Empowering Deaf Learners: The Promise of Sign Language MOOCs


  • Paula Escudeiro Maria de Sá Escudeiro ISEP/GILT
  • Márcia Campos




Deaf Education, Sign language accessibility, Technological advancements, Inclusive pedagogical model, Digital learning materials for the deaf.


In the realm of education, deaf students face significant communication barriers that limit their integration and success within intellectual communities. Due to the use of distinct mother languages, a communication gap arises between deaf and non-deaf communities. This poses serious difficulties for deaf students, who communicate primarily in sign language and are unable to fluently read materials written in spoken language. As most didactic materials in higher education are available exclusively in spoken languages, this further limits the opportunities and chances for deaf students to succeed. While technological advancements have made it possible to create tools and services that translate between spoken and sign languages, they are often expensive and not widely available in educational settings. The proposal is a pedagogical model that seeks to overcome these obstacles and foster inclusivity by offering deaf students access to educational resources in their mother language – sign language. This is accomplished using Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) paired with automatic sign language translation technology. To demonstrate this model's effectiveness, a digital literacy course for schoolteachers was developed and evaluated within a group of users, including deaf students. The paper discusses the state-of-the-art of digital educational content available to the deaf, the process of translating digital learning materials into sign languages, the specifications needed to structure educational content for the deaf, and an example of the development methodology for creating multilingual learning objects for the deaf. The evaluation results indicate that MOOC is inclusive and positively impacts deaf students' learning outcomes. The proposed pedagogical model has significant implications for improving access to education and promoting inclusivity for deaf students worldwide. By utilizing technological advancements and creating inclusive digital educational materials, it is possible to bridge the communication gap between deaf and non-deaf individuals, thereby enabling deaf students to acquire, expand, and improve their knowledge in various subjects.