Accessible Video Captioning for Blended Learning and Lecture Capture

In this session, University of Wisconsin- Madison discusses their accessibility policy, budgeting, prioritization, costs and benefits derived, and best practices for deploying video captioning technologies.



Dusty Smith
Digital Media Manager | University of Wisconsin, Madison

Tole Khesin
VP Marketing | 3Play Media

Recap of UW’s presentation of their caption and accessibility policy

Webinar Summary

During the Sloan Consortium Blended Learning Conference, 3Play Media was lucky enough to participate in the session Accessible Video Captioning for Blended Learning and Lecture Capture with 3Play Media customer, Dusty Smith. Smith, the Digital Media Manager for the College of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison spoke about his institution’s accessibility policies, giving insights into accessibility requests and captioning workflow at a large university infrastructure. Equally important, Smith imparted advice on prioritizing which videos to caption when video production exceeds budget.

Smith began the presentation with an overview of UW-Madison by the numbers:

University of Wisconsin-Madison:

  • Student enrollment: 42,818
  • Faculty and staff: 21,355

College of Engineering:

  • 4,000 undergraduate students
  • 1,550 graduate students
  • 11,000 professional engineering education students
  • 5,500+ hours of video

How the University of Wisconsin Uses Online Video

The College of Engineering, whose media services Smith oversees, creates a majority of its video for professional engineering courses. These are captured through the Mediasite lecture capture system and Ncast recorders. Professors have also recorded video through Camtasia and published on YouTube. Currently, Smith is responsible for a video archive of 5,500 videos but it can be hard to gauge how much video is being created and placed on public sites, such as YouTube, without university knowledge.

UW’s Motivation for Video Captioning and Transcription

The University of Wisconsin-Madison strives for video accessibility in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act. As a public institution, UW needs to follow Title II of the ADA which states that state and local institutions:

  • May not refuse to allow a person with a disability to participate in a service, program, or activity simply because the person has a disability.
  • Must provide programs and services in an integrated setting, unless separate or different measures are necessary to ensure equal opportunity.
  • Must furnish auxiliary aids and services when necessary to ensure effective communication, unless an undue burden or fundamental alteration would result.
  • Shall operate their programs so that, when viewed in their entirety, they are readily accessible and usable by individuals with disabilities.

As such, a committee was established at UW-Madison to assess captioning contracts.

DUSTY SMITH: We evaluated a group of captioners, and they submitted their products, and we tested them on editability, correct content, ease of access. We came up with a couple vendors and 3Play Media was one of the two we chose. We set up the contracts to help the faculty and staff actually go someplace and get captioning done. They didn’t have to manually caption everything. They can set up an account with these guys, upload the video, and get it back in a reasonable time.

Check out the University of Wisconsin Accessibility Policy

In fact, 3Play Media was awarded a state-wide captioning contract with UW System in 2010. 3Play Media provides video transcripts and captions for 26 campuses across the state and one extension program.

How the University of Wisconsin Justifies the Cost of Video Transcripts and Captions

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, there is no central accessibility office. Each department must budget for accommodation and help their faculty and staff publish accessible educational materials. Smith explains how each department becomes aware of a captioning need:

DUSTY SMITH: We do have the McBurney Disability Resource Center, which is a campus center, that is in charge of helping the disabled students get the resources that they need. The students will contact the McBurney Institute, show them their class schedule, and then the McBurney Institute will contact the professors, and our professors will get in touch with us.

So while each department pays for their accommodation requests, the University of Wisconsin provides contingency funding. This means that if an accommodation request would severely impact a departmental budget, the department can request reimbursement for captioning costs.

What Is the Workflow After an Accommodation Request Is Made?

Smith explains the captioning process at the University of Wisconsin:

DUSTY SMITH: Mediasite is an interesting system because they have automated the workflow for captioning. By presentation or through a whole folder, you can actually set it up so that anything that goes into that folder, will automatically get sent out to one of the captioning providers, and they create a transcription and captions and send those back. It’s then placed into the file, and you really don’t have to do any work. That’s made things a lot easier. So then it’s just a matter of basically paying for the transcriptions, because everything’s automated, and it’s up in a couple days.

Which Videos Get Captioned First?

Beyond accommodation requests, UW, like many universities, produces a plan as to how to get the most from their captioning budget.

DUSTY SMITH: In the engineering college, we prioritize it on the design of use and permanence. We have a lot of classes where the professor will record something, and then a year later, he’ll re-record the same class. So we’ve decided that really isn’t an effective use of resources to caption those every year because they’ll change. We try to capture all of our promotional videos and things that are going to have some permanence, like one-time affairs, things that will stick around…. But a lot of our classes aren’t captioned unless there’s a student.

Like many universities, a majority of classes are not captioned. But UW-Madison wants to make sure those that need captions aren’t dissuaded from asking for accommodation. They added a notice at the bottom of their webpage to inform students about this option. Furthermore, the University of Wisconsin is working towards accessibility proactively. Having vendors, contracts, and a reliable workflow in place is the necessary accessibility framework that facilitates an agile response to captioning needs.

How are you reacting to the needs of disabled students? It is wise to test vendors before the need arises, getting a pulse on a company’s quality & accuracy, flexibility, and turnaround time. We invite you to try a free captioning demonstration with 3Play Media.

You might also be interested in:

Resources for Online Education Accessibility & Policy Building

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Accessible Online Video Requirements

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Summary and Actions

Digital Does Not Mean Accessible: Building Accessible Institutional Infrastructures

University Of Wisconsin Awards 3Play Media State-Wide Captioning & Transcription Contract