Deaf Studies SIF II Elearning Multi modal digital learning objects Irish Sign Language
Nolan, Brian and Leeson, Lorraine, Signs of access in a digital world: online delivery of deaf studies curricula in Ireland at third level, INTED 2009, Valencia, Spain, 9-12 March 2009, 2009
Irish Sign Language (ISL), an indigenous language of Ireland, is recognized by the European Union as a natural
language. It is a language separate from the other languages used in Ireland, including English, Irish, and, in Northern
Ireland, British Sign Language. Some 5,000 Deaf people use ISL. Given the history of suppression of signed languages
across the EU, the average Deaf person leaves school with a reading age of 8.5 to 9 years. Given this, it is no surprise
that Deaf people are the most under-represented of all disadvantaged groups at third level. This poses two challenges: (1)
getting Deaf people into third level and (2) presenting education in an accessible form.
Two institutions, Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and the Institute for Technology, Blanchardstown, Dublin (ITB) have
partnered to create a unique elearning environment based on MOODLE as the learning management system, in the
delivery of Deaf Studies programmes at TCD. This partnership delivers third level programmes to students in a way that
resolves problems of time, geography and access, maximizing multi-functional uses of digital assets across our
programmes. Students can take courseware synchronously and asynchronously. We have built a considerable digital
asset and plan to re-architect our framework to avail of current best practice in digital repositories with learning objects
vis-à-vis ISL. Our digital assets include a corpus of ISL, the ‘Signs of Ireland Corpus’ which is one of the largest, most
richly annotated in the world. We have operated online delivery since 2005, hosted by ITB, and in early 2008 were
successful in attracting significant Irish government funding to expand delivery of a series of undergraduate diplomas to
degree level nationwide under the Strategic Innovation Fund, Cycle II. The hallmark of this project is the delivery of
blended learning, maximizing ICT in the teaching and learning of ISL. It is important to note that there are currently no
other universities delivering Deaf Studies programmes with this degree of online content internationally. Thus, this
programme and its associated research is cutting edge innovation in its philosophy, its rich content and its utilization of
Signed languages, by their nature, are visual-gestural languages, which (unlike spoken languages) do not have a written
form. Given this, the online content is required to be multi-modal in nature and we utilize rich-media learning objects in
our delivery. This presents a number of serious and important challenges. Specific challenges include:
• Universal design in an online curriculum for Deaf students
• Identifying what aspects of ISL learning can best be supported & assessed online
• Assessing signed language interpreting skill in an online context
• Decisions regarding ISL annotation & mark-up standards
• Using the Signs of Ireland corpus in blended learning contexts
• Leveraging a corpus within digital learning objects in a MOODLE environment
• Architecture of a digital learning environment to support ISL learning
• Issues of assessment in an elearning context
We are instigating a range of doctoral level studies linked to this project, focusing on the deployment of rich digital
media as learning objects to support online delivery of Deaf Studies, the online assessment of ISL, and the morpho-phonological interface.
Please note: There is a known bug in some browsers that causes an
error when a user tries to view large pdf file within the browser window.
If you receive the message "The file is damaged and could not be
repaired", please try one of the solutions linked below based on the
browser you are using.
Items in TARA are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.