Exploring Accessibility Strategies for Online Video in Higher Education

February 25, 2015 BY EMILY GRIFFIN
Updated: June 3, 2019

On February 12, 2015, 3Play moderated a webinar called “Accessibility Strategies for Educational Online Video.” Hosted by the Online Learning Consortium, this webinar featured Haris Gunadi, Alternative Media Specialist at Portland Community College, and Patrick Wirth, Director of Media Services at University of Wisconsin Extension, discussing how their institutions address web accessibility. If you missed it, stream the video below for a full recording of the event.


University of Wisconsin’s Approach

Patrick Wirth gave an overview of UW’s policies, beginning with the legal regulations higher education faces when making their online media accessible to all students. These include compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the W3C’s guidelines for media publishing. But Wirth makes it clear that UW cares about more than just legal obligations.

He asks “Why Does UW Extension Care?” In elegant bulletpoints, Wirth clarifies that accessible web design supports the University’s mission, improves user experience, and makes your content more searchable. He recommends our blog posts on the SEO benefits of captioning to learn more about how captioning and transcription improve your content’s search ranking.

Why UW Cares About Web Accessibility

UW’s Media Services department handles two separate types of media: content used for marketing the university to prospective students and content used internally for classes. They fully caption content for either purpose.

As an organization, we provide video subtitles for all videos used in our online courses and marketing pieces.

To manage their instructional media, UW uploads and stores their videos on Kaltura, which integrates directly with 3Play Media for automated captioning at scale. Once a video has captions, it gets uploaded to the Desire2Learn to be accessed by students.

In addition to videos, UW uses a narrated presentation player in 80% of its courses. This shows lecture slides along with a downloadable transcript or audio recording, which students find useful for studying offline. In fact, a survey revealed that 50% of UW’s Sustainable Management students use class
transcripts for study guides.

On the marketing side, UW uses transcripts of interviews with students and faculty to create Student Stories for promotional purposes. Transcripts let them easily search video content and create clips that tell a compelling story about the college experience.

Wirth raves about the easily searchable transcripts:

“What we typically will do then is, once we’ve assembled the script, we share it with the marketing team to ensure that our message is on point. And ultimately, this has reduced our editing time by over 50%. And it’s really streamlined our workflow for developing new Student Stories moving forward.”

Portland Community College’s Approach

Haris Gunadi explained that PCC has an entire team devoted to accessible media at the college. He oversees the team, whose staff specialize in:

  • Securing captioned content with copyright permissions, when applicable
  • Helping faculty upload their content with captions
  • Supporting e-text and Braille readers
  • Keeping informed of new technologies and regulations for accessibility

Gunadi admits there is a gap between his ideal workflow and the reality of captioning video content. The dream is that instructors submit content to his office with due dates in advance. In reality, 50% of instructors don’t know in advance which videos they will show in class. Furthermore, some instructors hold misconceptions about the difficulty of captioning, assuming that his office can’t handle last-minute requests — or they’re just confused about how to activate closed captions on the DVD or VHS players in class.

The instructor realizes the process is really easy. It’s not burdensome at all.

Gunadi tackles these issues with outreach. His office communicates regularly with instructors, sending reminders or giving tutorials about the process. He reassures faculty that as long as they have 1 business day to process their video files, they will be ready in time for class. He says that after one year of working with 3Play as a caption vendor, “the instructor realizes the process is really easy. It’s not burdensome at all.”

Gunadi notes that the interactive transcript feature is a big hit with students and teachers.


Those are just a few highlights of the webinar. Listen starting at 33:37 for the Q&A portion.

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