iSchool Offers Flexibility — and Unexpected Benefits — for Deaf Students

iStudent Blog

Published: November 19, 2015 by Allison Randall Gatt

SJSU’s completely online program makes it possible for so many students to get their degrees as they work, care for families and squeeze in time for friends and even laundry. I know I’m grateful that the commute to class means shuffling down the hall to my computer rather than gathering in a chilly lecture hall.

Some students find even more reasons to like the iSchool’s online program, because the format meets their unique learning needs. Deaf or Hard of Hearing students Danica Rice and Melissa Schack Rupp find an online program much better for learning in a world without sound. For some Deaf students, having to negotiate class schedules as well as how to get their lectures can be really stressful. An online program that’s well equipped with a variety of technology options for getting lectures and course materials makes it easier.

An Accessible Education
Online, iSchool students who are Deaf can find education as accessible as it is for anyone else. Captioning is available for Collaborate rooms, and Blackboard IM and email enable all students to communicate smoothly. An online program makes life easier in terms of scheduling, too. I know that with my own family schedules of school, dentist appointments, birthday parties and play dates, I need the ability to communicate and take in lectures at different times of day and even in different locations.

“Professors are quick to accommodate me,” says Schack Rupp, “and even go out of their way to make sure my needs are met. Other students are understanding, too, and I communicate with them mostly through Blackboard IM, Canvas mail, Google Docs and email.”

Schack Rupp works as a genealogist and heir-locator, and volunteers her time at the Utah State Archives. When she enrolled at the iSchool, she was attracted by the ease of an entirely online program and the variety of classes. “I am still not fully comfortable with dealing with my hearing loss in a new environment,” she says. “The variety of classes makes it possible for me to explore new areas to see just what I like and what I am good at.”

Most of us can relate to these decisions with or without a challenge such as hearing loss to overcome. With synchronous and asynchronous lectures available on Blackboard, Panopto and YouTube, we can absorb lectures, experience the wide variety of materials our iSchool instructors have to share, and even get a look at those instructors (they’re human, too!). As it turns out, captioning is good for all students, not just those who are hard of hearing. Written transcripts of the lectures are also nice, and I have quite a collection accumulated in my class folders.

“I like being able to attend a live session with a captionist there to assist me,” says Schack Rupp. “It makes it possible for me to experience the class like any other student.” I am rarely able to make live scheduled sessions of anything, since so often my children are the boss of my schedule, but I love the fact that I can browse through recordings of classes, career colloquia and presentations by student groups at any time.

Arranging Accommodations
Rice, an MLIS candidate who lives in Seattle and works at the National Archives as an archives technician, is taking two classes while working full-time. She had originally looked at a program closer to home, but after relocating to a different state, she decided to look into the online degree at the iSchool.

“People at the iSchool were very willing to make accommodations for my being Deaf, and Vicki Robison told me they had captioning,” says Rice. Since starting her coursework at the iSchool, Rice has moved three more times. Imagine if the school she chose hadn’t been fully online.

Rice’s advice to Deaf students: “Be sure to send an email or call your professors as a courtesy so they can arrange in advance for transcripts or captions of their lectures.” The iSchool staff is ready to provide you with the best technology resources, especially Dr. Sue Alman, the iSchool’s liaison with the SJSU Accessible Education Center, who is the best person to contact with if you’re a student in need of captioning.

Don’t be afraid to ask, because a wealth of information and assistance is right there at your fingertips. No matter what your own learning needs may be—captioning if you’re Deaf, additional resources if you’re still improving your English language skills, or simply a flexible schedule as an antidote to a hectic life—the iSchool has staff and resources at the ready to make your graduate school experience a success. 

To read further about more of the great help resources offered by the iSchool, check out:
The iSchool’s Library Liaison Answers Your Research Needs

Making Technology Assistance and Resources Easy to Find at the iSchool

image courtesy of Stuart Miles