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Demystifying the DECT Grant [TRANSCRIPT]

KELLY MAHONEY: Thank you, everyone, for joining us for today’s session on demystifying the DECT grant, presented by 3Play’s very own Bryan Collier. Before we dive into the presentation, I’d like to introduce myself, I’ll take care of a couple of housekeeping items, and I’ll give you a quick overview of what we can expect from today.

So my name is Kelly Mahoney. I’m on the marketing team here at 3Play Media. I’ll be moderating today’s session. And just a quick self-description– I’m a white woman in my mid 20s with long brown hair, and I’m wearing a black shirt today.

And finally, I’d like to briefly review the agenda for today so you’re prepared for what we’re going to run through. We’ll start off with an introduction to the DECT grant basics so that we’re all on the same page, we’re going to review eligibility and some of the key components, we’ll discuss access to funds and various upload methods, and then finally we’ll open the floor to Q&A with all the remaining time that we have.

So that’s everything you’re going to hear from me for now. And with all of that taken care of, I’ll pass things over to Bryan, who has a wonderful presentation prepared for us today.

BRYAN COLLIER: Thanks, Kelly. Really excited to see some familiar names already in the chat coming in. I saw SoCal– wish I was there as opposed to the Northeast, although we do have nice weather today.

My name is Bryan Collier. I’ve been here at 3Play for almost two years now– help oversee the EDU vertical. Have been very heavily involved with the DECT grant in supporting California Community Colleges since I arrived here based on my background in education, which is where I’ve spent most of my life. So description about me– a middle-aged white male, short brown hair, wearing a checkered navy and white dress shirt.

We’ll go ahead and get started here, and really looking forward to an engaging conversation. So starting off with the DECT grant– it’s an acronym, but it actually stands for Distance Education Captioning and Transcription grant. It supports the 116 different California Community Colleges, and it’s really designed to expand access for distance education– which, fun fact, is the fastest growing segment in California Community Colleges. If you’re here, I’m pretty sure you probably already know that.

From a funding standpoint though, it is funded through the Chancellor’s Office. And it’s really meant to improve and serve all students, but also in some instances as well, the general public. For a long time it has been focused specifically on accommodation need, but there’s some recent changes that we’re going to jump into here as well, as they’ve expanded that a little bit further.

So why do you need this funding? I think first and foremost, being in education myself– I’m sure a lot of the audience is as well, that’s why you’re here– budgeting is always tricky. Never enough of it, I think. So this is really where earmarks a lot to ensure that students are getting the absolute best but also equal access.

So the first bullet really applies to the longstanding history of DECT, and that is to provide equal access for students, particularly within distance education. Last– well, it was 2022 now, actually in the fall, they expanded it from requiring just accommodations, for student accommodations and requiring that for enrollment in a course, to actually expanding it out to these next three bullet points.

So thinking more about the innovation and the efforts to create more media-rich video has really blown up during COVID and beyond. It’s helpful in learning and retention for students and engagement, so ensuring that there’s support there to make that equal access for all. Supporting mission critical technology enhancements as well. So this is also another component where we start to see technology continue on the rise, new innovation coming through. And it’s about keeping things as fresh as possible.

Last is the state and federal legal requirements. So going back to– I think, thinking about some of the legal landscape, California has been known for their number of legal lawsuits across the board. It’s one of the more heavier legislative states. 508 compliance is requiring of pre-recorded video to have captioning, requires live captioning as well as audio description. So we’re going to cover those three things, which are all now covered by the grant here.

So from meeting with many folks so far, the question always is, what qualifies? So thinking back to what the acronym DECT– the distance education– actually begins to talk about is distance education. So whether that is online, hybrid, hyflex, courses can be either synchronous or asynchronous, credit or non-credit. So these go into both components there. The only thing that is not covered is no-credit classes, which we’ll get into here in just a few minutes on the next page.

Other component is if you’re using anything, especially for the hyflex classes. So even though a class could take place on campus, if there is a remote access feature to it that is requiring methods of distance education in any component, that will be covered. And again, the services that are covered now under the grant are live captioning, which would be synchronous. The closed captioning and audio description both would be asynchronous as well. So when thinking about that, those are the three components again, that tie into the requirements of 508 compliance. Little correlation there.

