Effectiveness of Live Remote Captions (LRC) in improving the performance of hearing impaired students
Education is considered a fundamental right. It has also been mentioned as an important element in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Human Rights Covenants, which have force of international laws. Respective governments, non-governmental organizations and international agencies try to come out with important suggestions and policies, towards improvement in the education sector. Providing equal opportunities to students is one such stated objective of uniform education policies around the world. Hearing impaired students is one such category which is often deprived of the important lectures delivered by the professor in the classroom or when they attend some seminars or conferences. Such issues have often been highlighted at different forums, with different types of suggestions. The sign language facilities existing in Australia like AUSLAN have not proved to be encouraging enough for deaf students. The support model in which interpreters convert the academic lectures into AUSLAN for being grasped by the hearing impaired students is not costly, but students find it very obtrusive, which in turn makes it ineffective in achieving the stated objectives.
Live Remote Captioning (LRC) is one such method which is being termed by some analysts as an importance milestone towards extending the benefit of equal opportunities to the deprived sections of the society. Matthew Brett from the University of Melbourne has pioneered the use of LRC technology to make it useful for hearing impaired students. The service transforms verbal conversation into text, so that it can be displayed in relayed time on a screen. The text can be viewed even at remote locations with the help of internet, thus enabling students having hearing impairment to listen to the conversations or lecture. Besides being helpful to students, such services can be used during corporate meetings, live events and conferences to make the hearing impaired people interactively participate in the proceedings. An effort would therefore be made in this study to explore the usability and acceptability of such a service amongst the students in Australia.
Research Questions and Objectives
This study is primarily being undertaken to study the distinctive features of live remote captioning (LRC) and how this technology can be useful for the students having some sort of hearing impairment. During the study an effort would be made to compare some of the existing aids for hearing impaired students like note-takers, sign language interpreters, or FM systems with or without hearing aids. During the study, efforts would also be made to go into the reasons which have necessitated going in for technically advanced gadgets for deaf students in general and how some research institutions and corporate houses have come forward to lend a helping hand in this direction. The study will try to seek answers to the following key objectives;
i. What changes are expected as a result of the new technology in the field of imparting education to the hearing impaired students?
ii. What do hearing impaired students trialling the LRC service perceive to be the advantages and disadvantages or shortcomings of the service?
iii. Will the LRC be in a better position to serve the hearing impaired students in accessing academic information at university?
iv. To what extent will LRC be able to motivate the hearing impaired students towards taking up more specialised courses of studies in universities?
v. To what extent will LRC help in encouraging the hearing impaired students for taking up more active participation in class activities?
Rationale for the Study
Some of the studies undertaken on the students having hearing impairment have indicated that the existing tools to transcribe audio to such people has not proved to be of big help in motivating them for pursuing higher studies. This study will therefore provide an opportunity for investigating to what extent LRC will provide better access of academic information for hearing impaired students at universities as compared to other assistive listening methods.
The LRC is a new and upcoming service in educational development in Australia. Therefore, it will be critical to understand its benefits compared to other systems before it can be applied effectively.
This study will also help in assessing the numbers of hearing impaired students preparing themselves for taking up higher studies at the University of Melbourne, once the LRC facility is extended to them during their existing courses. It will be interesting to see what difference it makes in increasing the numbers, as compared to other assistive listening devices.
As of now there is limited studies/research conducted on the utility of LRC for deaf students. Findings of a brief study from the University of Melbourne’s are available in the public domain on its website. But the study seems to be based more on observations and perceptions of students of the service. A comprehensive study is therefore required to be undertaken to better understand the subject. If the study finds out that the use of LRC devices is indeed helping the case and there’s a growing desire amongst the hearing disabled community to have this facility for more lectures and seminars at the University of Melbourne, then a planned decision can be implemented by the University authorities to make the facility more cost effective and affordable for more number of such students.
Outcome of the study will also help in assessing the extent to which the University of Melbourne’s decision to implement LRC initiative will influence such a decision in other universities.
Research approaches and methods radically influence the overall outcome of the research. This in turn affects the policies designed in response to the research findings. If the research is carried out in an objective manner, it not only helps the researcher to explore different aspects of the topic in detail, but at times it proves to be a starting point or a benchmark for framing of a policy or carrying out further research studies. If the research outcomes are found trustworthy then the governments, companies or universities make use of such findings in finalising policies. Method so conducting the research, gathering the data and analysing the findings forms the philosophical part of the research activity. This dissertation is a more of a qualitative case study focusing on an analysis of some of the problems faced by the hearing impaired students and how the LRC can prove to be beneficial. To carry out such a study in general we resort to some of the steps mentioned below;
· Sifting through the existing literature available on the difficulties faced by hearing impaired students in general and the Melbourne University students in particular. This will certainly require a good understanding of the subject and suitable help from an expert handling such cases.
