiences of recording at City over the last 10 years including the recent pivot to online.
Thanks go colleagues, staff and students who have campaigned, designed, funded, installed, looked after, developed policy on and promoted best practice in lecture capture and lecture recording here at City.
Our position: by recording for learning, all students can benefit
Our Online Teaching Materials and Lecture Recordings Policy (November 2021) sets our default position that all lectures are recorded and made available via the virtual learning environment (VLE), Moodle.
We see recording for educational purposes as one of the tools that can support City’s implementation of the Equality Act (2010) and meet its statutory duty to provide anticipatory reasonable adjustments.
We understand also that all students may benefit from the opportunity to have access to recorded sessions in line with the UK Quality Code for Higher Education, which requires institutions to provide an inclusive environment, where all students have access to equivalent learning opportunities.
1.Accessibility via Availability
The key to accessible information first is that students can find and use it. This is something we’ve worked to improve in terms of equipment, recommended practices, and overarching principles at City.
- Since 2016, we have installed approximately 150 lecture capture devices in rooms with capacity ranging from 14 to 250 persons.
- These devices are in all types of learning spaces, lecture theatres, lecture rooms, seminar rooms, PC rooms, Laboratories, and workshops.
- High-quality audio is key for understanding of recordings as well as accurate creation of captions and transcripts. Not only does audio quality impact the effectiveness of a recording for study purposes, poor audio is an extra challenge for speech to text conversion. At City, we have microphones across the teaching zone, to enable the presenter to move around it and to use the whiteboard while still being heard on the recording. Additionally, we have a lapel microphone loan scheme, where microphones are loaned long term to staff, and they can use them in any room.
- For lecture capture, we offer a camera view to pick up the presenter, the teaching zone and the whiteboard. Some staff prefer not to have cameras on, some use them to pick up the whiteboard work, some change the angles during teaching for maximum flexibility across teaching disciplines and activities.
- Our set-up ensures capture of all inputs that are in use, including whiteboards, visualisers, laptops, writing tablets and mobile devices. This means that learning activities can be flexible and creative without harming accessibility in the space.
- Transcripts generated by automatic speech recognition are useful for learning, even when not corrected, as the transcript player offers a convenient way to search the media and to follow the audio track, they offer a text file that can be useful base when making notes and once set up they can be corrected easily if required as a reasonable adjustment.
2. Our recommended practices
Planning as a department ensures a consistent approach: this helps students plan their study time efectivley.
- Alert students at the start of the module about will and won’t be recorded so they can plan their study time.
- Release, don’t delay unnecessarily as delays and uncertainty disrupt study patterns and revision.
- Consider commuters: they need an offline version as do many students with reasonable adjustments. We recommend promoting the Echo 360 App to students as a great way to watch and listen offline.
- We encourage staff to have cameras showing themselves during Lecture Capture to add a personal touch, to record up non-verbal communication and to help students search through session recordings with these extra cues.
- Set up Lecture Capture to live-stream even when there are students on campus. In the pivot this offered a way to bridge the gap between our various modes of delivery and those still affected by Covid or travel restrictions. Students appreciated synchronous access to the in-person session however limited the interaction was.
3. Our principles
Our updated Online teaching materials and lecture recordings policy ( November 2021) takes note of our experience of the pivot to online and our heightened focus on digital accessibility. Some accessibility highlights from the Policy include:
- Directs recordings to be made and released promptly or timely for independent study
- Considers the perspectives of all stakeholders, academic staff, professional staff and students and addresses their differing concerns and needs.
- Covers all kinds of recordings, made in person and online and pre-recorded.
- Covers all platforms for making and storing recordings, we currently use Microsoft Teams, Kaltura Media Space, Zoom, and Echo 360.
- Sees recordings as providing anticipatory reasonable adjustments.
- Sees recording as contributing to an inclusive environment.
- Covers the statutory duty to make reasonable adjustments and that lecture recording can be one of these adjustments noted on a student support plan (SSP).
- Notes that automated transcripts are on for all but can also be checked and corrected for an individual.
To help continue our journey at City, we ask: please record what you can and grow access to learning from recordings by making your recordings easy to find and study from.
Support to make and learn from accessible lecture recordings
- Our lecture capture guides for staff cover all aspects from booking to editing your Echo 360 recordings.
- Our student lecture capture guide has useful tips for learning from recordings, e.g. finding your recordings, speeding up and slowing down, note making and using the app, which is handy for off-line viewing.
- Look for the lecture capture transcript player as it offers a convenient way to search the media and to follow the audio track and a text file that can be useful base when making notes.
- Our digital accessibility guides (for staff and for students) help all of us learn how to create accessible content.
- Our online materials and lecture recordings policy is available from the policy area of our Student Hub website.
Find out more about Digital Accessibility at City
Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) is celebrated in May each year to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital access and inclusion. This year City has planned a month-long programme of events and activities to raise awareness of accessibility and digital accessibility and the work we’re doing at City to advance accessibility and inclusion for our communities.