But what doesn’t qualify? There’s some federal and state regulations now that require that colleges only purchase accessible instruction material. So if you’re in need of purchasing anything new, it’s important to follow those guidelines. There’s maybe some content on campus right now that’s more legacy, if you will, or a little bit older that’s not being used– college collections. That’s not going to be covered through the DECT grant.

Community service and continuing education and no-credit classes would not be covered. And the one that gets the most questions so far under the new DECT grant here as it’s been relaunched is the third-party videos. And so quick minute here I’ll just spend on this– so videos that a instructor does not own the rights to.

So if it’s an instructor– an adjunct professor oftentimes may teach it a couple of different campuses. And they may have all their coursework on a YouTube channel that they use for consistency purposes across all the courses that they teach. That would be covered because the instructor owns that video.

Where it comes into play a little bit with third-party videos is if an instructor wanted to use a YouTube video of a TED Talk or something that is owned by somebody else, and they do not own the rights to it. It is not going to be covered by the grant itself, although 3Play does support the ability to process those to make those accessible– happy to discuss that. But just wanted to make sure it’s very clear that that would not be covered under the grant. It is only for student instruction that is owned by the instructor themselves.

So there’s a few different ways to access the funds, leverage the funds. I’m going to start with the one that I think– most familiar to folks. For employees of California Community Colleges, there’s an opportunity to leverage 3C Media direct upload. So this is where you can request closed captioning directly through TechConnect Cloud website. There’s also a user workflow as well that allows to go through 3C Media via Canvas.

Some components to keep in mind as you’re thinking about what would apply and what wouldn’t would be, again, created by the instructor for student use only. They ask that the audio is clear quality, it’d be in English, that you don’t upload something that’s mostly music, and they ask as well to please don’t practice or experiment. Only use content that is your intent to use for student instruction.

Within this, we’re going to be sending this complete deck out. It’ll have step-by-step instructions included for you for the two methods to upload. Both of those can, again, be done and completed directly within the TechConnect cloud upload through 3C Media. One thing I wanted to call out was, when you upload those, I believe the default is set to Auto Speech Recognition, or ASR. That would require whoever uploads it to go back in and make edits to ensure that those are fully compliant in 99 plus percent accuracy rates.

Alternatively, there’s a dropdown, I believe, that would allow for human captioning. That would get additional editing applied to it by humans to ensure that it is compliant and 99 plus percent accurate, or more. So as you’re thinking about that, just want to call that out specifically so there’s no confusion if folks think that you’re going to upload through 3C Media and get back accurate captions. As it may default to ASR or Auto Speech Recognition, just make sure you select the one that you would like. If you can edit it, always encouraged there to stretch the budget a little further, I’m sure. But just wanted to make that specific callout.

In addition to the 3C Media upload, there may be components where instruction does not live within 3C Media TechConnect Cloud, and this is where the application comes into play. There’s four steps that I’m going to go over. And I’ll allude a little bit more here where things fit into play.

The first and foremost is going to be, an agreement needs to be put in place between the district itself and DECT. So there’s a form that we have linked here in the presentation that will take you to show you if you’re unsure if your district already has an agreement in place. But it will list out the district and the schools that already are good to go. If you haven’t, you can apply– pretty quick process there.

Once that agreement is in place, the second step is going to be to work with a vendor to get a quote. 3Play Media is a preferred vendor. We would be method A on the application. There’s a dropdown that would allow you to select 3Play.

In this case, speaking about our process specifically, you would just email me the number of hours that you have, whether it’s known or expected. Sometimes from being in education, you’re building the plane in the air and you don’t have exact knowledge of how much content you’ll use. Work with you to figure out what the right avenue is for what’s expected. The application and the quote would need to match and then be submitted directly through DECT.