· Analysing the effectiveness of existing assistive tools made available to hearing impaired students for them to understand audio conversations and lectures. This will be done by seeking opinions and interviews from concerned university officials, students and experts in the field. In addition newspapers, journals and research studies conducted on the subject would prove to be good sources of information for this study.
· A brief questionnaire would also be prepared to collect primary data from the concerned students. The questionnaire could be distributed to some of the students having hearing impairments. This will help in assessing the point of views of students on the effectiveness of the LRC.
Principle Data Sources
The method that will be involved in the process of collection of relevant data will be concise and yet comprehensive, aimed at soliciting maximum information related to the topic. Relevant data and literature will be compiled from the websites of universities trying to encourage the hearing impaired students to undertake higher studies. In addition, articles published from various journals, newspapers, books and magazines will also be an important source of data. An effort would also be made to take a cue from some earlier researches done on the subject by some individual researchers, as well as, some research institutions. Both, online resources and offline resources will be used to compile the data. In fact LRC is stated to be a very useful tool on the web space, in times to come, as the internet has firmly established itself as an alternative channel of reaching out to the target clients/ customers.
Data Collection Methods
For this research to be able to achieve the desired outcomes, we need to adopt suitable methods for data collection. Some of the methods that will be used during the study include;
i. Carrying out a comprehensive literature review: During this process a number of books and research journals will provide informative data about how to help the hearing impaired students in improving the academic performances. Contemporary research journals also carry articles and research papers from renowned scholars and other research students.
ii. News reports in university newsletters, newspapers and current affairs magazines prove to be another source of data for the study. Since the subject is about a socially relevant sector, therefore a number of welfare measures from the government and university authorities must have been undertaken in the recent past. Taking valuable inputs from such reports and policy announcements would prove to be important source of data for the study.
iii. The questionnaire will of course be the backbone of this study and crucial primary data would be gathered using the questionnaire.
Preliminary Literature Review
“I see my role as ensuring that the best and brightest scholars are able to meet their academic potential irrespective of personal circumstances” (ALTC, 2008). This is what Matthew Brett, from the University of Melbourne said about the emerging possibilities of LRC. The statement is an indication towards the need to upgrade the facilities available to the disabled community. Brett is credited with the work he has undertaken to make this technology available to the deaf students in university campuses. The trend, of course started in Australia in 2005, when IBM entered into a partnership with the Australian Caption Centre for developing a pilot project which made use of telephone and internet to instantly convey spoken words and conversations to hearing impaired clients located at far off places (IBM, 2007). Use of this technology grew subsequently in 2006 with many more IBM employees using it for improving the workplace participation. LRC has been around for many years, but mainly for business meetings. It was only after the efforts of Matthew Brett that this has been applied to Australian educational settings.
‘Live Remote Captioning’ or LRC is a complementary service being developed for hearing impaired students. It works by capturing audio information from a teaching environment and converting it into caption format over a screen. Stenocaptioner is the key element of LRC which converts audio to text. Existing facility like Auslan is not very popular amongst deaf students because of the problems in the availability of good interpreters. In case of difficult vocabulary in some of the subjects, it becomes quite difficult to translate into Auslan in real time, which defeats the very purpose of offering this tool to deaf students. In fact, use of lip-reading and note-takers has also been popular as reliable alternatives to Auslan amongst the hearing impaired students. But both these methods rely more on the capacity of the individual, which is bound to be affected by a number of considerations like bias, fatigue, observation error, presumption, etc. Therefore a need of more reliable method was always being felt. Lewis and Jackson (2001) state that since ages the deaf or hard of hearing people were not in a position to meaningfully access the audio component of television, but the advent of ‘captioning television’ opened newer possibilities for this particular segment to access information through television programmes.
A research study carried out by Sadler (2009) concludes that the success of educational programs to deaf students in public schools depends to a large extent on both the quantity and quality of the support services. The quality is affected by the kind of supportive tools as well as the training of the support staff. In contrast to the discouraging response to tools like Auslan, the initial feedback received from some of the students having made use of LRC has been found to be quite encouraging. A deaf student having made use of LRC at the University of Melbourne commented that, “The clarity of the transcripts has been mind-blowing, and my ability to understand complex concepts being discussed in lectures has increased tenfold.” Well, such encouraging signals certainly make the task much easier for the proponents of LRC, provided the desired quality standards are followed while delivering the products to the targeted segment. A study carried out by researchers at the University of Southampton, UK also underlined the need to have a better option, preferably a real-time captioning technology at the university lecture halls to improve the academic performances of deaf students.
If the university decides to go ahead, it will also require adequate support from the corporate community in order to have the necessary infrastructure at the university end. Seeking adequate grant from government or the corporate community becomes easier if the university authorities are able to prepare a realistic case for the implementation of the LRC project. Today we are living in an era which is characterised by the intense amount of competition and rivalry amongst corporate houses. In an effort to attract the customer, companies on the one hand try to come out with innovative marketing strategies while on the other hand efforts are also made by the companies to project themselves as socially responsible corporate houses. Therefore, in case of any such requirement, the University of Melbourne can also approach some of the reputed Companies.
