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In-House Captioning Workflows and Economic Analysis [TRANSCRIPT]

LILY BOND: Welcome, everyone, and thanks for joining this webinar, entitled In-house Captioning Workflows and Economic Analysis. I’m Lily Bond from 3Play Media, and I’ll be moderating today. I’m joined by Korey Singleton, the Assistive Technology Initiative manager at George Mason University, who has a great presentation prepared for you. His presentation should take about 30 minutes. And then we’ll leave 15 minutes for questions at the end.

And before I hand it off to Korey, we have a poll so that we can get a better sense of how everyone is currently captioning. Great. So the question is, how are you captioning now? And you can select in-house or DIY, vendor, a combination, other, or not currently captioning. So I’ll just give you a second to answer that. And then we’ll get the results up.

Great, thanks everyone. So you can see, a lot of people are using a combination of in-house and vendor captioning. Otherwise, a lot of you are using in-house and some of you are not currently captioning. So that’s really great to know as we move forward into this presentation. So with that, I will hand it off to Korey.

KOREY SINGLETON: All right, Lily. Thank you for having me. My name’s Korey Singleton. I’m the ATI manager here at George Mason University. And I’m going to talk to you about our experience with captioning in-house and outsourcing.

We basically got started probably about five years ago. And so I first Tole Khesin over at the ATI conference several years ago when we were doing an update on the very first year of our pilot project with captioning. And so I’m going to talk some about that. But I’m also going to talk about what kind of updates we’ve done since that time.

So just a little bit about our office and our university– George Mason has roughly about 34,000 students. That’s the enrollment this semester. We’re the largest four-year public institution in the state of Virginia. We have just over 1,400 full-time instructional and research faculty and just under 400 part-time faculty members. We have four campus locations in the United States, here in northern Virginia– Fairfax, Arlington, Prince William, and Loudoun– and one international location, Songdo Campus, which was opened up probably about three years ago or so now– something like that. If you want more info about our university, you can go to the about.gmu.edu website.

So just briefly about my office– I manage the Assistive Technology Initiative. And I’m not going to read this long written mission statement here. But basically, our task here at the university is to adjust technology accessibility. That’s in the classroom, on the web. We also work with students, staff, faculty, and visitors. The services that we provide encompass accessible text and accessible media. We also provide web accessibility consultations and training here at the university. That also includes web testing and web-based applications testing. And we provide informal assistive technology assessments for students, staff, and faculty with disabilities. We also provide ITAT support and training as well.

So the last thing I’ll share is about our reporting structure. I’m not sure about the spread here as far as the listeners, but at our particular campus, our unit is actually housed under the Compliance, Diversity and Ethics Office. We’re not under the Office of Disability Services, and we’re not under the Information Technology Unit. Those are models that may be used at some other higher education institutions. But here, we report directly to the ADA coordinator, who reports directly to the VP for Compliance, Diversity, and Ethics, who reports directly to the University President.

So the nice thing about that is for some of the initiatives that we have in place, we’re able to kind of do a little more pushing in terms of compliance than we are in other areas. So if you want to learn more about my office, ati.gmu.edu is the website. And I’m also posting a copy of this particular PowerPoint presentation on our website as well.

All right. So let’s get started with the process. I’ll talk about how we got started, how we’ve evolved, and what those next steps looked like. Five years ago or so now, we didn’t have a captioning solution at all. And so what that meant is that whenever we ran into a situation for a student who was deaf or hard of hearing in a course, there was always this argument about who was going to be paying for what. And that argument would be between our office, the Office of Disability Services, the academic unit.

And so you would still be several weeks into the course before you figured out who was paying for it and where you were actually going to get the service done, and where you were going to post it. We had a really siloed university in terms of IT services at that time. And so you really didn’t have the enterprise systems that we have now. And so you ran into a lot of issues on how you were actually going to deliver the content once you had it captioned.

So one thing we did was we were pushing for about a year or so to try and see if we could get the Docsoft AV unit. I’ll talk a little bit about what that unit is like, very briefly. But to get the unit, you had to pay roughly about $15,000 up front, which was a big hurdle for us. So we paid about a third, we partnered with the Kellar Institute for Human disAbilities, which is a part of our College of Education and Human Development. And they covered the rest of it up front. And since, we’ve been splitting the annual maintenance costs with them.

