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Supporting students in online teaching sessions

If you are involved in student learning or teaching, ensure that you are aware of the individual adjustments that your deaf and hard of hearing students may require and how these might be affected by online teaching practices. Remind students to update you if they experience challenges with accessing online teaching content. Be aware that not all disabled students will inform the University or request additional support, but they will still benefit from accessible and inclusive teaching.

The use of online audio and video communication tools for lectures, seminars, tutorials,  group work and assessments can present significant challenges for deaf and hard of hearing students but the advice below can help you to support your students to access their online teaching sessions.

 Advance preparation

  • Ensure that teaching materials (including presentation slides, glossaries, supplemental teaching materials) are provided in advance to students. This gives deaf and hard of hearing students the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the structure and content of the session beforehand, helping them to follow the content in practice when they may also be lip-reading or following captions.
  • Test the online communication platform you are using and familiarise yourself with the accessibility features (chat, captions, microphone mute, recording feature).
  • Adjusting the lighting can help those who are lip-reading, ensure that there are no shadows over your face and that you are facing the camera.

 Pace the session

  • Deaf and hard of hearing students may be doing a lot of multi-tasking to follow the content (e.g. lip-reading, reading captions, using their own assistive software/apps, looking at an interpreter etc.). Help them process the content of your teaching session by not speaking quickly and by pausing at regular intervals to check for understanding.
  • If you are asking participants to read/refer to information during the online session, ensure that you provide adequate time for deaf and hard of hearing students to do this before continuing.

 Use captions/subtitles

  • Using captions is beneficial for many learners, not just deaf and hard of hearing students, so use this function where possible to enhance the accessibility of your teaching for all students.
  • Be aware that the accuracy of automatic captions is not 100%, which is why it is important to incorporate the other communication practices included in this guidance.


  • Where possible, record online teaching sessions to allow students the opportunity to review parts of the session that were difficult to understand the first time. A recording can also be helpful if a student has any connection issues during the teaching session.

 Set communication ground rules

  • For discussion-focused sessions, ensure that the activity is well led, with clear communication principles explained from the start and reiterated when necessary throughout.
  • Establish communication ground rules to allow deaf and hard of hearing students to focus on one speaker or interaction at a time.
  • Establish turn-taking and participation rules such as using the “raise hand” feature or the chat function, and stating your name before speaking.
  • Request that participants try not to speak too quickly and demonstrate good practice by not speaking too quickly yourself.
  • Ask students to turn on their video only when they want to ask a question, this can improve the overall video quality of the call.
  • Similarly, remind students to have their microphone muted when they are not speaking to reduce background noise.
  • Advise students who might be using assistive listening devices that they may need to connect their computer’s audio directly to a personal device, such as a hearing aid or cochlear implant, or to noise-reducing headphones.

 Follow up

  • For students that require communication support, find out what worked well and what could be improved for next time.
  • If not already available, ensure that the relevant teaching materials for the session are provided online, this includes any actions, recommended reading/learning resources or key discussion points.
  • Make recordings of the online teaching session available online, so that deaf and hard of hearing students can review any parts of the session that were difficult to understand the first time.

 Useful Resources

  • The Digital Practice website offers staff and students support, development opportunities and resources for effective online teaching, working and studying.
  • All staff at the University who teach or support learning can sign up to the ‘Adapt Your Teaching for Online Delivery’ course, this is a bespoke self-paced course designed to support the design and delivery of online teaching and learning.
  • The Organisational Development and Professional Learning (ODPL) team have information and resources to support your Digital Practice.
  • Find out more about being Digitally Inclusive including accessibility fundamentals and how to create accessible content.
  • The Inclusive Learning & Teaching Project explains the commitment from the University to ensuring that teaching meets the needs of our diverse student population.