There’s also an alternative option as well, which is method B, which allows to use additional vendors that are not pre-approved. The key difference that I want to point out is, through method A, with 3Play or the like, would allow you to process your content and the billing works directly between DECT and us. So that’s one key differentiator there. Otherwise, option B would require campuses to pay out of pocket and then apply for reimbursement.

Once you get approval, pretty quick process. And then you would work with myself and the team here on our side, if you use 3Play, to get onboarded and set up for success. There’s a variety of integrations that we have.

So going back to the example of when you might use 3C Media for upload, is if content is in either the Canvas or 3C Media TechConnect Cloud. If you are working with professors or instructors who have content, like I mentioned with adjunct professors, for example, who may have YouTube channels that they own where their videos are recorded, or maybe within Panopto, something along those lines, and you want to direct upload that in, that is where we can work directly with you for this application process to make that as easy as the 3C Media option is as well. Perfect.

We mentioned a few different integrations and workflows. I want to call out a few specific to 3Play. The first is the YouTube. I’ve mentioned this before– worked with a few different campuses so far to be able to get some credentials from the YouTube channel owner, which is usually the instructor.

We exchange some information and put that in the 3Play account system. We take some information from 3Play account system, we put it into that YouTube channel. And essentially, that allows the two to speak. So that way, we can access those videos remotely, caption them, and then we can then push the SRT file directly back into that channel. So they have fully accessible captions available without ever downloading or uploading anything, so it’s a really seamless process.

It works extremely similar with Panopto as well. I’ve spoken to some California Community Colleges who use Panopto. I know Canvas Studio is actually one that was purchased by the Chancellor’s Office and available to all campuses. It seems like some folks have both.

We currently– as a little sneak peek– do not have an integration built yet with Canvas Studio, but it is something that is on our roadmap and is certainly being considered based on the feedback we’re getting from those at California Community Colleges and the interest that we’re seeing there. So more to come on that. I don’t want to overpromise and underdeliver– is what I told my product team– but certainly wanted to mention that. Would love some more interest from the crew here in a second.

And the last component that I wanted to point out specifically is, with 3Play, we’ve partnered with AIM on an integration. We’re the only company that has partnered with AIM to provide a streamlined process for scheduling and maintaining transcripts for student accommodations. So we’re actually working with a few different community colleges right now this spring semester, with some synchronous remote distance education classes, to provide accommodations for a student who needs real-time captioning through AIM.

What that looks like is a student would apply for an accommodation with an AIM. It would go directly to approval internally. That can be approved and assigned to 3Play with just a couple of clicks. And then from there, all of the transcripts live right within AIM going forward.

So the student would get a link that they can bookmark for the entire semester. We would typically use a static or consistent Zoom link to access audio. And together, those are stored directly within AIM– so full access for both staff and students to keep centralized all accessibility needs for real-time captioning with just a few clicks.

So happy to discuss that and other integrations in more specific detail with anyone interested. But just a high level there on some of the workflows that really make the process seem hopefully a little less daunting. As with the application process and then thinking about, how do we get stuff to and from, and what that looks like, we really try to make it as simple as possible.

KELLY MAHONEY: We have a little bibliography here of the resources that we used to build today’s presentation. So these are a lot of the links that we’ve been referring to. As we said, we’ll share this deck so you’ll have access to all of these links. There’s also a few more in there that we think might be helpful if you have some time to read through them.

And we’ve also added the support email for the DECT team. Bryan, I’m sure you might be able to speak to this, but it’s our job to work closely with them. And we know a lot about the DECT grant. We want to make it easy for you. So is there anything else you’d like to add? I know Bryan’s been in a lot of DECT conversations, so he might have some chums over there.


BRYAN COLLIER: No, thanks, Kelly. I think certainly we try to be as helpful as possible, but certainly don’t want to overstep boundaries as well. There’s some questions that are going to be better directed to the support team. So I’ll give a first stab, but I’m also not one to shy away from saying, I’m not sure and I would recommend reaching out directly. It’s always– as my grandfather used to say, measure twice, cut once. So try to err on the side of caution there. And we’ll do our best to get you the help and the resources you need, whether it’s we’re able to provide it or direct you in the right way.

