Case Study

The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread: Hofstra University Fulfills Accommodation Requests Easily and Affordably

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Like many U.S. colleges and universities, Hofstra University—a private institution based in Hempstead, NY—has seen an unprecedented increase in student requests for accommodations. “Requests have gone up by 200 in the last year”, explains Victoria Simon, an Accommodations Specialist and Student Success Coordinator at the school.

Victoria Simon
Accommodations Specialist and Student Success Coordinator

We’ll have almost 1,000 students registered with our office by the end of the year

Hofstra’s Office of Student Access Services is responsible for collecting these requests, processing them, and coordinating approved accommodations with students. And although the Office has offered students a number of different services and technologies in the past, Simon and her team are increasingly turning to Otter to fulfill accommodations for students with hearing impairments, auditory processing disorders, and fine and gross motor impairments.

Fulfilling an Accommodations Gap

Simon was initially introduced to Otter after a colleague heard about it at an early 2021 training event. She quickly saw its potential to solve an unmet need for Hofstra’s students— utilizing live transcriptions in real-time during lectures, rather than waiting to receive recordings or transcripts afterwards. “We used to use [a different note-taking software], but the problem was that every student asked, ‘Where’s the button where we turn the audio into text?’ But it didn’t work that way. When we heard about what Otter does, we thought,

This is what the students want.

Simon cites that the process of implementing Otter at Hofstra went relatively smoothly, as Otter supported Simon and her team every step of the way. “I look for certain things when I'm about to buy a product and, to me, the backend customer service part of the business is more important than the product itself,” she states. “If I can't get to somebody immediately with my problem and have an adequate turnaround time, I don't want it. I don't care how pretty it is. I don't care how fast it is. I don't care if it works with a Mac. I don’t want it.

”Throughout the implementation process, one hurdle Simon’s team faced was pushback from some faculty members due to fears around the protection of intellectual property. In response, Simon and the Office developed a legallyapproved policy defining how information will be safeguarded when students use Otter, which is shared with professors as a part of the Office’s accommodations notification letters. Hofstra University also trains students on these expectations. “They understand how Otter works, what it does, how to use it, and how to ethically use it with respect to professors and other classmates,” says Simon.

A Positive Reception

To date, Otter’s reception among students has been very positive. Ahjané Forbes, a contributor to Hofstra’s student newspaper, The Hofstra Chronicle, wrote in a recent column that,

Ahjané Forbes
Contributor to Hofstra’s student Newspaper is one of the most recent technological advances put into action by Student Access Services.

It’s an app which allows students to pull electronic PowerPoint slides into a note-taking app while also transcribing what the professor is saying. This provides more accommodations to students who may struggle with following a professor’s lecture.”

Hannah Cohen, a sophomore psychology major and a member of Hofstra’s Disability Rights, Education, Activism and Mentoring (DREAM) group, also contributed to Forbes’ piece. She stated, “From my perspective, it seems like a great accessibility tool for people who may be hard of hearing or even people with auditory processing disorders.”

Simon echoes this sentiment. “The fact that Otter provides a transcript from the audio recording helps students that have hearing impairments. If it wasn’t for how robust Otter is, they wouldn't otherwise be able to integrate with the class as well,” she explains. It’s also helpful for students using Zoom to attend classes, she notes, as many schools continue to navigate remote learning.

Beyond Otter’s note-taking benefits, Simon also sees an impact on student confidence. “You can record yourself with Otter and use it for paper,” she says. “If you don't know how to get started on a paper because of your learning disability, you can use Otter and say, ‘In 1776, the constitutional Congress...’ There's the beginning of your outline or your intro paragraph. Because you're using Otter to do it, you don't have to be afraid of starting the writing process anymore.”

Saving Time and Money

Since adopting Otter, Hofstra University has been able to reduce its reliance on CART services and student note-takers. Not only does Simon describe Otter as “the next best thing” compared to CART services, but she also appreciates the cost savings Otter offers.

Otter is so cost-effective. Especially with what our budgets were going through after COVID, it was a blessing.

For Simon, the reduction in administrative responsibilities has been an equal benefit. Before Otter, her office had to manage student notetakers. “We had to remind them every week [to turn in their notes]. And then we realized, they’re 19 years old. That’s too much responsibility for somebody who was doing us a favor.”

Now, she continues, “We don’t have to track every student down and ask, ‘Did you give them your notes?’ Not only that, they had to come into our office and make photocopies of the notes if they weren’t typing them on the computer. That whole thing isn’t in the office anymore; it’s amazing.”

A Robust Solution for School Accommodations

Compared to other solutions her team tested, Simon recommends Otter for its full suite of features, broad device compatibility—including the ability to use Otter on laptops, tablets, smartphones, and other mobile devices—and ease of adoption. Although Simon actively disseminates Otter’s help and training resources to new users, she explains that, “It doesn’t take a long time for our students or staff to figure out how to get it working and why it’s such a good tool to have.”

“I can't say enough good things about this tool, and not just the tool itself but also the management system,” she continues. “As the person administering the accounts, the data that I can see with the management system is amazing. I like how easy it is to send the license. I like how easy it is for the students to upload it onto their laptops. I like the tech support.”

Otter is the next best thing since sliced bread. I absolutely love it.
Contact Otter today to see for yourself the difference Otter for Education can make in your campus.

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Matt Sodnicar
Manager at Canidium

To me, Otter is as essential to the way I work as the computer itself. I could not do what I do without it.

Laura Brown
Vice President of Sales at Aiden Technologies

Otter was one product that when we onboarded it, I felt like it was truly easy to use, and it drove adoption across the organization.

Victoria Simon
Accommodations Specialist and Student Success Coordinator

We’ll have almost 1,000 students registered with our office by the end of the year

Ahjané Forbes
Contributor to Hofstra’s student Newspaper is one of the most recent technological advances put into action by Student Access Services.

Miguel Patino
Information Technology Leader, Stax

We have a very short window of time to get all of the information gathering done and turn it around to the analysis team to get the analysis out of the raw data that we've acquired.

Katie Mercer
Vice President, Content, Glacier Media

When you're on deadline, breaking a story, or tackling an internal project, you need tools in your tech stack that are simple to use and collaborative.

Joshua Hori
Assistive Technology Analyst

We have a lot of notetaking requests, and we were proactively looking for ways to improve it since it was a volunteer based program.

Tim Van Norman
Instructional Technologist

We have a whole mix of ages and abilities, technologically.

Justin Lackey
Chief Financial and Revenue Officer

We wanted to find if we could better equip our current folks that were here today….we wanted to find if we could make our folks today more productive, more efficient, more effective.

Supporting the Diverse Needs of Multiple Teams

It helps me to keep myself accountable. I can’t hear well so I learn better by reading. It’s been a lifesaver in that sense.