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Collaborative Research: Advancing STEM Online Learning by Augmenting Accessibility with Explanatory Captions and AI: 2119531

Principal Investigator: Meng Jiang
CoPrincipal Investigator(s):
Organization: University of Notre Dame
NSF Award Information: Collaborative Research: Advancing STEM Online Learning by Augmenting Accessibility with Explanatory Captions and AI
Videos are a popular medium for online learning, in which captions are essential for increasing accessibility to students for effective learning. This research identifies two types of video captions: typical closed captions and explanatory captions. Closed captions are a text representation of the spoken part of a video. Explanatory captions are created to give students insights into the visual, textual, and audio content of a video. Existing technologies have focused on automatically generating or improving the quality of closed captions. For STEM learning, explanatory captions have the potential to play a new role in learning. This project will work to devise effective Q/A mechanisms and effective interaction designs that enable students and instructors to generate explanatory captions for STEM videos in a collaborative manner. The proposed technologies will augment accessibility and learning experiences for under-served populations, including the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing (DHH) community, made up of 48 million Americans, while also improving comprehension for non-native English speakers, even those without hearing impairments. Evaluation sites include both Gallaudet University, the world’s only liberal arts university dedicated exclusively to educating DHH learners, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which has the largest international student population amongst U.S. public institutions and supports students with disabilities in inclusive learning environments.

This interdisciplinary research draws from and contributes to both computer science and learning science, and accessibility practices in the following areas. The first step is discovering new knowledge about how accessibility-enabled videos (with explanatory and closed captions) broaden the participation of under-served populations in STEM learning. This will provide the foundation for developing a theory of how explanatory captions can contribute to learning and effective mechanisms, based on crowdsourced human contributions and machine learning algorithms, to create these explanatory captions for STEM videos at different learning stages (e.g., preparing, tracking, trouble-shooting, and reflecting). The investigators will then use the theory to create a novel chatbot that enables knowledge sharing for students with diverse backgrounds. Theoretical frameworks–ICAP (interactive, constructive, active, and passive) and Community of Inquiry will guide the evaluation of how explanatory captions and chatbots can contribute to learning. Finally, the team will acquire empirical understanding of how augmented accessibility with AI agents (e.g., chatbots) impacts students’ and instructors’ practices.

This award reflects NSF’s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation’s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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