2003 Conference Proceedings

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PRACTICING JOB INTERVIEWING SKILLS USING COMMUNICATION-ACCESSIBLE VIRTUAL REALITY TECHNOLOGY

Presenter
Danny Roush, M.A. CI/CT
Senior Linguist
Vcom3D, Inc.
3452 Lake Lynda Drive, Suite 260
Orlando, FL 32817
407.737.7310 ext. 115

The employment interview is often the final step in the selection process when employers decide which job candidate is the best qualified for the position. Doing well in an interview means not only being able to communicate expertise in the given area, but also being able to respond to loaded questions. These questions are used to reveal whether the prospective employee would be able socially integrate into the culture of the employment setting. For many individuals, successfully answering culturally loaded questions takes some study and practice. While the same is true for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people and other individuals with disabilities, finding opportunities to study and practice interviewing skills in a realistic, yet accessible, setting poses significant challenges. This may be a contributing factor to the low percentage of employed individuals with severe disabilities (McMeil, 2000).

Research indicates that the median reading comprehension of seventeen and eighteen year old Deaf and Hard of Hearing students is at a fourth grade level (Holt, et al., 1997) (GRI, 1996). Thus, English text, although visual, is not necessarily accessible from a language perspective. Many Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals prefer communication in some variant of American Sign Language (ASL) (a visual-gestural language unlike the grammar of English), their first language, or ideally to have the option of English captioning presented concurrently with the ASL.

Most materials available for practicing and developing interviewing skills are English-based and offer little interactivity. Although some curriculum materials are available with accompanying videotapes with ASL instruction, this format requires facilitation by a professionally trained counselor or instructor, offers no independent mock interview practice and is not interactive (Johnson and Boone, 1990).

The Virtual Interview Exercises for Workplace Success (VIEWS) project is developing and evaluating the effectiveness of a prototype computer software program through a joint effort between Vcom3D, Inc. and the University of Arkansas, Rehabilitation Research and Training Center for Persons Who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing. The software provides the opportunity for an individual to choose his or her preferred way of communicating to enable the user practice employment interviewing skills. Specifically with Deaf and Hard of Hearing job seekers in mind, this software incorporates SigningAvatar™ technology, which uses 3-D animated characters who can either speak with audible speech synthesis or sign in variants of ASL.

Based on the user's preferred mode of communication and their broad field of interest, the software will customize the learning. Interview preparation and follow-up tips are also provided for the user (Figure 1). As the main feature, the user will be provided an opportunity to interactively learn through a virtual role-playing interview experience.

Wecome screen with avatar guide on left and index on right
Figure 1. VIEWS early-prototype Welcome Screen

The interview scenario takes place in a virtual business office setting and has four interacting characters: the employer, applicant and guide and a sign language interpreter if appropriate. The program will allow the user to cast each role from among a diverse group of 9 characters (Figure 2).

Cast the align=
Figure 2. Cast the characters chooser screen

The employer character asks the user typical interview questions (Figure 3). The employer speaks the question in English while the interface also displays English captions. If appropriate, the interpreter character signs the question, with the option to repeat the signed interpretation. The user is given several possible responses to the question in written English, which can also be signed or spoken by the applicant character. Once the user has selected his/her response, the guide gives the user feedback on his/her response. If the user selects a certain number of the best responses to the interview questions, the employer will offer the interviewee the job. This software not only provides the opportunity to independently practice interviewing skills, it can potentially boost the confidence level of the user. The VIEWS software consumes very little bandwidth which makes it possible to distribute via the internet or local network.

Employer question screen
Figure 3. Employer question screen

The VIEWS project is in the early stages of its two year duration. Evaluations of the pilot and final prototype will be completed at the end of the first and second year respectively.

Funding for this research is provided in part by the U.S. Department of Education. Opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this presentation do not necessarily reflect the view or opinions of the U.S. Department of Education.

References

Dew, D., et al., Serving Individuals Who Are Low-Functioning Deaf: Report from the Study Group, 25th Institute on Rehabilitation Issues, George Washington University, Washington, DC, 1999.

Gallaudet Research Institute, Stanford Achievement Test, 9th Edition, Form S, Norms Booklet for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students, (Including Conversions of Raw Score to Scaled Score & Grade Equivalent and Age-based Percentile Ranks for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students.) Gallaudet University, Washington, DC, 1996.

Holt, Judith A., Traxler, Carol B., and Allen, Thomas E., Interpreting the Scores: A User's Guide to the 9th Edition Stanford Achievement Test for Educators of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students, Gallaudet Research Institute Technical Report 97-1, Gallaudet University, Washington, DC, 1997.

Johnson, V. A. and Boone, S. E., GET IT! Getting Employment Through Interview Training, University of Arkansas Rehabilitation Research and Training Center for Persons Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, Little Rock, AR, 1990.

McMeil, John, M., Employment, Earnings, and Disability, 75th Annual Conference of the Western Economic Association International, Vancouver, British Columbia, 2000.


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