Caption your course videos to benefit everyone

Video is becoming more common in online courses as a way to increase instructor presence, vary the learning experience, and meet the expectations of students. However, to meet accessibility requirements under federal law, videos in any online course must contain accurate captions.
Captions benefit everyone and make a video more useful as well as accessible. In addition to the hearing impaired, students with learning disabilities, attention disorders and ESL students may improve their comprehension of course video through captions. A nationwide study conducted recently by the University of Oregon showed that 35% of students “always’ or “often’ use closed captions when they are available. 52% agreed that captions served them as a learning aid for comprehension.2 And for the student riding a bus or sitting in a noisy environment without headphones, captioned videos are still completely comprehensible. You may have noticed an increase in videos on social media featuring captions edited into the video itself–this is not a stylistic choice, but a way to reach viewers on any medium.
At UAF, if you use Kaltura Mediaspace at to publish your course videos, you have a few captioning options. First, you can request automatic captioning. Find your video in My Media on or in the Media Gallery inside of Blackboard. Then under the “Actions’ menu, select “Order Captions.’ After a  period of time (usually within a few hours and 24 hours), both a timed caption file and a transcript will appear under the video. However, this transcript will not be perfectly accurate. Even an accuracy of 90% means every tenth word will be incorrect. This can cause confusion rather than increasing comprehension, even though the video is technically more accessible. If you choose to use this tool, I suggest using the automatic captions as a starting point, and then using the built-in editor to improve them. Under the “Actions’ menu, select “Edit Captions.’ Open up the editing window by next to the existing caption by clicking the “COMPLETE’ link on the right-hand side.
The other option for creating captions is to have them done by a human. In our offices, our attempts at captioning videos ourselves took between 6 and 15 times the length of the video. Most of us don’t have that much time to spend.
Online services such as Rev and 3Play Media offer human captioning for a fee. UAF CTL contracts with a provider whose services we extend to instructors we work with to produce videos and to certify courses in the Quality Matters framework. Having a human running quality control makes a huge difference particularly for content videos in specific subject areas. For example, in one video on botany, the instructor uses the term sporophytic diploid phase. The human captioner got this right, but Kaltura’s autocaptions transcribed it as spore of critic deployed face. Later on in the same video, the term monoecious was transcribed as more knishes. Delicious, perhaps, but wholly inaccurate and thus inaccessible.
Making your videos accessible with captions meets the needs of all students. You’ll not just be complying with the law, but providing your students with a more advantageous learning environment in the process.

Humans, chimps, gibbons, lemur, gorilla, and bonobos listed in Devin Drown's Learning Glass lecturette

In this still shot from a video, UAF Assistant Professor of Biology Devin Drown delivers a Learning Glass lecturette with a professionally transcribed caption. Automatic speech recognition software first produced a caption that read “humans chimps given lemur gorilla and by no boss.’  
Watch the video itself or read a comparison of the automatic vs. human-created transcripts.


1 Hibbert, M. C. (2014). What Makes an Online Instructional Video Compelling?. Educause Review Online.
2 Linder, K. (2016). Student uses and perceptions of closed captions and transcripts: Results from a national study. Corvallis, OR.

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