We manage the service, meaning we provide licenses, we provide training on how to use the web-based application and how to use the transcript editor applications. And we were marketing and promoting the service as well. And Kellar had the unit actually installed on their server, and they set up the website for us.

For those who don’t know, Docsoft basically is a web-based application that takes advantage of the Dragon Naturally Speaking Transcription Engine. And so you can upload any audio or video content, and it would transcribe it and give you an automatic transcript. Now it’s not a perfect transcript. It depends on the quality of the audio that you put up. But that was kind of the basis of what we used to start our captioning process.

Now just a kind of update on what happened– a year after putting that in place, and going out and marketing, and talking to different folks in ITU and academic units and all that kind of stuff, we still had nobody really captioning. The unit wasn’t being utilized. And we had one staff member who did it through a small grant. I think she hired a couple of students to help her caption some of the videos that they had for a project in their particular school. And we had one staff member who transcribed some interviews for her research project. And of course, we had graduate students who wanted to use it for transcribing their own research as well.

And so what we kind of realized is that we just had a kind of ill-conceived plan. We were focused so much on trying to get the unit here that we didn’t really put in place a good plan for training and for carrying through use, or rather encouraging use, by those in the community. For those we did encourage, and where we thought we were doing a good job, we got a lot of push-back.

And some of the things we heard– I’m sure you guys know, there’s this myth about voice transcription that, I’m just going to talk to the computer. And everything I say is going to automatically be there, perfect punctuation and everything. And I won’t have to do any cleanup. So we were getting push-back because of that.

We also were getting push-back because faculty and staff members lacked the time and resources to really do it on their own. And that means you didn’t have student workers who were going to clean transcripts for you. You didn’t have time to clean up your own transcripts. So we ran into a lot of issues with that.

We also had push-back because some faculty members really struggle honestly with using Microsoft Word effectively, or using PowerPoint effectively. So now you throw this other educational technology at them, and they were like, well, this is a bridge too far for me. So we were getting push-back in that respect as well.

One thing we were starting to hear quite a bit, though, is that, why don’t you do it for me? Why don’t you do it for me? And so the next evolution was for us to say, well all right. We’ll do it.

We’ll do it if you give us staff, and if you give us money. Yeah, sure, we’ll do it. Because we’re familiar with the technology. We’re familiar with what we’re asking you to do. So we’ll kind of proceed in that direction.

And so one thing we did was we wrote a proposal and submitted that up the chain here at Mason for increased staffing, for money to pay the continued maintenance costs, and to see if we could develop an in-house process based on supporting students who are deaf and hard of hearing in the classroom, and also based on improving compliance in our new Distance Education program. So we submitted a proposal. It was approved. It got submitted January 2011, approved in June 2011.

And most of the costs that were covered actually went toward staffing and some other kind of technology-related costs. We did set aside some money for outsourcing. But most of the money really do go towards us hiring two graduate students and moving our Accessible Text Coordinator, who was part-time at the time, to a full-time position, where she oversaw both the text process and the new media process.

And we also set aside a little bit of money for unexpected costs related to audio description. There were times where we were going to start to get requests for students who have visual impairments needing to access videos in the class. We needed descriptive video. So we wanted to make sure that we had a solution for that as well.

We spent the latter part of that summer doing training and setup. That means we were training the graduate students on the process that we were going to implement. We started working with one instructional designer as part of the pilot project. And she had– I want to say– probably about 10 to 15 faculty members that she was working with to help them develop their online courses. She probably had more. That’s what I can remember from the number that I had interaction with.

But what we kind of decided to do was to say, we’ll focus on converting everything into Windows Media file. We were pulling content from everywhere– YouTube, GMU-TV, [INAUDIBLE] students, DE courses, Mason channels. And so I’ll talk a little bit about that hand-off as well.

Basically, you were kind of taking plug-ins and tools. One of our staff members calls it a chop shop. We really were running a little chop shop here, where you were pulling videos from everywhere. And that was because the faculty members were incorporating videos into their courses that came from everywhere. And so they weren’t all nicely, neatly packaged on a thumb drive or on a CD drive or DVD for you or whatever.

And so part of that training that we had with the graduate students was teaching them how to go and pull these videos from a lot of these different places. And that ended up increasing our turnaround time. In order to kind of familiarize ourselves with the process, we had a three-week turnaround time on jobs, just to kind of familiarize ourselves with everything that was going on.

