Speech-to-text tool makes learning more accessible

Iowa State has taken another step on the path of digital inclusion with the purchase of a new notetaking tool, Glean.

Glean converts speech to text and provides students with disabilities an equitable way to learn and absorb class information. The tool also is available to faculty and staff, who may purchase an annual license for $24.

Glean is part of Iowa State's Digital Accessibility Toolkit. The toolkit comprises guidelines such as the university's digital accessibility policy as well as resources and tools that check website accessibility, provide captions for videos and more.

Supporting students with disabilities

Traditional notetaking in class may work for some students. For others, typing on a laptop or jotting down details with a pen are not ideal or feasible options.

"Glean is a flexible tool that allows students to use their mobile devices or computers to customize their learning," said Cyndi Wiley, digital accessibility lead in information technology services (ITS).

Using Glean, students can record the audio of a class lecture or presentation. With the click of a button, the software then converts that audio into text.

Glean is a helpful solution for individuals with hearing impairments who may need to see information in written form. It's also useful for those who physically can't take notes because of injury -- like a broken arm -- or motor disabilities. The audio recording feature alone can assist students with dyslexia and other learning differences, who may absorb information best as it's spoken.

Glean is available as a web, desktop or mobile application. When the app launches, a dashboard shows a list of all speech-to-text files, called "events."

From the dashboard, users select the "New Event" button to initiate an audio recording. Whether the event is in-person or remote, recording options can accommodate both formats. After a recording has finished, the "Convert to Text" button turns the audio file into a transcript.

Additional benefits in Glean

As a speech-to-text tool, Glean captures every spoken word, so no detail slips by in a fast-paced lecture. Students can enhance their Glean notes by adding labels, lecture slides, definitions and images. The searchable transcript produced has the added benefit of reducing potential language barriers.

For faculty and staff, the tool works well for capturing meeting minutes and summaries as well as research transcription.

"Researchers who need to transcribe audio from interviews will find Glean's interface easy to use, secure and a way to reduce time spent on transcription," Wiley said.

How to get a Glean license

Students working with the Student Accessibility Services (SAS) office can receive a Glean license as an accommodation for their courses. The SAS team will notify the ITS digital accessibility team about the license assignments it makes. 

Other students, as well as faculty and staff, should request a license through a form in the ISU Service Portal. To get started, visit your Sign On dashboard at login.iastate.edu. After signing in, select the "ISU Service Portal" app. When the portal launches, search "Glean" and select the "Request License for Glean (speech-to-text tool)" form. On the form, a worktag will be required for faculty and staff licenses. This form is then routed to the ITS digital accessibility team.

Glean is provided to students at no cost. Faculty and staff licenses cost $24 annually. The university's contract is for up to 1,000 licenses among students, faculty and staff. Licenses align with the academic year and begin in August. Pro-rated licenses are not available.