When classes returned to in-person instruction in the fall of 2021, there were a multitude of challenges faced by campus staff who support students, instructors, and the overall classroom experience. The number of students who needed captioning services to participate in class had grown exponentially while the resources to expand these services remained uncertain. These are the pivotal moments when collaboration between teams and innovative ideas can lead to positive solutions for everyone involved.
“We have grown so much over the last few years. We caption roughly 200 classes a week on campus and 75% of these classes are in Course Capture rooms. In the past I would have to run to different classrooms across campus to handle the different situations that would come up regarding Course Capture audio in the lecture halls, the Live Chat feature has been a game changer. Sometimes we have up to 10 classes going at one time so the ability to chat and get assistance quickly is really wonderful.”
~Trenna Davis, Realtime Captioning and ASL Communication Supervisor for DSP
A Hidden & Growing Need
The Disabled Students’ Program (DSP) offers services that provide inclusive and equitable access to educational opportunities for UC Berkeley students. The return to in-person instruction in August 2021 was full of new challenges, changes, and opportunities to improve the student learning experience. DSP faced a record number of accommodation requests, while also trying to navigate staffing and return to work challenges in a time when resources were tight.
DSP knew the ability to increase their real-time captioning was critical, being one of the fastest growing and most in-demand services they offer. How to increase their ability to deliver the service without actually having more captioners to perform their speech-to-text duties in-person was the challenge. Captioning can be done either with a captioner coming in-person to the classroom or via remote captioning using Course Capture software. Having Course Capture available allows for use of the built-in voice capture feature to be utilized as part of the technology in the room.
More Classrooms to Support Live Captioning
During the pandemic while students were working remotely, the Classroom Technology Services (CTS) team expanded video conferencing and Course Capture capabilities in several classrooms. As a result of this effort, the number of classrooms equipped with Course Capture nearly doubled from 57 to 111.
Prior to 2019, captioners primarily performed their duties in-person. Since 2020, captioners have also been able to caption remotely in classrooms that offer Course Capture. Now, Course Capture serves a dual purpose of recording lectures and providing a live feed for captioning with in-person operational support for instructors and DSP provided by the CTS team.
The increase in classrooms equipped with Course Capture, combined with a growing student population and an increasing awareness of DSP services, caused captioning requests to increase by 17% from 2019 to 2022. In parallel, tickets to the CTS Helpdesk to address audio issues (impeding remote captioning), increased by 702% during the same period. Prior to the pandemic, DSP would address these issues by running out to the classroom to troubleshoot. With the greater use of remote captioning, this was no longer a viable option.
An Unexpected Solution
The sudden increase in CTS tickets put more strain, and demand, on the CTS Helpdesk. CTS team members Kelly Chang and Natalie Montanez recognized this problem and sought to create an effective and responsive method for instructors to contact the CTS Helpdesk for real-time instructional support in the Zoom world - a Live Chat tool available on the Keep Teaching website
CTS successfully launched Live Chat, with outstanding collaboration from the Open Berkeley, Web Accessibility, Privacy Office, Information Security Office teams, and Research, Teaching, and Learning (RTL) administration. Live chat responds to instructors at groundbreaking speed, while also ensuring appropriate security requirements and high accessibility standards are met. Since its launch, CTS has resolved captioning issues in less time, provided more equitable service coverage around all corners of the campus, and freed up the CTS Helpdesk phone lines for other immediate classroom technology support requests. Captioners have also been able to follow up with the CTS team, get immediate response time, and report complex issues.
Screenshot of Live Chat widget in action.
Trenna Davis is the Realtime Captioning and ASL Communication Supervisor for DSP. When asked about how the increase in Course Capture classrooms and launch of the Live Chat feature has impacted her team, Trenna said, “We have grown so much over the last few years. We caption roughly 200 classes a week on campus and 75% of these classes are in Course Capture rooms. In the past I would have to run to different classrooms across campus to handle the different situations that would come up regarding Course Capture audio in the lecture halls, the Live Chat feature has been a game changer. Sometimes we have up to 10 classes going at one time so the ability to chat and get assistance quickly is really wonderful.”
Student employees Julian Chien and Hailey Jung from Classroom Technology Services respond to instructors over the phone help line with the newly added Live Chat widget, which rolled out in November 2020.
One IT in Action
This story exemplifies the importance of our One IT community who strive to work together toward solutions with our campus partners. Critical to the success of many of our campus projects is building a better sense of community, collaboration, and partnership to effectively and efficiently meet the needs of UC Berkeley students, faculty, and staff.
If you are interested in learning more about the Live Chat solution supported on the Open Berkeley platform, please complete this Live Chat interest form. Questions may also be directed to Alison Murray and Joel Engin