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Boston University Discusses Accessible Video Captioning for Distance Education and Online Learning

  • Last week, 3Play Media participated in the 29th Distance Teaching and Learning Conference, presented by the University of Wisconsin, Madison. This conference is devoted to innovative tools, technologies, and practices in the field of online and distance education. Attendees range from educators, designers, and trainers, all learning new information through sessions with thought leaders. On the third day of the conference, 3Play Media’s Tole Khesin and Boston University’s Rob Haley spoke about creating accessible video lectures with captions and transcripts. During the talk, “Accessible Video Captioning for Distance Education and Online Learning,” Haley shared his experience integrating captions and video transcripts into the distance learning model at Boston University (BU). Continue reading to learn about the evolution of the BU accessibility policy and how interactive video transcripts and captions enhance online programs.

    Poll of Session Attendees

    Poll asking What % of your online course videos have captions?

    Poll asking 'What is your biggest accessibility concern?

    About Boston University and How They Use Online Video

    Boston University’s distance program is in its 11th year, having launched its first online master’s program in 2002. Presently, the private university offers 17 distance degree programs and over 20 credit and non-credit certificates. Distance learning spans all colleges, with the Office of Distance Education offering up to 40 online courses each semester.

    As the Senior Media Producer for the Office of Distance Education, Haley is responsible for working with 11 instructional designers, ensuring videos are produced at a quality that is suitable for learning and digestion of complex information. Unlike some other online programs that simply record campus lectures, BU creates video specifically for online students, understanding that learning through an online interface instead of face-to-face presents its own challenges. The video production team tailors content for online learners and often goes outside the studio, filming special projects and presentations.

    Why Boston University Captions and Transcribes Video

    A core value of the BU Office of Distance Education is embracing different types of learning. BU strives to provide a means for everyone to succeed in online programs. This inevitably leads to the discussion of accessibility and student disabilities.

    As Haley puts it, “Everyone should have the opportunity to take our online courses, and accessibility shouldn’t be something that stops them.” As such, an accessibility policy has been evolving at Boston University. A research team has been assembled to study accessibility methods and collaborate with organizations dedicated to disabled rights, such as the Perkins School for the Blind.

    Currently, Haley and his office caption videos on an as needed basis, but are working to create a scalable, efficient captioning workflow. The online master’s program for the School of Social Work, however, captions all video content.

    The Boston University Video Production Process

    As with many universities, budget is a concern. Budgetary restrictions mean not all videos can be captioned, but Haley feels text complements video. In fact, Boston University utilizes transcripts as part of the video production process. For many distance learning classes, teachers visit a studio to create short, three- to five-minute videos. Before this, faculty are asked to prepare scripts which Haley and his team bring up on a teleprompter during filming. Transcripts have immense value for the Office of Distance Education in the production of captioned video. First, scripts keep videos professional, reducing the amount of “ums” and “uhs.” Secondly, producing a script ensures teachers come prepared with talking points. Third, scripts drive down costs for captions and interactive transcript tools, as 3Play Media offers a transcript alignment service that turns a transcript into captions for half the price of standard services.

    Adding Value to Boston University Courses with Interactive Video Transcripts

    Haley has found that transcripts and captions go beyond accessibility accommodations and are a viable tool for all learners. In particular, the searchable interactive transcript allows students to read, review and search lecture content. Below are some additional ways BU is utilizing transcripts.

    • Downloadable Study Guides: Students often utilize media transcripts as a separate resource. They often print PDFs and add notes to the transcript while watching the video. Haley has found this particularly helpful as it helps students to retain terminology with proper pronunciation.
    • Video Script Resource: Transcripts of recorded lectures are often used as a first step to create distance education video modules.
    • Course Content Creation: Utilizing transcribed audio and video assist both faculty and instructional designers in updating or creating new course content each semester.

    Building accessibility into distance education has become increasingly important because it is nearly impossible to assess accommodation needs in an online environment. Thus, customization of the academic experience and flexible learning tools are paramount. The BU Office of Distance Education has tackled this issue by deploying innovative technologies and proceeding with plans for an accessibility policy. Transcripts and captions add value for all students, making video content searchable and more engaging.

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