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Sep 24

An Ex-Court Reporting Student Talks About Her Experience In School

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  1. Martin H. Block

    This young woman is a model for why shorthand reporting is a field in decline. The premise that the average student can complete a shorthand reporting program in 2 years is by and large not true. There are exceptions to every rule, but as she said in the video, it takes students upwards of 4 to 5 years from start to finish, which is just fine with the private business schools that train the few shorthand reporters that graduate annually.

    The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA), Stenograph Corporation, and other key players associated with the business of shorthand reporting training, need to face the fact that shorthand reporting is being chocked to death by their adhering to outdated educational and entry standards. When it all goes away, as some day it shall, the cause of death of shorthand reporting will clearly be suicide.

    To survive shorthand reporting training must either become once more a 2 year program for all or a 4 year program wherein the student graduates with a baccalaureate degree. I prefer the second option, because it provides the student with the opportunity to change their major if they become dissatisfied with shorthand reporting.

    Finally, the time has come for NCRA to face up to reality and not only accept the fact that most shorthand reporters rely on a digital audio backup when producing the record, but that they owe a duty to their clients and the Court to utilize a digital audio backup, the schools will continue their training as though digital audio backups do not exist. Shorthand reporting training will continue to lose ground and shrink so long as it is governed by unrealistic out of date philosophies.

    1. Elsie

      Thank you for your comment. I especially like your idea about the 4-year degree program.

      I, too, was duped into enrolling in a school that gave me an unrealistic timeline for the program’s completion. They harped on the fact that I already had a bachelor’s degree. They told me that because of my educational history, I would be able to graduate in no time, and would be out in the field making 6-figures annually. Due to my previous educational experiences, I believed them. I didn’t understand that this was far from the traditional educational endeavor. Needless to say, my experience at the school wasn’t what they conveyed to me when I enrolled.

      I love the skill that I have acquired, but I am strongly against the way a lot of steno schools operate.

      I am fighting for a change in the steno educational system. I will continue to address this topic. In the very near future, I will be posting an open letter about the necessity of changing and regulating the way a lot of steno schools are administered.

      I love the skill of stenography and I want to see it survive and thrive. The only way for that to happen is for things to be changed and fortified at the foundation- steno education.

      Thanks again for your comment!

      -Elsie Villega

  2. Martin H. Block

    This young lady is a poster child for one out of every five students who start shorthand reporting training programs. It underscores failure of the National Court Reporters Association to confront the crisis in shorthand reporter training by reconstituting their philosophies on shorthand reporting education and certification to reflect the realities of court reporting in the 21st Century.

    The bulk of shorthand reporters engaged in either freelance or official reporting rely on the use of a digital audio backup. In fact, those who do not, whether they can report at 180 wpm or 250 wpm, are doing the client and the Court a disservice. They have an ethical responsibility to use very practical tool available to ensure that the record they provide is 100% accurate, and the availability of a digital audio backup provides a measure of assurance that it will be.

    Shorthand reporting cannot survive very much longer unless it changes the one out of five failure rate into a three to four success rate; and that will never occur without significant changes in shorthand reporter training. One such change is to incorporate the use of digital audio backup into aspects of reporter training and testing, and to allow it to be utilized as a tool to pass the RPR examination.

    NCRA and shorthand reporters in general should give up on the arguments of the past that you cannot trust an audio backup to work. The chance of an audio backup failing is probably a lot less than the possibility that a shorthand reporter will mishear something in the courtroom or deposition room. NCRA should be proactively building this technology into its philosophies on education and court reporting practices, because it is good for shorthand reporting, and more important, it is good for the consumers of reporting services.

  3. Steve Hubbard

    Elsie, I suspect your video is going to get very wide distribution now after Marty Block, a former president of the NCRA, has posted comments about your video. If you go to LinkedIn, visit “Realtime Is Important!!!” I started my career in Ottawa, 1969, learning, I had a private tutor, learned the theory in 5 weeks, just one hour a day for five weeks, and I knew the keyboard inside out, with long and short vowels, that helped me in later years for CAT, less conflicts.

    Please consider going on LinkedIn, to the different court reporter channels, and if your are not familiar with LinkedIn, just type in under “Groups” for “Court Reporters” and you will find those channels.

    I believe the court reporting school you are referring to that you believe is now closed, or is at least not accepting anymore students is the Canadian Center for Verbatim Studies. There is only one school now in Canada and that is NAIT in Edmonton, Alberta. I guess that pretty much tells all. It’s from lack of interests. You are indeed a rare find. Compared to most American court reporters, you at least have a BA, most Americans just have a high school degree, but that does not mean they are any less qualified to be court reporters, I am just pointing out a fact.

    I would ask you to think about the following questions, and when you have formed the appropriate answers to these questions, consider writing more about your specific situation and give students of court reporting some really solid advice.

    1. Should the NCRA board of directors propose for the general membership to vote on that ASAP allow what court reporting schools that remain, to use digital recorders as backup when they take their tests to pass the RPR and not just pass with 95% accuracy but with 100% accuracy? If yes, why, and if no, why?
    2. It may be much to late for Canada, but if you were new to court reporting, and you were considering learning the steno machine, and that school said, “We can teach you the machine theory using Mark Kislinbury’s Magnum Theory, we would teach you the keyboard in five weeks, inside out, but after you have done so, you are finished with us, the time now is for you to build speed and everybody knows you can do that on your own anytime you like. The fee to learn the theory with us is $1,500. The question is, do you think this is a good idea for both the student and the school who may be able to in fact make more money per student as far more mihgt be interested in a program that allows backup audio for the final test so the student is not one of the 95% who flunk, but instead is one of the 95% who pass the first time?
    3. Do you believe that steno has a fighting chance to remain a major player in the “Take down” and “transcribing” industry, or do you believe that other forms of technology, such as a digital court reporter, with very little training, two or three days exposure in a deposition, using lapel mics connected to a PC, logging notes, and then using something like Dragon to dictate with near 100% accuracy since that DCR’s voice is trained to that software, especially if that Canadian court reporter is bilingual, English and French, could make a transcript just as good as any steno could?
    4. What do you think about ASR, automated speech recognition, where most voices are recorded then run through a sophisticated program and creates a 95% accurate working rough draft that can be edited by a CAT scopist later, how soon or how far away do you believe this will become a reality, if ever?
    5. I take it you are a court reporter and you are making your living as one. But if you had to start all over again, if someone who had a large Toronto agency, and they said, “Look you can be a DCR in one week or less, you can make the same page rates as a steno does,” if that opportunity was put to you, would you take that offer, and on the side while you ARE making money, learn the keyboard in 5 weeks, and then practice your speed, or do you think that you could have been making good money as it is already, why bother learning the machine unless you wanted to do CART or closed-captioning?

    I look forward to seeing you on LinkedIn, and good luck in everything you do.

    Steve Hubbard
    Just Another Steno Court Reporter who also believes in ASR

    1. Elsie

      Thanks for your comment. Just to clarify, that’s not me in the video. It’s just a video that I shared on this blog from another student’s perspective.

      I’ll be posting my opinion and details on my school experience soon.

      Best wishes to you as well.

      Sincerely,

      Elsie Villega

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