How Accessible Lecture Capture Technology Works

February 4, 2016 BY EMILY GRIFFIN
Updated: June 3, 2019

In the webinar How to Implement Accessible Lecture Capture, 3Play Media hosted two presenters, one from the college’s perspective and one from the software provider’s perspective.

Christopher Soran, Interim eLearning Director at Tacoma Community College, presented his college’s closed captioning solution for lecture capture and course videos (see the full case study).

Next, Ari Bixhorn from Panopto explored how his company’s software allows colleges and eLearning institutions to provide accessible lecture videos to students.

Watch a recording of the webinar starting with Ari’s presentation on the video below, or read on for a condensed version of his presentation.

How Accessibility Is at the Core of Lecture Capture Technology

Support for accessibility in lecture capture has become really important in recent years. Accessibility impacts which lecture capture tools institutions adopt and also, as a result, how lecture capture vendors like Panopto are building their products.

What’s interesting to note is that one of the original goals of lecture capture was to create a more accessible learning environment. So if students had to miss a class due to a personal, medical, or any other reason, they could still attend the lecture virtually as though they were in the class, seeing the professor and any material that the professor was presenting.

At at Carnegie Mellon University, where Panopto was first developed, one of the initial use cases was explicitly focused on accessible learning.

There were two students in the computer science department at CMU, and they had a physical disability that frequently meant that they couldn’t attend class. So as Panopto was being developed, part of the original design was to help these students get an online learning experience that mirrored the in-class experience as best as possible.

Over the past few years, lecture capture has sort of transitioned from being a nice-to-have technology to a critical utility that students expect as part of their learning experience.

Data on Accessibility in Lecture Capture Technology

Pie chart: 80% of higher ed institutions use lecture capture
In March, 2015, the Wainhouse analyst group fielded a survey of a few hundred academic institutions asking about the types of technology that they currently use and what they planned to use in the future.

The results: 80% of those higher ed institutions used lecture capture.

Another question in that survey asked which capabilities led an institution to choose one lecture capture provider over another.

One out of four respondents listed accessibility as one of those key factors.

That means specific accessibility features available in a lecture capture system could sway an institution from one vendor to another. That’s a powerful statement about the importance of accessibility in these tools.

The second stat is one that Panopto has observed first-hand. Year over year, the number of requests for captions is on rise.

Between the years of 2013 and 2014, the number of caption requests increased by 33%.

illustration of data mentioned above

How Panopto Handles Accessibility

Panopto has focused on three main goals for providing accessible lecture capture:

  1. Create quality captions at scale
  2. Simplify the captioning workflow
  3. Deliver an accessible playback experience for the end user

Lecture capture accessibility is more than captioning. It’s really about designing a product that is inclusive so that people with various disabilities can navigate and interact with their online course.

Panopto chose to partner with professional closed captioning companies like 3Play Media, whose focus is on creating high-quality, cost-effective captions at incredibly high scale. That frees the lecture capture system to focus more on goals 2 and 3.
graphic illustrating list of factors, see below

Captioning Workflow in Panopto

Panopto takes several steps to simplify the captioning process within their lecture capture system.
First, it supports one-click requests for captions on any given recording.

Within a lecture capture environment, the owner of the video (a professor, a TA or an admin) should be able to easily request captioning in just a couple of clicks.

There are multiple turnaround time options for how quickly you want to get the captions. And as you would expect, the faster you need the captioning, the more expensive the captions cost.

Once that request is made, everything else should happen behind the scenes from the perspective of the end user.

The request should be automatically sent to the captioning company through an integration with Panopto, and then those captions are inserted directly within the video once they’re finished. There’s no need for the user to manually upload the captions that are generated by that captioning provider. And so within a day or a few days, those captions simply appear as part of the playback experience.

What if you want to caption all of the videos in a particular course? You don’t want to have to manually request captions for each video individually.

Instead, you use the automated captioning service for the entire folder or entire course.

Once the videos have been captioned, they can easily be accessed from within the learning management system.

Since most students at universities are accessing their recorded lectures from an LMS, the captions can be made available directly from within that familiar environment. For Panopto, that means integrating with popular LMSes like Moodle, Canvas, Blackboard, Brightspace, etc.

Accessible Video Playback UX

How do we take a more holistic approach to building accessible lecture capture playback experiences?

Panopto looks at seven factors to address this.

  • Keyboard Accessibility — making sure that the user can pause, play, and navigate the video without a mouse.
  • Images Available at Text — icons should be labelled with text. For example, a volume icon should have a “volume” label at alt text.
  • UI Obeys Contrast and Size Minimums — color contrast should be high enough to be readable by color blind or low-vision users. Font should be of a universally legible size.
  • Screen Reader Support — all controls and text should be readable by screen reader.
  • Variable Speed Playback — faster or slower playback speed options are helpful for students with cognitive or learning disabilities.
  • Audio Podcast — provide a version of the recording that doesn’t require user vision. This may include verbal descriptions of important visuals from the video.
  • Adherence to WCAG — in general, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines should inform inclusive design for lecture capture technology.

3play media logo in blue

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