[This blog post is part of a series written for the Edinburgh Teaching Award (EdTA) to achieve accreditation as a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. ]
In 2017/18 the Information Services Group (ISG) rolled out a new lecture recording system across The University of Edinburgh. Due to rising concerns from staff around use of third-party materials, the Open Education Services team were brought in to assist with preparatory training in the areas of accessibility, copyright, licensing, and media use.
While I do a lot of copyright, media use, and licensing training, I hadn’t up until this point had the opportunity to raise awareness around issues of accessibility in higher education. Accessibility is something I try to be very aware of in my own work and actions as I grew up with a parent working with special needs children and I have a number of friends with varied accessibility needs. So I’ve developed accessibility habits around web design, presentation materials, and microphone use.
Our initial remit also included providing training on design methods and approaches to presentations, however we received poor and negative feedback in the early sessions, so we instead focused on the accessibility requirements of recorded lecture presentations.
As the sessions I was to provide were for academic teaching staff I took time to research the application and use of recorded lectures for the improvement of student accessibility. There were relatively few papers on the topic as most instead focused around concerns of student attendance numbers or revision usage (Karnad, 2013). What I was able to focus on was the UK Equality Act (2010) and its application into the University of Edinburgh’s own Accessibility and Inclusive Learning Policy. In particular points 6 and and 6.2 of the policy which state that students currently have the right to audio record lectures, tutorials and supervision sessions, and that video recording may also occur however only with the explicit permission of the staff involved.
In this video by Disabled Students Officer Chloë Marvin on the benefits of lecture recording she makes the case that there are a variety of reasons students may be unable to attend lectures, from the accessibility of the rooms, to medical appointments and physical needs. Recorded lectures provide a great deal of access to students with a wide variety of accessibility needs and if this is something that can be provided by a lecturer then we as a University need to supply the technology and training to allow for it to occur.
It’s important that when creating teaching materials and spaces consideration is given to the accessibility of the materials. Being able to incorporate this message in addition to my usual focus on copyright and licensing was incredibly rewarding. Feedback from staff at the sessions was positive with many commenting that although they tried to be aware there were many areas of accessibility they hadn’t realised could be addressed with the simple changes I’d suggested (using off-white backgrounds, sans serif font, wearing the microphone, alt descriptions to diagrams and images, avoiding colour use to convey meaning i.e. green = correct / red = wrong).
I created and ran the workshops and webinar sessions throughout the summer of 2017 and the initial year (Sept 2017 – May 2018) of the rollout. All of the guidance materials (including downloadable slides, PDFs, and video content) were also made available for download and viewing on the Media Hopper Replay (our lecture recording programme) Accessibility for Lecture Recording webpages. The sessions led to a number of staff changing their own practices regarding accessibility, and also improving their professional practice in the areas of copyright and licensed material use.
Since running this series I’ve also reviewed and refreshed all of my own training materials and webpages and increased efforts to provide accessibility feedback when discussing services and materials when consulting and with my colleagues to increase our ability to provide educational services for all of our learners.
Accessibility and Inclusive Learning Policy, Learning and Teaching Committee (LTC), The University of Edinburgh, https://www.ed.ac.uk/files/atoms/files/accessible_and_inclusive_learning_policy.pdf
Karnad, A. (2013). Student Use of Recorded Lectures: A report reviewing recent research into the use of lecture capture technology in higher education, and its impact on teaching methods and attendance, London School of Economics, http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/50929/1/Karnad_Student_use_recorded_2013_author.pdf
UK Equality Act (2010), https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents
Video by Disabled Students Officer Chloë Marvin on the benefits of lecture recording, The University of Edinburgh, https://media.ed.ac.uk/media/1_jwr71j61