Rachel Kruzel, Territory Sales Director, Texthelp

Tools to support students where they learn & work online

With the move to distance learning, students are interacting with increased amounts of content online. This move comes with new challenges and adjustments to the way all students are completing their semester. 

Texthelp’s Read&Write toolbar provides access for students within the digital locations commonly used to host and teach online. These resources are key for many students to continue their learning and finish their term successfully. 

Update: The good news is that an integration with Respondus LockDown Browser is now available! This allows students to have access to Read&Write while taking exams. While some Read&Write features may not be exam-friendly, like an online dictionary that opens in your web browser, this new Read&Write “lockdown mode” allows access only to approved features such as text to speech, in order to maintain the integrity of the test itself.



For almost 1000 years, colleges and universities' primary method of teaching has been in-person classes. From the days of the first university in Bologna, Italy in 1088, followed by Oxford shortly after, the majority of classes have been held in person. Then, overnight colleges and universities across the world shut their doors and moved classes online. 

A variety of platforms and technologies have shepherded us into this transformation, with Learning Management Systems becoming a central tool for each institution. With much of the work students are doing integrated into these platforms, faculty and educators are using these to collate information, assess students, and provide the vehicle for discussion. 

The support needs of students aren’t tied to single places online, rather their need for support transcends to all the places faculty are expecting students to interact with content. With Read&Write, students can use these tools where they encounter content online to provide the access & support required for learning to continue successfully. 


Learning Management Systems

Learning Management Systems such as Blackboard and Canvas include a variety of content to teach and assess student learning. The Read&Write toolbar works within these systems by reading content aloud to students within course modules, instructions, quizzes, tests, assessments, or other places where text is visible. 

Writing supports such as Talk&Type (Dictation), CheckIt (Grammar/Spell Checker), and Prediction are available for students producing written content within the platform. Acting not only as an accessibility tool but helping to support all students to assess and proof their own assignments and ensure their progress during the term is not interrupted without the usual in person classes. 


Testing and exams

For students who rely on a peer reader or writer/scribe proctor for exams, Read&Write provides the tools they need to take exams from their own home. This removes the stress of trying to coordinate remote, proctored exams with a student peer or support staff member. Students can instead independently sit their exams with the toolbar they are familiar with and confident in using.  

Faculty and administrators concerned about test integrity and security have begun to adopt the use of secure online testing systems and programs at schools across the country at rapid rates. 

One of the most popular choices is Respondus LockDown Browser. While these programs help to prevent cheating by “locking down” the student’s device to only allow access to their test or exam, many of them also limit access to critical assistive technology tools that students rely on, including Read&Write. 

The good news is that an integration with Respondus LockDown Browser is now available which allows students to have access to Read&Write while taking exams. While some Read&Write features may not be exam-friendly, like an online dictionary that opens in your web browser, this new Read&Write “lockdown mode” allows access only to approved features such as text to speech, in order to maintain the integrity of the test itself. 


PDF and ePub readers

Beyond LMSs, PDFs and ePubs are synonymous with college coursework. Read&Write provides students the tools to read and interact with these traditionally inaccessible content types. 

The PDF Reader provides students with the ability to hear textbooks and course readings, read aloud. Along with additional tools such as the dictionary and highlighters providing avenues for increased comprehension and independent study support. 

Much of these same benefits are also available within the redesigned ePub Reader released in March 2020. With more publishers providing ePubs to students and campuses, having access to a tool that integrates seamlessly with these files is essential. With the Scan tool in Read&Write for Windows and Read&Write for Mac, students can take imaged PDF files and make them readable within seconds, providing all students with access to engage with this content. 


Websites and online content

Outside of the Learning Management Systems, textbooks or document readings, students might be completing projects, research, or papers by interacting with websites and other online content. 

The Read&Write toolbar “floats” within the Chrome browser, giving students access to the toolbar they are familiar with. Text-to-speech can be used to read websites aloud while the highlighters can be used for research purposes. Helping students collate & organize important information and easily pull into a report or essay for future reference. While, the Screen Masking tool helps students adjust to this increased time spent online by easing eye strain and screen fatigue. 


