The University of Southampton

Synote wins ICT Initiative of the Year in prestigious THE Awards

Published: 25 November 2011

An open-source Web application which transforms learning for all students, devised and developed in ECS by Dr Mike Wald, has won the title of 'ICT Initiative of the Year' in the annual awards ceremony for UK universities run by Times Higher Education.

The award to Synote was presented in London last night (24 November) and ends a year in which Synote has been recognized around the world for its innovation and the new opportunities it brings to students and learning, particularly disabled students.

Synote has been developed over a numbers of years in ECS-Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton. It makes multimedia resources such as video and audio easier to access, search, manage, and exploit. Learners, teachers and other users can create notes, bookmarks, tags, links, images and text captions synchronised to any part of a recording, such as a lecture.

"Imagine how difficult it would be to use a textbook if it had no contents page, index or page numbers,’ says Dr Wald. ‘Synote actually provides the way to find or associate notes with a particular part of a recording."

Synote’s synchronised transcripts can be produced manually or automatically using IBM speech recognition technologies. The programme has a whole range of useful features. It enables learners or teachers to read and search text transcripts and slides and replay recordings to support learning style preference, deafness, disability or English as a second language; to bookmark, tag and highlight and link to or from sections of recordings for indexing, revision, clarification or feedback; and to collaboratively annotate recordings with notes and URLs of related resources.

Synote can play most audio and video formats on most browsers and computers. Evaluations have shown that students like using Synote, find the synchronised transcripts and note-taking facility useful and want more recordings and lectures to be available in this way.

Synote has been developed with the support of JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) and is being used in the European Net4Voice project.

In a further initiative, Synote has incorporated crowdsourcing to provide a sustainable method of making audio or video recordings accessible to people who find it difficult to understand speech through hearing alone.

Dr Wald comments: “Automatic captioning of lectures is possible using speech recognition technologies but it results in recognition errors requiring manual correction and this is costly and time-consuming. Crowdsourcing the corrections of speech recognition transcription errors is a sustainable way of captioning lecture recordings.”

"This is wonderful recognition for an initiative which really gets to the heart of how ICT can be used and developed to make a real difference to people's lives," said Professor Dame Wendy Hall, Dean of the Faculty of Physical and Applied Sciences at the University. "The team led by Mike Wald has been working on Synote for a number of years, in parallel with other technologies, which are open source - so available to everyone, and which improve the quality of the educational experience in many different ways. Synote has been particularly successful and welcomed by different communities around the world, leading to a series of awards of which this is the latest."

"It is great to get such important recognition for the fantastic work of Southampton's staff and students who have contributed to Synote's development," added Dr Wald.

For further information about this story contact Joyce Lewis; tel.+44(0)23 8059 5453

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