Academic journal article ASBBS E - Journal

An Analysis of Inclusiveness and Effectiveness of Accessible Multimedia Online Instructional Materials for Deaf and Hearing-Impaired Students

Academic journal article ASBBS E - Journal

An Analysis of Inclusiveness and Effectiveness of Accessible Multimedia Online Instructional Materials for Deaf and Hearing-Impaired Students

Article excerpt


This paper seeks to present the findings of cognitive neuroscientists on cross modal plasticity (CMP) and the cognitive theory of multimedia learning (CTMML) from cognitive and educational psychologists to show how instructional designers can develop more inclusive online multimedia instructional materials for deafrsighted, blind/hearing, and sighted/hearing students. The paper suggests that given our knowledge of cross modal plasticity, the principles of multimedia learning as validated by the CTMML (Mayer, 2001) for sighted/hearing learners can be replicated for blind and deaf learners. From the research findings on cross modal plasticity, it is postulated that blind/hearing (B/H) learners will avoid overloading the phonological loop during multimedia presentations by accessing their visual/spatial sketchpad using Braille. Deafrsighted (D/S) learners will avoid overloading their visual/spatial sketchpad by accessing their phonological loop through watching an America Sign Language (ASL) narration during the multimedia presentation, while sighted/hearing learners will use their phonological and visual/spatial sketchpads directly since they did not have any sensory impairment. The paper makes an intellectual contribution by using a multidisciplinary approach that integrates empirical research findings from cognitive and educational psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and information science. It also echoes the mandate of the American Individuals with Disability Act (IDEA) as amended in 1997 that requires students with disabilities to have frill access to all general education content.


Although most online multimedia instructional materials1 offered by institutions of higher learning are concurrently accessible to all students, limited empirical research is available on the relative effectiveness and inclusiveness of these online materials to blind/hearing (B/H), deaf/sighted (D/S), and sighted/hearing (S/H) students11. For example, research findings by cognitive and educational psychologists have shown that when two sensory channels (visual and auditory) are utilized simultaneously for presenting two sources of multimedia information, learning is enhanced, but when one sensory channel is utilized for presenting two sources of information, learning is harmed due to the amount of cognitive load placed on that sensory channel (Mayer, 2001).Thus, it is plausible that, since B/H and D/S learners rely mostly on one sensory channel, little is known on whether currently accessible online multimedia materials educe the same cognitive load from all learners-B/H, D/S, S/H, or whether observed differences in students' learning performance are due to the insensitivity of content designers to the unique needs of each learner group. The problem is that the current practice by educational institutions of just fulfilling mandated accessibility requirements for B/H or D/S students may not always mean provision of equitable and inclusive learning.

The challenge to faculty is to make reasonable accommodations by providing equal access to course materials and instruction to all students as required by law111 (Power-deFur & Orelove, 1997). This challenge is even more urgent for faculty teaching in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines; areas where students with disability are grossly underrepresented. The instructional methods and strategies implemented for online instructional materials must: (a) engage all students in meaningful learning, (b) reduce cognitive load on the students, and (c), meet stipulated course curriculum goals. Effective faculty instructors anticipate the learning difficulties their students may face in order to select/develop course materials and instructional practices that will foster meaningful learning and positive transfer (O'Neil, 2003; National Research Council, 2000). As well put by one interviewee in the Troiano (2003) study, the disabled student will be asking the faculty instructor:

"I have this disability, what can I do? …

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