KELLY MAHONEY: Great. So with that, now we can pretty much open up to our Q&A session. We have gotten a couple here. Again, I have to switch all my windows around. The first one that I see right in front of me– someone’s asking if we have an integration with VoiceThread. The answer is yes. We have some support docs we can drop in the chat. I will say that is a pretty technical way of investigating our VoiceThread integration.

So I would encourage people, again absolutely, to use Bryan as a resource, or just the 3Play team generally. We’re happy to talk through any specific use cases that you may have, help you navigate all of the finer details there. But the high level answer is, yes, we do integrate with VoiceThread. Bryan, anything you’d like to add there about integrations?

BRYAN COLLIER: Yeah, absolutely. I think any time you’re speaking about integrations, it’s exciting, right? It’s an easier path forward– less work, more efficient. It’s fantastic, but there’s also this kind of– can be at times, this scary uncertainty of like, well, what goes into it? What is required?

I think that is a component for– something for 3Play specifically is how we help and guide and onboard and help with those integrations. We’re very much– I feel like– a partner, not just a platform. And so the approach that we would take with any of these integrations– to work directly, to understand. Certainly there’s some support docs, but there’s a lot more hand-holding, I think, that can go in depending on the level of support needed for each individual.

KELLY MAHONEY: Absolutely. Following that thread a little bit– no pun intended with VoiceThread–


Sydney is asking if we can speak more to the workflow between 3C Media and 3Play play and how that might actually come to fruition when it’s time to order services.

BRYAN COLLIER: Yes, absolutely. So first and foremost, I think anything uploaded directly through 3C Media is going– that is a specific workflow with API. It’s correlated and delivered directly through 3C Media. So I think that that is one differentiator.

The workflow beyond that, Sydney, is more anything direct. So it really depends on where the components are coming from and where that instruction lives. If it’s within 3C Media, it will go directly through that workflow. If it lives outside of that, that is where the application would come into play and where 3Play Media can come in to assist.

KELLY MAHONEY: Great. Thank you, Bryan. I have another question here about services that the DECT grant covers. So far, we’ve only talked about live captioning, recorded captioning, audio description. Is everything else off the table? How does the DECT grant approach a more complete suite of media accessibility services?

BRYAN COLLIER: Great question. This goes back to where I’d be very curious on the additional needs. Again, with the DECT grant, I know what is covered and what is not, and currently they ask for English only. Captioning, both pre-recorded and live, is covered in audio description. That pretty much covers the big bases.

I would say the only other component that would be different that 3Play offers, that is not covered by the DECT grant, would be transcription in a different language or translation. We see this come up occasionally for foreign language classes across colleges and universities and needing to provide equal access for those.

I am not sure– like I said before, I will be honest– I’m not sure how those are tackled. I’ve taken the information as I have it as well. And so I would recommend reaching out to the DECT team directly if there is a need that you feel is not covered through that for DECT funding to get better answers on that front. But I wouldn’t have anything beyond that.

KELLY MAHONEY: Totally fair. And the DECT grant, to my knowledge, is something that was revised or looked at again recently. So I would assume that there’s the possibility in the future if there is that need– if there are enough people, like you said, with foreign language classes, who need this sort of extra step for complete media accessibility, there’s potential that the grant could move to include that.

You mentioned ASR earlier. And me knowing 3Play transcription sort of took me there, so I’m jumping all around here. When ASR is the default, if that’s the default that you’re allowed to order, is it better? Do you have to take the extra step? Do you have to follow that default? What would be the best way to navigate that?

BRYAN COLLIER: Yeah. Guidance here is following a few different regulations and laws. And you start thinking about the ADA, when you start thinking about 508, this follows the WCAG guidelines as well. I think this is where we start to see equal access on many consent decrees point to this as well, where it’s 99 plus percent accurate or more.

So really, there’s two options– technology enhancements with some of the options that are out there– with ASR, Auto Speech Recognition. AI is a form of that. And I think when you start to use any of those technologies, it helps expedite the process, but there’s still additional needs there. And I think the difference is if you’re going to use those, from a compliance standpoint, it’s definitive that you’re going to need to go back and edit those to ensure that 99 plus percent accuracy for full compliance. That is the component that I think is being woven in here to the DECT grant, with the human element and the extra layers.

