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Why Students Use Closed Captions and Transcripts

  • male student taking notes and watching laptop screen in a library

    A captioning research study from Oregon State University examined why students use closed captions and video transcripts as part of their studies.

    How do these resources support their study habits?

    What benefits do students get from transcript and captions?

    Let’s look at the study results.

    Why Students Use Closed Captions

    Over 2,000 higher education students were asked why they use closed captions in their coursework.

    Survey respondents were asked to check all of the options that apply to them:

    • English is my second language
    • I have difficulty with hearing
    • I watch videos in sound sensitive environments (e.g. a library)
    • Helps me focus
    • Helps me with difficult vocabulary
    • Helps overcome poor audio quality
    • My professor has an accent
    • Helps me retain the information
    • Other (please describe)

    Why Respondents Use Closed Captions (graph): Helps me focus (1001); Helps me retain the information (963); Helps overcome poor audio quality (958); I watch videos in sound sensitive environments (e.g. a library) (650); Helps me with difficult vocabulary (418); I have difficulty with hearing (288); My professor has an accent (285); Other (155); English is my second language (11)

    The most respondents said that they use closed captions to help them focus, to help them retain information, and to help them overcome poor audio quality of videos. The smallest group of respondents use closed captions because of English being their second language.

    The two most common reasons for students to use closed captions — focus and retention of information — demonstrate that captions are used primarily as a learning aid, not necessarily as an accommodation.

    Verbatim feedback from students about why they use closed captions:

    • “I find it easier to read along with the videos rather than just sit there and listen to the professor talk.”
    • “I don’t like playing videos with sound when I’m in an environment where doing so would be disruptive.”
    • “If my teachers talk quickly, I don’t have to worry about missing a word. Some professors have had an accent that makes interpreting words quite difficult, so closed captioning helps me to be confident in what I am hearing.”
    • “Closed captions allow me the watch the video in two different ways: the first time I watch a video, I go through it without subtitles and the second time, I watch it with subtitles. This allows me to check if I missed anything in the video and allows me to pause the video to write stuff down if I want an exact quote.”

    Note that the two most common reasons for students to use closed captions — focus and retention of information — demonstrate that captions are used primarily as a learning aid, not necessarily as an accommodation.

    This means instructional designers can make a strong case for closed captioning course videos for all students as part of a universal design strategy.

    Why Students Use Transcripts

    Why Respondents Use Transcripts (graph): As study guides (682); Helps me retain information (668); Helps me find information (667); Helps me focus (491); Helps overcome poor audio quality (428); Helps me with difficult vocabulary (288); Other (273); I watch videos in sound sensitive environments (e.g. a library) (261); My professor has an accent (178); I have difficulty with hearing (136); English is my second language (75)

    Students use video or audio transcripts differently than they use closed captions on a video.

    Students are more likely to use a video transcript as a study guide, for instance. They might make notes or highlight key parts of the transcript and reference that instead of rewatching the video.

    Students also use transcripts to find specific information. They can do this by visually skimming for a term, or, if the transcript is digital, using the Ctrl+F command to find a word instantly. In this way, students use transcripts to navigate material faster and more efficiently.

    Closed Captions vs. Transcript Use: A Comparison

    Comparatively, respondents reported using closed captions more than transcripts in all categories. This may be, in part, because closed captions were reported as being more available.

    Comparison of Closed Caption and Transcript Use (graph). Reasons follow by # of students who use closed captions, followed by # of students who use transcripts for that purpose. Helps me retain information: 963, 668. Helps me focus: 1001, 491. Helps me overcome poor audio quality: 958, 428. Helps me understand difficult vocabulary: 418, 288. Other: 155, 273. Helps me in sound-sensitive environment (650, 261). My professor has an accent: 285, 178. I have difficulty with hearing: 288, 136. English is my second language: 112, 75.

    Twice as many respondents reported using closed captions than transcripts for help with focus. More than twice as many reported using closed captions than transcripts for watching videos in sound sensitive environments such as libraries.

    For more on the research study findings, click the image below to download your copy of the full report.

    Download the research study results on student uses and perceptions of closed captions & transcripts

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