Tips For Inclusive Online Teaching For Students Who Are Deaf / Have Hearing Loss

Image of a female student looking at computer wearing a hearing aid.

2020’s shift to online learning brought with it many benefits for UK universities and colleges.

In particular, the University of Aberdeen rode the wave of digital change by introducing real-time captioning to lectures. And this improved accessibility for all their students, including those with hearing loss. 

Plus, the same report by Universities UK revealed many HE institutions reduced attainment gaps after pivoting to digital learning. And, around 90% of students at Birkbeck said they now preferred online or hybrid assessments compared to sitting exams. 

So, while many institutions plan on returning to teaching in lecture halls, digital learning isn’t going anywhere. And so faculty must ensure that they continue to offer hybrid, dual-mode, or blended learning approaches.

In this blog post, we’ll help you understand how you could boost inclusivity and accessibility for deaf students in your own context. And with these pointers, you should find it easier to support better inclusion for students with hearing loss and increase their sense of engagement among peers.

Make learning user-centered

Making teaching accessible to everyone is a core principle for inclusive teaching, as outlined by the Centre for Teaching and Learning at the University of Oxford

Their approach suggests that anticipatory practice is the best way to widen inclusivity. And one way to do this is by sharing learning materials with students in advance, online. By doing so, you will give students who are deaf or who have hearing loss the opportunity to give feedback on what they can and can’t access ahead of time.

Add captions to your content

Adding real-time captioning to lectures helps every student to focus, even those without a recognised disability or specific learning difference. 

But when students work on group projects, they can include any peers with hearing loss by using Caption.Ed. And because Caption.Ed works across all the platforms–from Zoom to Teams, YouTube to their VLE–using the tool will allow deaf students to communicate with their peers during group sessions. Also, any students who struggle with reading a lot of captions over a short period have the option to download transcripts of the dialogue which they can review afterward.

Book A Free Trial: Discuss Your Requirements With Our Friendly Sales Team

Use the power of lip-reading

When communicating over video, students and faculty can also enhance accessibility by considering the impact of lip-reading. 

Many people with hearing loss rely on lip-reading to augment their understanding. In practice, they can often hear words but need to see someone’s face to discern what they’re saying. 

When someone is speaking on video, always make sure their face is visible on the screen. This may include asking that all speakers have enough light on their faces for everyone to read their lips.

Wear a headset / use a microphone

Using a headset when you are presenting online helps to improve the quality of the audio, and therefore the quality of the captions which your students can access. Andy Eachus, Digital Skills Trainer at the University of Huddersfield, goes into more detail about the benefits of wearing a headset when teaching in the video below.

Consider the pace of your delivery

Pacing is also extremely important since studies show that deaf students are visual learners and have longer processing requirements, so provide around 2-3 minutes to read each slide.  

Faculty members should get constructive feedback on their classroom and online delivery. This may take the form of looking back over previously recorded lectures and having a third party assess you. 

The critical thing is to speak with clarity, avoid unnecessary jargon, and avoid abrupt changes to the context. And you can reduce the risk of interruptions by asking everyone to remain muted while you speak.

Think about how you’ll share visuals

Along with the pacing of your presentation, you also need to think about how you’ll present any visuals. You could show a PowerPoint slide while you speak. But if you do, you could prevent deaf students or those with hearing loss from lip-reading as you speak or reading the captions.  

So, consider how you’ll present slides that won’t interfere with your student’s ability to see your face clearly. 

Also, bear in mind that deaf students are visual learners and may become fatigued with too many slides that don’t provide enough time to read.

Let deaf students customise their captions

Deaf students may be reliant on captioning and lip-reading to access learning, but both methods can risk an increase in eye strain and fatigue. 

To promote good eye health, show students how to adjust their screen glare using light mode, dark mode or sepia tone using Caption.Ed. This way, they’ll have some degree of control over caption sizes. And when they’re able to adjust caption sizes, it will support them to gain faster access to the information they need.

Help students create the right environment for learning

Encourage students who are deaf or who have hearing loss to consider the conditions in which they’ll conduct their studies and learning. Their learning environment should have low levels of background noise and avoid any distractions. Since they’re visual learners, their screen size should be large enough to accommodate a mixture of live video, captions, and slide presentations. 

Deaf students often use assistive technology to support their hearing, but there are some that may benefit from using headsets to engage in online learning. Doing so can channel sound into their ears for better audio quality and avoid them struggling to hear against any background noise or interruptions. Likewise, teachers should invest in headsets with noise cancelling microphones which can reduce echo and noise disruption for students who are tuning in.

Record your content

Make sure that when you record your lecture content, you are making the learning materials accessible. Andy Eachus explains a few ways in which you can do this:

  • Use a headset when recording your teaching material
  • Be conscious of colour and contrast
  • Allow plenty of time for students to read text on screen
  • Reduce background noise, such as background music in videos
  • Ensure you’re providing the highest accuracy of captions with Caption.Ed
  • Circulate a transcript of the recorded content afterwards

A great way to support deaf students is through Caption.Ed

Caption.Ed is an assistive learning tool designed to improve accessibility for students and faculty. It works across all platforms and VLEs and allows users to customise captions and select their preferred screen mode, e.g. sepia, dark and light. 

Deaf students, or those with hearing loss, depend on several strategies to access online teaching and learning. And since they’re visual learners, real-time captions followed by downloadable and editable transcriptions will give learners the right type of access. But by introducing Caption.Ed, you’ll also save lecturers time and resources. 

Request a call from our sales team and ask them how you can get Caption.Ed into your HE institution.

Book a free trial - discuss your requirements with Caption.Ed's friendly sales team