Which Students Find Closed Captions Helpful the Most?

December 9, 2016 BY PATRICK LOFTUS
Updated: June 3, 2019


If you’ve looked at the report on student closed captioning uses and perceptions, you may already know that most students find closed captions helpful.

Deaf and hard of hearing students are the obvious beneficiaries when it comes to closed captions on video. But according to this study, they’re not the only group of students that finds closed captions helpful for learning — far from it, in fact.

Overall Responses to the Student Survey

For a baseline comparison, here is the response data on closed captioning perceptions from the entire pool of respondents:

  • 34.9% of students “always” or “often” use closed captions when available
  • 26% of students “never” use closed captions
  • 59.1% of students find closed captions “very” or “extremely” helpful for learning

Subgroups That Find Closed Captions “Very” or “Extremely” Helpful

Now, here are the subgroups that had highest response rate for either “very” or “extremely” when asked how much closed captions on videos were helpful to their learning:

  • Students who have difficulty with hearing – 71.4%
  • Students who speak English as a second language – 66%
  • Students with other disabilities – 65.4%
  • Students with learning disabilities – 60.6%
  • Students who “always” or “often” have trouble maintaining focus – 64.7%
  • Students who are the first in their family to attend college in the US – 64.8%

Possible Explanations

Unsurprisingly, students who have difficulty with hearing had the highest response rate at 71.4%.

In fact, one might wonder why that number isn’t higher for this subgroup. Dr. Katie Linder, the head researcher on the study, suggests this might have something to do with students’ previous experience with poor-quality closed captions:

[We] had students, for closed captions, who commented a lot about things like if they’re blocking things on the screen, that’s a hindrance. So, if they take up too much room on the screen and they block important information, or if there are typos, if they’re improperly synced with the audio– those kinds of things were what students noted as hindrances for closed captions.

It is also probably unsurprising that students who speak English as a second language (ESL students) find closed captions helpful for learning.

Students who are the first in their family to attend college in the US are also very likely to be ESL students if they are from another country, so they would also find closed captions helpful for the same reasons. Even if English is a foreign student’s first language, closed captions might make an unfamiliar native North American accent (Southern, Midwestern, New York, Boston accents, etc.) of a course instructor much easier to understand on lecture-captured video content.

One of the more vague subgroups was students with other disabilities. These were students who claimed to have a disability other than a hearing disability, which can include invisible disabilities and closed captions might prove an effective accommodation for those students. An example of an invisible disability could be ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, or other disabilities lumped into the groups, students who “always” or “often” have trouble paying attention in class, and students with learning disabilities.

Other Interesting Takeaways

  • Of the students who indicated they used closed captions and transcripts “always” or “often,” there was no significant difference between how helpful students with disabilities found them compared with students without disabilities.
  • The amount of students who were “unsure if captions were available” caused there to be significance based on availability of captions. When those who are “unsure” are removed from the analysis there is no longer any significant difference in how helpful students perceive captions to be, and there is no magnitude of difference. Same goes with transcripts. Meaning, more students would likely use and favor closed captions as a learning tool if there was greater awareness and availability.

To get the full student subgroup analysis from the 3Play Media / Oregon State University study on student uses and perceptions of closed captions, check out our webinar with Katie Linder.

The full report, Student Uses and Perceptions of Closed Captions & Transcripts, is available for download via the link below:

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

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