The Liberated Learning consortium is a group of universities in North America, Asia, Europe, and Australasia incorporating this assistive technology into their courses. As defined on their website, the Liberated Learning concept is founded on two interrelated applications:
- using speech recognition technology to automatically transcribe spoken language and display it as readable text
- using speech recognition to produce accessible, multimedia notes
The project began 2 decades ago at the Atlantic Centre of Research, Access, and Support for Students with Disabilities at St. Mary's University of Halifax. Three professors worked with voice recognition software for a semester and then introduced it into their classrooms where their students for the first time could see a lecture as it was delivered. [To find out more of the history of the Liberated Learning Project click here.]
Today the 18 international partners of the Liberated Learning Consortium are working with the IBM ViaScribe through a Joint Study Agreement between St. Mary's and IBM.
That's great news for traditional students. But how can this work for distance learners?
The Neil Squire Society of Canada is working with the Liberated Learning Consortium to find a way to make this transcription tool compatible with Wimba. A nonprofit organization, the Neil Squire Society is dedicated to using technology, knowledge, and passion to help Canadians with physical disabilities. I learned about this approach to making online education accessible from Chad Leaman, a reader who left a comment about his work for them. Chad sent me a demo of his Wimba bridge - a connection between the transcription software and Wimba's closed captioning. I enjoyed listening to it and seeing what the transcription looked like. There were some funny results like Wimba being written as "when but" and liberal as "liver". Tee hee. It reminded me of my own hearing mistakes. But truly I was impressed that there are people with the necessary technical skills working on these accessiblity solutions.
I also really liked this motto I found on the Neil Squire Society website - "Social Justice : We facilitate major change by example and by modelling an effective approach."
Next time, I'll wrap up this series of posts with information on universal design of instruction.