I can’t speak to other vendors, but I will speak to 3Play’s approach. We use ASR first– Auto Speech Recognition– as a baseline, and then we do two rounds of human editing. This allows us to go in and ensure that compliance, and we have SLAs around it.

So I think as we start thinking about that, it really comes down to a question of not, if you have to, but how do you go about it. Do you want to use that if you have that bandwidth and only a few videos? Sure. If you’re doing an entire class, that’s kind of– I think one of the reasons here is, leave it to folks that can guarantee it and give you peace of mind to focus on the instructional content, and not necessarily the other components.

You have to go back and re-edit components. Believe it or not, even some of the best ones– Kelly, you’ll take about 5x to 6x the actual run rate to edit. So we understand. I think this is why it’s in place here as well, to be helpful and supportive, so yeah.

KELLY MAHONEY: Yeah. I think also I’ll just add a layer from the marketing perspective there. I mean, 3Play’s approach is that– sure, something is better than nothing. It’s better to have ASR captions on a video than no captions at all. But I think that needs to be taken hand in hand with the understanding that automatic captions are not going to provide a fully accessible user experience, and it’s not going to be considered fully compliant. So it’s a great first step but that’s what it should be considered– a first step.

I have a couple technical questions about the DECT grant. So once a school has applied, if they’re on the approval list– they found that they’re approved, they’re all set with their application– once a school has gone through all those steps, can any department at that school receive the funding? And then, does it expire? How long does the grant cover these services?

BRYAN COLLIER: Oh, man, great questions. So yes, my understanding is that once an agreement is in place, it’s for the district and the schools allotted within. It can apply to anyone as long as they meet the criteria of the DECT grant.

So it could be an instructor, an instructional designer. It still has to go through the appropriate sign-offs on the application form that goes back to the district, but not a problem. Anyone can have access to it as long as it supports the student instruction.

The second part of the question, Kelly, is a great one– one that I didn’t touch on, so thanks for bringing it up– and it applies to the duration. So as a whole, the DECT grant is in place right now, running from ’23 to ’28– so 2023 to 2028. It’s a five-year contract. Within that, though, is each semester is how the application process works.

So there’s a large amount of funds that are available with the application process. That’s what gets approved and it locks in those funds to say, yes, we approve these. Yes, we’re going to set these funds aside to make sure that we can pay for these services that you requested. Go ahead and use the services. This is where the school and 3Play would work directly.

If in some cases, people change their mind, they don’t use the entire grant, whatever the case may be, on a semester-by-semester basis is where things get reconciled. So if you don’t use all the funds, whatever is left over at the end of that semester is returned back to the DECT pool, if you will. And then it can be reapplied the next semester, is my understanding. So it’s on a semester-by-semester basis. But the grant will be around, it looks like, for quite a few years to come. Yeah.

KELLY MAHONEY: Thank you, that’s a great help. In thinking about what could be covered, we’ve been talking a lot about courses and classes and things like that. And obviously, that’s the first thing everyone would think of when we talk about this grant. But do you know if there are some circumstances where things like campus events could be included in this grant, or is it specific more to lecture-based content?

BRYAN COLLIER: Yeah, great question again. My understanding is that it is for distance education instruction– so instruction based on distance education components involved. We do work with many campuses directly to support those commencements, making events more accessible with live captioning, things like that, or 100% on-campus classes. There’s also those components with student accommodations and things across campus– sometimes faculty accommodations, things like that that come into play that we can help support. It just would not be covered through the DECT grant itself.

One thing that 3Play has elected to do is honor the DECT pricing, though, that we have, that is a much more aggressive pricing than our standard in order to better support those other events. So happy to chat through with anyone who has other events or things across campus that they would like to make accessible or enhance, but would not be covered under that grant. Happy to have those conversations as well.

