Creating opportunities for meaningful interactions is one of the most important goals of many courses. Supporting students with disabilities is simply another opportunity for providing creative learning solutions to enable these meaningful interactions for everyone. A case in point is our work with a synchromodal course (including face-to-face and online students in the same learning experience as comparable partners) that features interpreters for deaf online participants.
The Design Studio has been helping Dr. Cary Roseth, associate professor in Educational Psychology and Educational Technology, facilitate learner interactions in CEP 910 Motivation and Cognition for a variety of students. Since this course is a synchromodal course, some of these learners are online students. John Kirsh is one of these online students who is also mostly deaf. Our solution for John has been to include two (2) interpreters who sit in the classroom with the face-to-face students. Watching John through videoconferencing and interpreting his signing for the face-to-face participants, these interpreters act as John’s surrogate voice for engaging in class interactions and discussions. “I really enjoyed this online hybrid CEP910 course,” John told us. “I am able to take the class from home and reap the benefits of an almost face-to-face class. As a result, I saved about 2.5 hours’ driving time as well as gas.” John uses two computers to engage in the class activities.
One computer allows him to see in-classroom lectures and presentations by the instructor. The second computer links him to desktop computers that run Zoom videoconferencing sessions for small group discussions that take place during the class sessions. Since some of the students in the small groups are online, videoconferencing is already supported in the classroom via desktop iMacs. John participates fully both through his visual presence and through interpreters who are physically present in the face-to-face groups. This setup allows John to interact with and present to his classmates, sharing insights and opinions through a combination of human and digital assistive technology. Using a synchromodal assistive technology setup has been beneficial for the instructor as well. “Working with assistive technologies this semester has reinforced my belief that almost anything is possible when people work together towards a common goal,” noted Roseth. “Supporting a synchromodal classroom is a complicated endeavor and, initially, I was worried whether we could integrate this approach to teaching face-to-face and distance students with assistive technologies. Working together, however, we worked through these challenges and I am deeply thankful to everyone – including John, his interpreters, our technology coordinators, and the other students in the class – for their creativity, compromise and, above all, determination to make this work for everyone in the class. In the end, we all benefited from the efforts to integrate assistive technology.”