Services for Students with Disabilities

For several years now the UM School of Dentistry has been creating online presentations and quizzes as a substitute for lectures, in some cases referred to as “flipped” classes. This started back in the late 1990s to use technology better. The presentations are all closed-captioned and provide the students with an active transcript–all of which fit perfectly in making material accessible to students who are deaf/hard of hearing. 

Dr. Stephen C. Bayne, a professor of Cariology, Restorative Sciences and Endodontics describes the process and advantages to making these materials accessible online.

1. How / when did this project come about? 

I first started doing online lectures in the late 1990s when I was still teaching at UNC [University of North Carolina] – as part of trying to change the curriculum – and use the in-class time differently.  We quickly learned some basic advantages.  Scripted online lectures (such as FLASH or PPT with audio) presentations that replaced 50 minutes lectures were often only 20-25 minutes – because once you got rid of the lost time starting and stopping – or stumbling through poorly planned interactions with the class, the real content was much shorter. 

2. Why did you want to provide these types of tools? 

The transcript for the online presentation was a great study guide for the students and many preferred the transcript over the actual presentation online.  The content was available to “replace class” and therefore we could give that time back to the students in their schedule.  We could use face-to-face time to have discussions or answer questions instead.  Students could move through the content on their own terms.  The advantages are immense.  As soon as we got down the line in the first decade of this century we were also realizing the benefits of a fast Internet so that we could port content to smart phones and mobile devices.  Students could get the information any time.  This was a much better alternative to class than podcasts.  Since we had a script for the presentations it was a slam-dunk to do CC for others. 

3. What steps were involved in making these online materials available to students?

The tools have been available almost since the beginning of PPT [PowerPoint] back in 1985, but people have never been shown how to use them.  You can do a PPT with audio and post that online if you have a site.  You can convert that to a FLASH presentation (much more seamless) if you have a conversion program (and these are not expensive). 

Here is the process: 

(1) Create a PPT presentation. 

(2) Write a script to go with the PPT presentation and place it in the NOTES section of the slides.  Include any cues for advancing fades or other internal transitions in the slides (like adding “click” to the script). 

(3) Print the PPT (1 slide per page with NOTES) and you have a script. 

(4) Set up PPT to record your voice as you read from the script and advance the slides. 

(5) Change the PPT with audio file(s) to a FLASH presentation.  Most have CC options that can be toggled in the end. 

(6) Post this to a website for open/closed access by the students.  NOTE: There are other authoring programs that can help with this process but they are not really necessary. 

4. How much time was needed?

I have done about 250 of these over the years.  The great time savings for teaching is that I only have to update or refresh the content every 4-5 years. You can always edit or alter a couple of slides and recompile the FLASH in minutes if you are adept at this for small changes.

5. Who has access to these materials now? 

I have always made all of my materials “open access” by posting them to the open web.  In many cases they are posted on CTools or the School of Dentistry and they are open only to individuals with a Kerberos login.  However, I generally post these to the outside as well.  If you are going to make things public access you need to make sure you have all copyright authorizations that you need or develop your own original content.  I started out getting authorizations years ago, but then shifted to the latter approach.  I make these open to all faculty, students, etc. 

6. Do you have a sense of how many people access these materials on a regular basis?

Over the years I have indirectly tracked the content.  There are ways of embedding codes in the meta-tags so that you can search for where things have migrated.  I ask folks to request releases if they are using the materials for commercial purposes.  The real eye opener was when I took down a major “dental materials” open site for revisions in 2008 for about a year – and received inquiries from students and faculty at 45 dental schools in the US about where the content had gone.  Otherwise, I am happy that these things help others learn. 

7. Are there any projects that you are currently working on?

Our last interesting project at the School of Dentistry was in the creation of a 12-module course in Evidence-Based Dentistry. Each module has an online FLASH presentation, a quick exercise, and an online quiz.  The quizzes are uniquely generated from a huge pool of questions based on learning objectives and other algorithms for each student for each module.  They can repeat quizzes and will always get a different one.  They have to get 80% or better to proceed.  Everything is managed automatically online and I never see the students.  All these materials are accessible for students who are deaf/hard of hearing.