McMaster University of Ontario, Canada uses the Echo360 video platform as one of the tools to help meet the requirements mandated by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). The statute is designed to improve accessibility standards for people with physical or mental disabilities.

However, research conducted by the University has shown that in addition to helping meet the needs of students requiring special accommodations, Echo360 has helped to create a framework for a universal design for learning by reducing barriers to instruction and providing flexibility in the ways in which information is presented and accessed by all students.

Survey Data Reveals How Students Use Academic Video

According to Geraldine Voros, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences, survey research conducted at McMaster revealed that students use Echo360 for more than review and test preparation. For example, students indicated they watch and review recorded lectures if they missed class due to illness or for reasons related to family or work.

Highlights from the student survey reveal that:

  • 40% of students on campus opted to take a course because recorded lectures were available.
  • More than half (54%) of students who viewed recorded lectures also used the closed-captioning that was available with the lecture.
  • 80% of students surveyed used closed captioning more than 50% of the time.
  • 85% of students surveyed view lecture video from their home, and not on-campus.

According to Voros, the availability of recorded lectures is especially helpful for students who are working or may have to miss class due to illness or injury.

“I had a student who was injured at work and was in hospital for several weeks. She was able to access the entire class online via the recorded content and keep up with her coursework.”

Student Notes Taken in Echo360 Help All Students

At McMaster, the Student Accessibility Services Office (SAS) identifies and provides support to students who require a special accommodation. They also manage a team of students who volunteer to be notetakers in class. Those notes are available to students in Echo360.

“Students can view the lecture and see the notetakers notes,” says Voros. “If they are able, they can also take their own notes to have a full set of lecture notes to help them prepare for tests and exams. So, even though we may have made this accommodation for students with disabilities, it supports the universal design by making the information available to everyone and serves the entire student population.”

Promoting Equity and Student Ownership of Learning

According to Voros, the survey data shows that the use of Echo360 goes well beyond the students the University is required to accommodate because of AODA. Anyone, regardless of whether they require special accommodations, can access the system, so it has become a framework for universal design.

“From first-year to fourth-year students, from young to old, it has become a tool above and beyond what we thought. It doesn’t only support students with special needs. It serves the entire student population. It allows students to take ownership over their own learning and control their academic career with greater flexibility, on their own terms, at their own pace and time.”

Deepening Support for Universal Design with Active Learning and ASR

With a recent upgrade to Echo360’s cloud-based solution in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Canada (Central) Region, McMaster now has access to a wide variety of tools in Echo360 to try new approaches to active and immersive learning.

“The new platform supports techniques such as group discussion, student polling, and flipped classroom,” says Voros, “which can be used to help maximize collaboration and student engagement for all types of learners, deepening our work in universal design.”

With the launch of Echo360’s Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) capability, institutions, like McMaster, will also have the ability to scale closed captioning with a cost-effective approach while providing all students with an immersive learning experience. Now with the introduction of a transcript pane in the Echo360 player, students can read along with the audio track to any video, creating a multimodal learning environment which benefits different types of learners.

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