Statistics is central to research in most STEM disciplines. Thus, introductory statistics is a gateway course in the development of students into research scientists. Deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) learners often receive less attention from mainstream instructors who believe that, with sign language interpreters and other support services, DHH students have equal access to learning in their classrooms. Yet access often falls short of "equal" due to variations of instructional skill, interpreter knowledge of the discipline, and the lack of alternative representations of content. DHH learners have historically received less attention from researchers due to a perception that results would benefit only this small group. As a result, improvements in access, success and retention in STEM majors for this population continue to be a concern. Project Thinking CAP: Communication, Access, & Persistence Among Deaf And Hard Of Hearing Students In Foundational Statistics Courses is investigating the potential of Supplemental Online Learning Tools (SOLTs) to enhance the academic success of DHH students in foundational statistics courses. SOLTs integrate visual and textual representations of concepts with explanations in sign language, voice and captioning. Core objectives include 1) develop a pilot collection of SOLTs and 2) test the efficacy of these videos. Along the way, a third objective has emerged: Embed the SOLTs into an interactive web-based experience in which students can obtain, describe, and make inferences from samples within a relevant and appropriate context.
In the first year of this exploratory project, statistical concepts were selected using multiple data sources and encompass concepts that are built upon throughout the introductory statistics course. The design of each SOLT incorporates a series of micro-videos that breaks a topic into parts, and explains the terms and concepts needed to understand the topic. Pilot videos created for the first topic were reviewed by focus groups for accessibility. During the second year, the team developed practices for creating videos to enhance accessibility for DHH students, produced additional videos, and designed an educational gaming framework to link the videos to applications and engage students. The third year of the project is focused on development of a working prototype for the interactive experience, creating further SOLT videos, and testing the efficacy of the these tools. SOLTs will serve as stand-alone tools and tutorials within the interactive experience. This web-based tool will be mobile compatible and incorporate visuals that align with those in the SOLTs.
This project has the potential to increase learning for DHH students in statistics, increase the number of DHH students who continue to pursue statistics or other STEM disciplines, and contribute to diversity within STEM workforce careers. Other learners may also benefit from visual representation of complex concepts. It is estimated that 65% of the population are visual learners, as are half of all students in special education programs. The potential for the broader application of SOLTs and interactive experiences in other STEM subjects for DHH or other students may increase knowledge of how diverse groups of visual learners access complex concepts.
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