Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Webinars for the Hard-of-Hearing

With any new technology, there are always growing pains--additions need to be made, functionality needs to be modified, etc.

When conducting a recent survey on Webinar Experiences, we were left with this comment after the question, "Are webinars as effective as classroom training?":

"It can be for many people. However as a hard of hearing person, I have difficulty hearing what the other attendees are saying or asking. I depend a lot on reading lips and I can't see their lips. I am sure it is the same for other hard of hearing or deaf people. Not often is it captioned."

With webinars often relying solely on the prowess of the presenter, and then incorporating PowerPoint presentations as per usual, it's easy to see how information can be lost in the telling. It's a consideration that, I'm guessing, not many presenters take into account when scheduling their webinars. Certainly, the comment raised a point in my mind that I had not previously considered.

Webinar interaction is often limited to presenters asking questions and soliciting responses from attendees. It can be easy, then, for a minimally-interactive webinar to become a non-interactive webinar for the hard-of-hearing or deaf community.

Perhaps as the technology evolves and webinars become more and more popular, captioning will become ubiquitous and interaction will take place on-screen instead of only verbally (AllPlay Web performs this function--using competition to engage attendees without relying on verbal-only interaction). It will be interesting to see how accommodations for attendees with varying abilities will evolve.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Professors Use Game Shows to Review for Exams

[Reprinted from The Chronicle of Higher Education]

Professors Use Game-Show Format to Help Students Review for Exams

Salt Lake City — When it’s time to review for an exam in her entry-level computer-science course at Montgomery County Community College, Patricia Rahmlow divides the students into teams, hands each team an electronic buzzer, and cues the Jeopardy theme music.

Thanks to a software program that can display a series of questions in a style similar to the popular TV trivia game show, she turns review sessions into competitions. Ms. Rahmlow, an assistant professor of business and computer science, and two of her colleagues at the college described their experiences with classroom games in a session at the League for Innovation in the Community College’s annual technology conference this week.

She said that students now look forward to what used to be a drag. Before she started using the software, she said, “I had never had students ask me, When are we going to do the review?”

For the presentation, she divided session participants into teams and demonstrated the game, using trivia questions on the history of computing, U.S. presidents, and other topics. The buzzers were simple, with just one button. Their wireless signals told the software which team buzzed first.

One drawback of the technology quickly became clear: Winning sometimes just depends on who can click the buzzer fastest. One team always seemed to buzz in first to keep others from getting a chance to answer. Still, everyone in the room seemed attentive and eager to win, even though there were no prizes. (For her courses, Ms. Rahmlow gives the winning team ten points extra credit on the test.)

The demonstration used a system called Gameshow Prep. [A K-20 version of the popular Gameshow Pro.] But presenters also pointed out alternatives, including some that are free online.

Several attendees said they were already using game-show-like approaches in their own courses. One of them was Bill Yarrow, an English professor at Joliet Junior College, who said he had given the midterm for his Shakespeare class in the form of a Jeopardy game in which each student answered individually rather than as part of a team. He used a feature built into the Angel course-management system that his college has installed on campus. —Jeffrey R. Young