This study requires participation of human subjects, therefore consent and confidentiality will hold significant importance. A si etncere effort would therefore be made to communicate the aims and objective of the study to the research participants through the covering letter accompanying the questionnaires. The covering letter will also list the contact information of the researchers and other details like the names of university, the course, the concerned departments at the university etc. By providing this relevant information, the research participants will be made aware about the study prior to completing the questionnaire or sharing any information. Acquiring informed consent is vital to a researcher. Such a consent document serves as protection both for participants and for the researchers involved.
Limitations of the Study
Some of the limitations that has the potential to impact the outcome of the study include;
· Considering the nature of the subject of the study, more time and resources would certainly be involved especially in determining the sample size and data collection. Moreover, if the objectives of the study are not made very clear to the sample respondents, the sample respondents might be hesitant in answering to the questions in the questionnaires.
· In the course of the collection of the data required by this study, the time constraints might make it difficult to follow through other possible investigations which may lead to might have lead to a more in-depth analysis. Much time will be spent in devising the questionnaires and agreeing with the concerned groups or individuals for administering the questionnaire. Moreover, this being a specialised subject, I might require the assistance of a qualified doctor on certain matters. The availability of such medical advice whenever required might prove to be crucial for the success of the study.
· In addition the researcher has to interact personally to the respondents which might, at times, also result in slightly biased opinion.
· This study being academic in nature, it may not be possible for me to have adequate number of resources from difference sources, to make the study more comprehensive.
· The administration of questionnaire might take several turns, as we will have to follow some of the respondents, to seek their due attention in responding to the questionnaire. This would of course depend upon the availability of time and willingness of the respondents
ABN (2008). Live Remote Captioning (LRC). Academic Enrichment Services-Disability Liaison Unit, University of Melbourne. Available online at http://www.services.unimelb.edu.au/disability/development/lrc.html (June 2, 2010)
ALTC (2008). ‘Deaf students tune into lectures’. Communiqué. September 2008 — Volume 2, Issue 6. Australian Learning and Teaching Council. Available online at http://www.altc.edu.au/september2008-deaf-students (June 1, 2010)
IBM (2007). ‘Workforce Diversity’. IBM Australia Limited. Available online at http://www-07.ibm.com/ibm/au/corporateresponsibility/pdfs/Sec9_Workforce_Diversity.pdf (May 1, 2010)
Lewis, Margret S. Jelinek, and Jackson, Dorothy W. (2001). ‘Television Literacy: Comprehension of Program Content Using Closed Captions for the Deaf’. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education 6:1. Winter 2001. Oxford University Press.
Sadler, Karen L. (2009). ‘Accuracy of Sign Interpreting and Real-Time Captioning of Science Videos for the Delivery of Instruction to Deaf Students’. Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of The University of Pittsburgh in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. University of Pittsburgh.
DRAFT SURVEY/QUESTIONNAIRE ON LIVE REMOTE CAPTIONING (LRC)
The questionnaire would be in two parts, part-A would seek some of the related personal details of the students, while Part-B would be having the questions related to the topic
Part-A: General Details
Name, Address, Age and Sex profile of the respondent (This is an optional info and some of the respondents are not willing to divulge, it must be honoured)
Part-B: Subject Details
1. Which current assistive learning service are you using?
As compared to the traditional techniques, please rate the upcoming LRC facility at the University on a 5 point Likert Scale
LRC is a much better concept
I would use this service sometimes and alternate between main assistive learning service and LRC
Would only use the LRC service if my main assistive learning service fails or is not available
I will not change over to the LRC service
The cost of LRC is too prohibitive to use it during all my lectures
LRC is bound to boost the academic performance
LRC services should be available throughout all the class times
Having used the LRC system, I am reasonably sure that LRC has enhanced my learning ability in class with increased individual involvement and participation in class activities
I am quite comfortable with my existing assistive tool and don’t have any plans to shift to LRC
10. What do you like the most best about the LRC compared with the other assistive listening devices in class? (pl mention as many distinguishing features as possible)
11. As of now what are the limitations or shortcoming in the existing LRC services?
Sample Consent Form to be signed by the Research Participant
· I confirm that this study is being undertaken to analyse the impact of LRC system for better academic performance amongst the hearing impaired students.
· I confirm that I have read and understood the information sheet/letter of invitation for this study. I have been informed by Mr/Ms……………………….about the purpose, risks, and benefits of taking part.
· I understand what my involvement will entail and my queries about the study have been answered to my satisfaction.
· I understand that my participation is entirely voluntary, and that I can withdraw at any time without prejudice.
· I understand that all information obtained will be confidential.
· I agree that research data gathered for the study may be published in academic journals/ newsletters provided that I cannot be identified as a subject.
· Contact information of the researcher has been provided to me and in case I wish to seek further information from the researcher I can do so on these contact numbers/ addresses.