Monthly Archives: December 2009

The Accessibility Factor

accessibilityAs our project is described to be ‘Agile and Responsive’ in our title, we thought it was important that our work reflects this and that we are as inclusive as possible with our stakeholder engagement, therefore making sure that our resources are accessible to all stakeholders is imperative to the T-SPARC project.

After discovering this article on twitter ‘YouTube introduces automatic captions for deaf viewers’ it got me thinking about the baseline review video we have loaded onto T-SPARC’s YouTube Channel. I began to wonder how accessible it really was, because at that time it was the only video representation of T-SPARC on YouTube and it had had quite a few hits. I realised that without at least a transcript it meant that the deaf and hard of hearing communities as well as people for whom English is not their first language, would struggle to access this resource as well as people who did not have speakers on their computer.

I decided to do some detective work and look into captioning. You may notice that I am writing about ‘captioning’ and not ‘subtitling’. ‘Captions are usually in the same language as the audio. Subtitles are usually a translation.’ (See point 6). When researching captions and subtitles I came across ‘Caption it yourself’ which recommended I began to explore overstream and was surprised at how easy it was to caption our 3 minute video. In fact the most time consuming part of it was writing the transcripts –putting them onto overstream was a breeze, all you need is a little bit of patience…

The service was free, all T-SPARC needed was a log in.  After having a bit of a play around with Overstream I began to realise how crucial this tool could be to the accessibility of our work. Not just in the case of a deaf person trying to access it – but it could also be argued that captions can actually assist learning. (see ‘The benefits of captions’)

Our Cluster has also had some interesting discussions around accessibility issues at our most recent Cluster meeting in Cardiff  (see: “No CAMEL route is long, with good company”) in October. We were joined by Katya Hosking, the Inclusive Curriculum Officer at Cardiff University to discuss Equality & Diversity issues around curriculum design and the accessibility of programmes. It was a fantastic session which made a lot of us in the room question the way that we were doing things, hence my thoughts on captioning.

I must admit that I do have a personal interest in this as I am currently working towards my Level 2 certificate in British Sign Language so who knows – perhaps in the future you may see me signing away at the bottom of the screen!

To enable captions on this video please click ‘cc’ on the right hand side of the screen.


Stakeholder Engagement

Stakeholder engagement is central to the T-SPARC project.  We are using the model below (adapted from Rudd et al (2006)) to plan our approach to stakeholder engagement – it guides our communication plans and defines the type of activity needed to achieve a particular level of ‘buy in’ from all we hope to engage.

stakeholder table 7.12.09

Please click on image and go to ‘all sizes’ for a larger, clearer image.

Through comprehensive stakeholder engagement activity we aim to:

  • Obtain wider community support of the project
  • Gather useful data and ideas
  • Provide more sustainable decision making

As we, at Birmingham City University, have begun to explore our existing practices in stakeholder engagement we have concluded that, in relation to the above model, ‘consult’ is the highest level to which people generally aspire. This finding is particularly prominent in the student population, members of which express satisfaction in being consulted and have no aspiration to engage at the higher levels or any awareness of what might be achieved by engaging in such activity.

The T-SPARC project has at its core an aim to engage stakeholders more fully in the activity of curriculum design AND the design of the very processes and tools that will deliver this engagement activity. Only by co-designing systems, processes and tools with stakeholders can the project team deliver solutions which will meet the needs of curriculum designers in a way that will be used and valued.

Now that the project team have completed their initial review as mandated by the JISC, we will begin to develop stakeholder engagement practice so that we will be in a position to support collaboration (as defined in the model above) in the design of new systems, processes and tools and move towards the development of some product specifications which emerge from identified stakeholder needs.