KELLY MAHONEY: Gotcha, thank you. Looking back more at the services then that are covered under the DECT grant– we’re a captioning company. I think that’s our bread and butter. That’s where we spend a lot of our time but that’s, again, not all that is included in true media accessibility.

So we mentioned audio description a little earlier in the presentation as a service that’s included in the DECT grant specifically. Do you have any recommendations, or have you picked up on the popularity of audio description being used by schools that you may have been in conversation with? Or do you know about guidance for when audio description might be appropriate?

BRYAN COLLIER: Yeah, I’ve worked on several different applications with California Community Colleges to support audio description. Happy to chat more about that. A majority of them so far have been based on accommodations– as being more reactive. I think it was just added under the DECT grant back in 2022, I think– right before it switched hands. So I think it’s all relatively new.

It would probably be good as well– because it’s so new to so many folks as well, I’ll give a quick explanation just around the options of audio description and some components here that I think might be helpful and relevant to folks who are still in the webinar. There’s two types of audio description. The first is standard, and the second is extended.

Standard audio description is going to be where the natural pauses are used to interject information that’s being presented visually but not actually being spoken. In some cases– like right now, I’m just on a roll, and I may have visuals behind me that I’m referencing but not really describing that well. And it would not be deemed fully accessible for a student who is blind or low vision. And that’s where sometimes we have to pause that video to interject enough airspace, if you will, or blank space, to be able to interject enough descriptions to ensure equal access.

So we offer both standard and extended. And then 3Play has a feature called, Choose for Me. We default to standard, but we do– based on compliance well– gives us the opportunity to move forward with extended if needed.

Audio description’s funny, though, Kelly. Because obviously it’s a huge component there. We’ve actually seen it come up in recent lawsuits within California Community Colleges specifically over the last few years.

And I think as we start to think about this, there’s things that folks can do as well as part of the instructional design. If you’re part of a team and enhancing that– I don’t want to get into too much now. But just more describing of what’s happening and making sure that instructors are presenting and discussing things orally of what’s being presented visually, is a really, really great start to cut down that. We did a webinar– maybe someone can toss that in the chat as well– on audio description last fall that was extremely helpful in trying to build that in to the natural course design.

From working with a lot of schools, I know obviously the online component is really picking up, not just in California Community Colleges but across colleges and universities across the country. And as we start thinking about the enhancements there, it’s just more important than ever, I think, to think about how to build this in. There are some components with 3Play that you can upgrade from captioning to add audio description later, which is extremely helpful. So more things that we can get into certainly at another date, but something worth noting for sure.

KELLY MAHONEY: Thank you. Yeah, and we did drop that link in the chat to the audio description webinar that we did. That’s a high level overview of all the things you need to know. But then we do also have some examples on our website. Those can sometimes be a little bit more tangible than hearing about what something is, especially the distinction between standard audio description and extended audio description.

The last question that I have before we move into our closing remarks here is about vendors that are on the DECT grant. Do you know much about the approval process? How do vendors become pre-approved? How are they selected? What do you know about that?

BRYAN COLLIER: Yeah. Just from my own experience, I know that we’ve been part of it with College of the Canyons. There was a renewal when it switched hands and moved to TechConnect through Palomar where there was an RFP process– where there was pretty outlined guidelines and a rigorous process that a lot of vendors participated in. I can’t speak more to the selection side of things, but I know it was a pretty rigorous process there. So I can’t speak more to that.

I know on the site– I think that we have a link in here somewhere– on the TechConnect website, there’s an opportunity there with the FAQ. So Frequently Asked Questions, there’s the vendors, and the forms– I think are the three big components that they highlight. So you can see who else was selected. But I don’t know beyond that. Yeah.

KELLY MAHONEY: Totally makes sense. I think that’s great. Those are all the questions that we received. You did a great job fielding them all. Thank you so much. Thank you, Bryan, for today’s presentation.

I’d also like to take a minute to thank our interpreter as well as our very own 3Play captioner for making this session accessible to everyone. And thank you to everyone for joining us and for asking great questions and for joining us in the chat. It was nice to see everyone. Have a good day, everyone.