1 Ca' Foscari University (ITALY)
2 Universitaet Klagenfurt (AUSTRIA)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN21 Proceedings
Publication year: 2021
Pages: 2111-2117
ISBN: 978-84-09-31267-2
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2021.0478
Conference name: 13th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 5-6 July, 2021
Location: Online Conference
During the last two decades, Europe has witnessed a huge application of ICT and e-content in the vocational and educational training sectors. Due to the restrictions on personal contact caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of e-learning tools has increased even more and there is an urgent need for digital education opportunities. Although lifelong e-learning is more important than ever, suitable opportunities for deaf and hard of hearing people are still scarce.

Hearing people often believe that texts or close captions are enough to make online materials accessible. However, due to a lack of bilingual education in most countries, the majority of deaf people still has not fully mastered their national written language. Deaf people are therefore mostly excluded from using existing e-learning courses, as the contents are not fully comprehensible to them. In contrast, sign language is not only completely accessible, but also the first or preferred language for many deaf people. Therefore it is vital to offer them e-learning in their own visual language.

During earlier projects, we noticed that many deaf adults lacked a basic knowledge about languages and how they work. Being aware of the general properties of languages, as well as their forms and functions, aids people in learning any language and/or improving their language skills. This is especially important for deaf people for whom even the spoken language of their home country is often a second language and who frequently struggle to learn foreign languages.

We decided to approach this problem with the Erasmus+ project “Deaf Language Awareness”, which addresses the need for accessible e-learning material suitable for deaf adults, while enhancing language awareness amongst deaf people. It provides deaf people with bilingual e-courses where all content is presented both in the national sign language and the national written language. The e-courses cover 18 topics related to language awareness, massively exploiting visual resources such as pictures, animations and sign language videos.

The e-courses have been developed with Articulate Storyline 3: a software which allows the designer to create customized interactive multimedia materials, ranging from animations to exercises, without needing any programming skills. The finished HTML5 courses may be viewed on different devices (PC, tablet, smartphone) - the program will automatically adapt the contents according to each device - or integrated into a Learning Management System (LMS).

We developed the contents first, then designed the e-courses (each of the four partner countries was responsible for 4-5 courses). These were then translated into the other three languages, using an in-built translation feature offered by Articulate Storyline. Adhering to the guiding principle "Nothing about us without us", each national team involves deaf consultants who are co-responsible for the translation into sign language as well as checking the understandability of the contents and the finished courses. Although the work on the courses is still going on, it has been affected by COVID-19, making face-to-face meetings and the filming of the sign language videos in a professional studio temporarily impossible.

Our goal is that not only will deaf people profit from the "Deaf Language Awareness" courses, but that this design will also offer a model for similar courses in other languages as well as on other topics.
Sign language, e-learning, deaf people, language awareness, linguistics.