As the leading open-source platform provider for K12, Higher Education and Professional development, Open Assessment Technologies (OAT) is committed to providing tools that make assessment accessible to all learners, regardless of their stage or ability level. Since 2015, TAO has partnered with Texthelp to support students with reading support needs, such as text to speech read aloud, by embedding Texthelp’s SpeechStream solution within TAO assessments.
We recently caught up with Nicola Branagh, Manager of Business Development at Texthelp, to discuss the SpeechStream tool and the assessment accessibility challenges that TAO and SpeechStream can address in a complete platform solution.
TAO: Can you tell our readers a little bit about Texthelp?
Texthelp: Founded in 1996, headquartered in the UK and with locations in the US and Australia, Texthelp’s vision is for a world where difference, disability or language are no longer barriers. We believe that technology has an important role to play in helping to remove barriers to learning.
Texthelp’s SpeechStream solution embeds reading and writing support tools, including text-to-speech read aloud with synchronous highlighting, translation, word prediction and other support tools into digital learning and assessment content. This gives all learners an equal opportunity to learn and provides often essential accommodations for learners and test-takers of all abilities.
Texthelp’s world leading assistive and language learning software is used worldwide by schools, colleges, universities, major educational publishers, government bodies, professional associations and corporations. Texthelp’s success and reliability can be evidenced by the fact that our software tools are used by almost 30 million students and adults across 59 countries globally.
TAO: How did the relationship between Texthelp and Open Assessment Technologies first begin?
Texthelp: Open Assessment Technologies (OAT, home of TAO) is committed to producing inclusive products and believes that accessibility should be a natural part of product development. Their passionate and inclusive product design advocates working within the organisation ensure that accessibility is an organic part of the design, engineering and UX processes.
This commitment to inclusive design coupled with an improving accessibility and disability inclusion legislative landscape led OAT to Texthelp in 2015. Our SpeechStream product was designed specifically for digital learning and assessment publishers, and its unique functionality enabled OAT to bring a tailored accessibility solution to the TAO platform in a simple and seamless way.
TAO: How have our teams worked together to provide a solution that meets a wider group of people and supports a more diverse range of needs?
Texthelp: The Development teams at Texthelp and OAT worked in close collaboration to ensure a straightforward and seamless integration between TAO and SpeechStream. As a result of the extensive technical experience of both firms, OAT has been able to deliver the best SpeechStream and TAO user experience possible.
SpeechStream’s flexible reading and writing solution supports tools including but not limited to:
- Text-to-Speech read aloud with synchronous highlighting
- A dictionary and picture dictionary
These tools are available within TAO testing to help meet the needs and preferences of a wider group of students. SpeechStream’s tools can be especially beneficial to those with learning disabilities, helping them overcome decoding and comprehension challenges, as well as those with varying needs and preferences, such as auditory learners and English Language Learners.
SpeechStream’s functionality aligns with Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles by presenting information in different ways, addressing learning variability and reducing barriers, enabling all learners to engage in meaningful learning.
TAO: How does the SpeechStream tool address accessibility challenges in the education/digital testing market?
Texthelp: Educating and assessing learners online can enable opportunities for delivering learning and assessment content in a manner that is accessible to all students, including those with disabilities. However, maintaining quality and validity in digital assessments is paramount, and SpeechStream supports these requirements by delivering assessments and learning content in a secure, consistent and accurate manner.
SpeechStream enables digital learning and assessment providers to create a scalable and welcoming digital environment for a wider range of students by delivering assessments and learning content in multiple ways, depending on the needs of the learner. This can be done in a secure manner, because the audio is delivered with the assessment or learning item.
Embedded Text-to-Speech read aloud provides a consistent and standardised way to provide audio support versus traditional methods of using a human reader, which can introduce variances.
SpeechStream provides the organising body with tools to make pronunciation adjustments to ensure accurate delivery of their content, which removes the need to hire a content expert.
TAO: Could you share some cases for using the SpeechStream tool in online assessment?
Texthelp: Texthelp has been partnering with OAT on a high-stakes assessment project in Italy — covering Italian, Maths and English content — since 2018. Through this project the SpeechStream support tools are available within assessments delivered in the TAO platform to middle and high school students in Italy.
Having these audio and language support tools embedded within TAO assessments help remove barriers to assessing the knowledge test takers have acquired, whether those test takers are in Primary, Secondary, Higher Education, or Workplace.
To find our more about Speechstream visit https://www.texthelp.com/en-gb/products/speechstream/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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