Options for captioning course content

Auto-generated captions use a speech-to-text engine to transcribe audio. They have greatly improved over the past few years and are usually 90-95% accurate given clear audio quality, a Standard American English accent, and one speaker speaking at a time. However, even 90% accuracy means 1 out of every 10 words could be incorrect. With any change from these ideal criteria, auto-captions can quickly turn to gobblety-gook. 

Incorrect captions can be confusing and unhelpful to viewers. Auto-generated captions are generally not considered an adequate accommodation for people who are deaf or hard of hearing according to accessibility law. 1

All videos uploaded to the UAF Kaltura media server (media.uaf.edu) are automatically captioned. These captions can take up to an hour to appear, depending on the length of the video. You can access them by clicking the CC button on the video player – they will be labeled “English – auto-generated.” They also appear in the transcript below the video player.

Zoom also generates captions automatically, and even offers Live Transcription to use during meetings or class sessions. (Advanced note: Did you know that all recorded Zoom meetings are also saved in your account on Kaltura? For those recordings, the Zoom-generated captions supersede Kaltura captions.)

Why Edit Captions Now?

If a student enrolled in your course has a disability accommodation that requires captioning, you will be contacted by Disability Services. They will put you in touch with resources that can help you get all your videos captioned. However, depending on when the student enrolls, you may have very little lead time. The scramble to get everything ready can be quite stressful!

There has also been quite a bit of research showing that captions improve understanding and retention for all audiences.2 As captions are being more widely adopted in education and across media platforms, viewers have come to expect accurate captions.3

Editing Auto-generated Captions

Kaltura provides a tool for editing auto-generated captions. This Teaching Tip from 2019 has been updated with accurate instructions.

While editing captions only takes a few minutes for short videos with clear audio, in some cases, it can be extremely time-consuming. Instructors working to make their content accessible for students are not expected to caption everything in their course themselves.

Professional Captioning

UAF CTL contracts with a professional captioning vendor 3Play Media. This service is integrated with Kaltura, so if a video is hosted on Kaltura it can be easily sent to the vendor and the completed captions are automatically applied to the video. 

Instructors are able to request professional captioning via the Caption Request Form. Faculty across UAF, CTC, and CRCD are encouraged to request the use of this resource. There are some criteria for eligible videos, given that this is a paid service that needs to be used wisely.

Criteria are: 

  • Videos are created in advance of being used (captioning service has a five-day turnaround)
  • Instructors expect to reuse videos across multiple semesters
  • Videos are not overly long and have been trimmed of silences, mistakes and side conversations (captioning is charged a per-minute rate)
  • Videos are hosted in Kaltura

You can expect to hear back from a captioning manager at UAF CTL within 2-3 business days of submitting the request form. Processing a captioning request often involves a bit of conversation, as every situation is unique. For example, UAF CTL is committed to accurately representing words and phrases from Alaska Native languages, but this often requires some coordination with others beyond the captioning vendor.

Videos Not on Kaltura

For instructors who use videos created by others from YouTube or other video platforms, there is no easy solution if the video is not captioned. Instructors are encouraged to seek out alternative videos that do have accurate captions. In some cases, reaching out to the video owner and requesting that they edit their captions has produced results! 

For any questions about captioning, please contact Clara Noomah at cfnoomah@alaska.edu.


  1. (WAI), W3C Web Accessibility Initiative. “Captions/Subtitles.” Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), https://www.w3.org/WAI/media/av/captions/#automatic-captions-are-not-sufficient.
  2. Gernsbacher, Morton Ann. “Video Captions Benefit Everyone.” Policy insights from the behavioral and brain sciences vol. 2,1 (2015): 195-202. doi:10.1177/2372732215602130 Open Access: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5214590/
  3. Dello Stritto, Mary Ellen, and Katie Linder. “A Rising Tide: How Closed Captions Can Benefit All Students.” EDUCAUSE Review, 28 Aug. 2017, https://er.educause.edu/articles/2017/8/a-rising-tide-how-closed-captions-can-benefit-all-students.

Clara Noomah

Instructional Designer


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