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Sign language instructor’s use of online video leads to more learning for students

Robin Shay
Robin Shay, continuing lecturer of American Sign Language

When Travis Endicott decided to learn American Sign Language (ASL), he questioned whether instructors at Purdue would be able to give him the individual attention he needed to master the visual language.

“My fear coming to school was that I was going to be in these huge classes and not get any face-to-face time with instructors,” Endicott says.

Currently enrolled in his fourth ASL class, the senior has developed an advanced level of proficiency in sign language and is seeking out opportunities to apply his skills. He attributes part of his success to ASL instructor Robin Shay’s innovative use of online video, which helped alleviate his concern of being lost in the crowd and increases opportunities for students to learn and practice sign skills outside of class.

Since 2012, Shay has made use of Kaltura, a Web-based application for sharing and viewing videos, to evaluate students’ language abilities through video assignments created via webcam. The technology allows students to work in a comfortable environment at their own pace and receive personalized feedback on their signing skills.

“There are so many different things that you have to learn and physically convey with sign language,” says Endicott, who prefers to compose his video responses at an ITaP computer lab. “Instead of having a class full of 20 people, the video assignments simulate the one-on-one aspect of ASL and let the instructor give each student feedback on ways to improve.”

Using Kaltura, instructors and students can upload media for online streaming to users across multiple platforms, including mobile devices. When integrated with Blackboard Learn, the application allows for easy sharing of video content, such as lectures or video clips, and the creation of video assignments or assessments. Users can upload, publish, search and share videos directly from Blackboard Learn.

“The big advantage of Kaltura is that it’s hosted externally, which means video files don’t eat up space on Blackboard,” ITaP educational technologist Ben Holmes says. “Kaltura’s player can also automatically detect the device a viewer is using and display the correct video stream, so instructors don’t have to worry about compatibility issues for students.”

Working with Holmes, Shay has uploaded nearly 1,500 videos to Kaltura. She uses many of the videos to create assessments in Blackboard Learn that test students on their ASL knowledge and comprehension. Instead of multiple choice questions or matching problems made up of text, Shay records videos of herself signing questions and possible answers in her assessments, arranging quizzes and tests into a series of videos. Students click on a video to view it superimposed on the screen and click in the appropriate box to choose an answer. Once submitted, the assessments are automatically graded by Blackboard.

Though the objectives of her ASL courses have changed little over time, Shay says Kaltura has created the opportunity for deeper learning because practice and skill enhancement is no longer limited to class time. The results are apparent in her students’ abilities.

“There’s more information available outside of class with the videos, so students are better prepared when they come to class,” Shay says. “I’ve noticed a big difference in student learning with this technology, and it has actually made me more creative and enthusiastic about teaching. I can now easily develop assignments that match what’s going on in class, and that adds a little bit of fun.”

Beyond customized assignments, Shay is in the process of developing pre-class lecture videos, which she envisions students watching before class to free up more class time for discussion, further increasing opportunities for students to use their sign skills.

Instructors can learn more about Kaltura and how to use it within Blackboard Learn assessments during ITaP’s finals week training series, “Enhancing Your Course for Spring,” scheduled Monday, Dec. 10 through Wednesday, December 12. Attendees are encouraged to come to one or multiple sessions by registering through the ITaP training calendar.

For more information on technology tools available to instructors, visit ITaP’s teaching and learning website or contact ITaP’s teaching and learning group at tlt-consulting@purdue.edu.

Writer: Jonathan Hines, technology writer, ITaP, 765-496-7998, hines18@purdue.edu

Sources: Robin Shay, continuing lecturer, American Sign Language, Dept. of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences, shayra@purdue.edu

Travis Endicott, tendicot@purdue.edu

Ben Holmes, educational technologist, ITaP, 765-496-3280, ben@purdue.edu

Last updated: Nov. 19, 2013