Podcasting and Accessibility

Here I am late on a Friday afternoon that has been filled with meetings … all of them left a good taste in my mouth however … and trust me, that is strange.  Things kicked off this morning at 8 with a great conversation that I will save for another day … left that and went to the Web 2006 Conference Planning Committee meeting to discuss a proposal that a colleague and I are discussing — we’re actually thinking of a position paper we are working on as a talk — Web 2.0 and the Higher Education Enterprise.  From there it was off to a meeting with two members of our Emerging Technologies group to discuss the position paper and just geek out a while on social software, where we are headed, and that sort of thing.  Last meeting of the morning was a lunch meeting with members of my staff at the Penn State World Campus that jumped all over the place, but left me feeling really good about what they are thinking about — the whole morning was fun and enlightening.

The afternoon kicked off with a race back to the building where all my stuff was this morning to meet with the Office of Disabilities Services to discuss podcasting.  As we look to address this growing need at an enterprise level I am talking to everyone to make sure we play nicely with all the kids (we are talking enterprise at the end of the day).  A few people here in my group have been very vocal about the issue of accessibility and how it relates to podcasting.  At first it makes you wonder how people can be bent out of shape that when are offering another way to get at content … but then step back and the picture looks a little different.  If I am a student with a distinct disability and I can’t take advantage of the service, does it place me in a negative position in class?  If my classmates can review lectures before an exam and I can’t take advantage of them then we have just created a nasty situation?

The people here at the University take these questions very seriously.  They are very accommodating to all members of our audiences and that is great.  We walked away agreeing to aggressively pursue options, answers, and ultimately a solution.

I guess this is a recount of a long day, but also a shot over the bow of the “podcasting in education” ship to get us talking about this as a community.  What is happening at other schools to overcome this?  How do we provide additional channels for content in rich media format, while addressing the needs of our audiences?  I am very curious to hear responses … ideas, or just conversation on the topic.  Any takers … and please stop making me look pathetic (no jokes) when I beg for reaction and get nothing.  This is a serious issue.  Any help?

3 thoughts on “Podcasting and Accessibility

  1. I have been pondering this question myself for some time now. The problem is that it is very hard to tell if a ‘coursecast’ or ‘podcast’ or ‘blehcast’ actually gives all students an advantage or just some or none. Do students with learning disabilities benefit from having the lecture recorded more than students without diagnosed disabilities? Do students with disabilities respond differently to different types of multi-media in the class (just like everyone else)? I can think of a few disabilities that would. I think its important to focus on the positive effects on students with disabilities as well as identify the potential pitfalls.

    Obviously deaf students would find a podcast useless but the question of does that put them at a disadvantage is really difficult to figure out – especially if the prof makes his notes available to that student. That student already would find lectures a challenge as well as group work that requires verbal interaction.

    I have yet to actually come to some sort of conclusion myself and given the lack of podcasts on our campus it hasn’t become an issue yet but I think before anything is decided on podcasting here we will need to discuss the issue with the students that are effected and address their needs on a case by case basis. Perhaps offering more ways to learn and different types of media addresses the needs of all students differently and that in itself is a huge win for all students, not just those with disabilities.

  2. Well, just like a radio is useless for the deaf, it has use for everyone else that can hear. I mean, that logic makes no sense because if you are worried that you’ll always be leaving someone out, you have to just understand that you WILL always leave people out when it comes to a technology. The key is that there are so many people that WOULD use Podcasting to enrich their learning, were it available for them to do so. It needs to be made available, especially since infiltrating an entertainment device with education content would be a huge win for society, in general.

  3. Jesse and Chris … thank you so much for your thoughtful responses. This is lonely territory. Everyone I talk to in power positions seem to want to take the “wait and see” approach. As we address this I will share what Penn State is thinking, if you all promise to do the same.

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