Keeping students learning

To help universities and colleges, two webinars focusing on supporting students on a college campus were recently released. Both explore the support tools discussed above, and provide the opportunity to see these tools in action. To help you better support students who may be reaching out in the coming weeks.

The first, Navigating the Changing Waters webinar, is solution focused and details how to support students with Read&Write. The second, Supporting Higher Ed Students in an Online Learning Environment, directly addresses supporting higher education students with the move to online learning. 

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With a domain or unlimited license of Read&Write, every student across an institution can get access in all of these learning environments and any others that faculty may have students work within. Providing support helps students finish their semester strong and continue to move through their educational journey, including when the doors open again on campus. 

Check out our webinars above to find out how to best use these tools to support your students no matter where they're learning and engaging with content online.

Comments

Justin Romack 9/7/2020 2:11:41 PM
Howdy! We're excited to see the recent announcement about Read&Write and Respondus. My biggest concern with the implementation is that it relies on Screen Shot Reader - and while text inside of an LMS should be clear enough to get accurate recognition ... I'm always nervous about relying on automated tools in an exam scenario. Can anyone speak to this concern and talk about the reliability of this option - especially given that it's being used in exam situations?

Deena Kimmel 9/9/2020 12:25:41 PM
Hi Justin - To give a bit of technical background regarding why Screenshot Reader is the available feature for read aloud, it's due to the nature of the Respondus LockDown Browser. Read&Write is able to read using the regular text to speech feature (i.e. the Play button) in other browsers like Chrome because of a Chrome extension that allows Read&Write to communicate with the browser itself. LockDown Browser is its own unique type of browser that does not allow extensions to be installed, and as a result of this Read&Write is not able to get the same level of communication with it. So Screenshot Reader is the best option for reading the text. Assuming it is not a handwritten exam or poor quality photocopy that would prove difficult for a computer reader, the Screenshot Reader has very high accuracy and is powered by ABBYY OCR engine which is an industry leader in OCR scanning. While there will always be room for concern about relying on technology to ensure the integrity, security and overall success of an exam, especially now with remote and distance learning it's the best way forward and offers a lot of benefits as well.

Patrice Wheeler 7/22/2020 7:11:46 PM
Hi Rachel,

This is tremendous news! Our campus has allowed faculty to use Respondus, as they feel the need, so we've been talking about how to ensure access for online exams with Respondus.
Also, is there an exam mode, of sorts, we can use, in our office, with online exams in Canvas, without Respondus? Even though our campus is pretty much all virtual, we may be proctoring some exams.
Thanks!!
Patrice

Deena Kimmel 7/23/2020 6:37:20 PM
Hi Patrice! Here is the response from Rachel:

I'm so glad you share in the excitement of this news rippling through higher education right now. If a student is taking an exam in Canvas, users can manually turn on the Lockdown Browser Mode to limit the Read&Write features available to just the Screenshot Reader and Screen Masking. This should give your office the security it needs for proctoring in person or virtually.

Fotoula Douros 6/8/2020 1:46:05 PM
Has there been an update on R&W being able to work in Respondus Lockdown? Referencing your article: The good news is Texthelp is working on an integration with Respondus LockDown Browser which will allow students to have access to Read&Write while taking exams.

Deena Kimmel 6/9/2020 1:08:33 PM
Hi Fotoula - The updated has not yet gone out. But please keep an eye on our blog and social networks for the announcement of the update. Thanks!

Vicky Chan 5/29/2020 1:11:35 PM
Hi there,

I hope this message finds you well.

I am messaging to ask if there is an expected date when the Read&Write “lockdown mode” is expected to be ready. As schools are online, and mid-terms are nearing, it would be great to have an approximate idea for when this would be available.

Many thanks,

Vicky

Deena Kimmel 5/29/2020 1:42:13 PM
Hi Vicky,

Unfortunately, we do not have an exact date at this time. But, we are hoping to be able to launch within the next few months. Please stay tuned as development progresses!

Thanks!

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