6 eLearning Companies Share Video Captioning and Accessibility Strategies [Interviews]

September 6, 2013 BY SHANNON K. MURPHY
Updated: December 6, 2021

We don’t pay attention to accessibility laws. We caption because it’s the right thing to do.

Bilal Musharraf
Khan Academy
As online video becomes the primary medium for education and learning, most universities, corporations, and governmental agencies are facing legal and ethical pressures to make video accessible for people with hearing impairments. As a result, eLearning companies are increasingly expected to produce accessible video with closed captions. However, captioning means increased costs, a longer production cycle, and a more complicated workflow.

eLearning Experts Interviewed

Deb Rayow, Edgenuity
Edgenuity is a platform for online and blended-learning programs.

Bilal Musharraf, Khan Academy
Khan Academy’s mission is to bring education to the world, free of cost. Anyone, anywhere can take a class in a multitude of subject matters.

Stacy Evans, Skillsoft
Skillsoft is a talent management solution featuring performance management, learning management and eLearning resources on one unified platform.

Jim Cannon, Banker’s Academy
Banker’s Academy specializes in training solutions to the financial community with a primary focus on banks, credit unions, and money service businesses.

Vernon Pursley, Staff Kit
StaffKit Computer Training offers numerous courses to professionals who wish to update skill sets.

Diane Elkins, Artisan E-Learning
Artisan E-Learning designs and develops courses from start to finish, providing guidance on establishing an eLearning production team, selecting technology, or refining strategy.

Yet a growing number of eLearning companies view it as a business opportunity rather than a cost of doing business. To get insight into the minds of eLearning companies, we conducted interviews with 6 leading eLearning companies to better understand how captioning is impacting their businesses and processes.

How much of your eLearning content is transcribed and captioned?

Although everyone we spoke with was working toward being more accessible, some companies were further ahead than others. Khan Academy said that they have captioned almost their entire archive of 3,000 videos. Edgenuity expects to have all videos captioned within the next two years. This is because Edgenuity has already captioned everything produced from the year 2000 and expects to caption all new content as it is produced. Mind Leaders builds accessibility into their process by keeping tightly to a script. Because all content is scripted, adding interactive transcripts is much easier, but keeps accessibility at the forefront of every course.

What is the motivation for captioning and transcription?

For eLearning companies the benefits of captioning are clear. Captioning helps students to consume the content, while interactive transcripts allow students to navigate videos easily. Both of these features create a better learning experience and therefore, a stronger eLearning product. As a result, captioning and transcription has been built into the instructional design process at Banker’s Academy, Edgenuity, and Mind Leaders. Furthermore, eLearning companies working with enterprise companies and universities have seen an increased demand for accessible online video. Diane Elkins of Artisan E-Learning mentioned that the question of video captioning and accessibility comes up in every client discussion and most government agencies require it.

How is your company compliant with Section 508, ADA and other accessibility laws?

Many education professionals are easily confused when it comes to accessibility laws. And rightly so when you consider that accessibility laws don’t make specific mention of private education. As Elkins aptly points out, Section 508 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act typically address federal agencies and public colleges that receive federal funding, as opposed to private companies. However, the Americans with Disabilities Act, specifically Title III, requires that commercial entities and places of public accommodation make goods and services with equal access to all. It is an anti-discrimination measure protecting those with disabilities.

Knowing this, Rayow revealed that while Edgenuity strives to be legally compliant and follows section 508 for guidance, her company views most accessibility laws to be common sense. “If you can’t hear it, how can you learn it?” she says. Edgenuity tries to remove barriers for their users by incorporating accessibility into their design process.

What is the captioning process and workflow?

Some eLearning companies add captions only when a customer requests it, but the trend is to make captioning part of the design. As Vernon Pursley at Staff Kit said: “It’s done in the development of the courseware because it’s easier to do up front rather than put a band-aid on it later.” Meanwhile, Banker’s Academy hired a project manager to oversee Section 508 compliance and rework guidelines so that the curriculum would accommodate accessibility. For Edgenuity, captioning doesn’t change the internal process too much, but it does increase the production cycle by up to 3 weeks. Rayow sees this as a necessary step to stay ahead of competition and continue delighting learners.

What would you recommend to someone about to start a captioning initiative?

Below is some advice from our eLearning experts:

“Accessibility definitely influences the writing of a course. You become more descriptive in things. It all starts with the writing. It’s also important to think ahead and plan for accessibility. Media standards change constantly. We went from Windows Media to Flash to HTML5.” –Stacy Evans, Skillsoft

“Recognize that 508 and accessibility are not the same thing. You can have an accessible course that is not 508 compliant. Know your audience. What are the actual accessibility issues for them? Talk to HR and legal. You need to have an accessibility plan for every online course. Find someone who actually uses these assistive technologies and understand how they go through the course. http://www.access-board.gov/ is a great resource for Section 508 standards.” –Diane Elkins, Artisan E-Learning

“Quality is always a struggle, individuals and organizations must be motivated to do a good job….Consistency is the challenge.” –Bilal Musherarraf, Khan Academy

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