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Computer-based Signing Accommodations: Comparing a Recorded Human with an Avatar


  • Lynch School of Education, Boston College
  • Technology and Assessment Study Collaborative, Boston College
  • Nimble Assessment Systems


Many students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing are eligible for a signing accommodation for state and other standardized tests. The signing accommodation, however, presents several challenges for testing programs that attempt to administer tests under standardized conditions. One potential solution for many of these challenges is the use of computer-based test delivery that integrates recordings of signed presentation of test content into the test. In addition to standardizing conditions, computer-based delivery holds potential to decrease the cost of developing recordings of signed presentation by using avatars rather than humans. However, because avatars are relatively new and are not as expressive or lifelike as humans, they may not be as affective as humans in presenting content in a clear and interpretable manner. The study presented here employed a randomized trial to compare the effect that a computer-based provision of the signed accommodation using a recorded human versus a signing avatar had on students' attitudes about performing a mathematics test and on their actual test performance. This study found that students generally reported that it was easy to perform a mathematics test on computer, and that both the recorded human and the signing avatar tools were easy to use and to understand. Students also reported a strong preference for performing future tests on computer, and generally preferred using the recorded human and the avatar for future tests rather than a DVD. While students also reported that they preferred the recorded human rather than the signing avatar, this preference did not affect test performance. The use of the recorded human and the avatar did not have affects on either the amount of time required to complete the test items or on students' performance on the test items. Implications for future research are discussed in light of these findings and the shortcomings of this study.


Computer-based Testing, Test Accommodations, Deaf And Hard-of-hearing


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