And so this was our initial workflow. Basically, an email would come in. We had set up, actually, an online request form through our CMS at the time. And the graduate student would actually pull down the video. They would go through the file preparation process, which is what I’ve talked about, depending on where that file was coming from.

It would get uploaded to Docsoft. They would download the transcript once it was transcribed. Then we would use Docsoft to clean it up. And then it would go back to– what we had at the time were the GMU streaming servers.

So we had streaming media servers here on campus– one for QuickTime, one for Windows Media files, and one for Flash files. And it wasn’t a popular service. Because many faculty members were using the servers more to store content than to stream content. So we were going to try and take advantage of it for streaming. But we ran into a lot of limitations on what we could do with the streaming server, like limitations on file account size and things like that.

But basically, we were going to use that as the basis for how we delivered the videos that we provided captions for. And then what we would do is host the captions and the linking files on our web server, and try to merge the two together. So that was our initial workflow.

And so the pilot project results– over the course of the fall of 2011, we captioned roughly about 12 hours of video, no audio description requests. Most of the submissions actually came directly from the instructional designer herself by way of a staff member. And we had some requests that came from staff members who were captioning videos for websites.

We identified all kinds of issues. With Windows Media files, the captions wouldn’t actually pull through for folks who were using a Mac. So we had a lot of issues there. We also ran into buffering issues. We had large– like, if you had an HD file, the video could easily be one gigabyte. And so then trying to actually stream that would cause a lot of issues. And so we had a lot of complaints around buffering.

File prep and timing– the students really struggled with pulling videos from all these different places, and then getting it to a point where they were just starting the work. So the timing really affected us as well. Because a lot of faculty members didn’t want to wait three weeks for their stuff.

The streaming server was a whole other issue, because it was unreliable. We had five-gigabyte account limits. And so again, like I said, you have one video that can be one gigabyte. There’s only a limit to what I can do on mine, which means I’d have to coordinate with the faculty member on their own personal account. And it just became a huge headache in terms of the hand-off.

We had a lack of technical knowledge. I talked about that with the faculty and staff before. But there were a lot of things we really had to figure out, too, in terms of how we standardize the process, how we clean up the process, and how we make it attractive for people who want to come to us to request the service. And marketing was a big thing, too. We just had a lot of issues with marketing effectively.

And so in the spring, in January 2012, what we did was we put in place a few things to actually clean up the process. We centered everything around YouTube as our delivery method, because that got us out of trying to figure out which particular file formats we had to figure out. To improve the captioning quality that the graduate students were putting out, we went to the WGBH best practices and really tried to improve the quality of the captions that the students were putting together.

We put in some procedures for addressing video description requests and outsourcing. Basically, anything over 60 minutes automatically went out to outsource. And so we started to figure out that if you give a student an hour of video, or more than an hour of video, and they sit there and have to crank it out, basically time frames were running– for every minute of video, they were probably taking eight and nine minutes– sometimes 10 minutes, depending on the student– to actually transcribe that content.

And so that would lead into a couple of days of them working on just one video. And so that would affect time frames as well. Lack of technical knowledge– trial and error. We just kind of figured some things out through a lot of trial and error.

And with marketing, we went to what I’ve been kind of terming what I say are choke points. These are places where we knew faculty were going. One thing we have difficulty with is getting in front of faculty ourselves, just to talk about accessibility. But we can work through specific channels in our university who we know faculty are going to.

Faculty are going to orientation workshops. They’re going to the Compliance, Diversity, and Ethics Office for training. They’re going to work directly with instructional designers. They’re working with library personnel. They’re working with the Office of Distance Education. So to go and work with those particular folks to be our champions somewhat– those people can relay messages and integrate accessibility much more effectively into their processes than us trying to go and push it on our own. So that was a really effective way for us to get the message out as well.

And so we updated our workflow process. The areas in green that you’ll notice, I’ll point out those. Instead of having the first one– that’s the Acc Media coordinator preps the file, here on the bottom right– basically we took that whole file prep process out of the hands of the student. So they didn’t have to figure out all those things.

Either the Accessible Media Coordinator or myself were figuring out how to get the files and then prep them. Basically, we would upload them to Docsoft. And then the student would just have to come pull them down and transcribe the content. So that saved a lot of time.

And then we kind of got away from just using the Docsoft transcript editor. We said, let’s just use whatever you’re comfortable with as far as transcribing. If you want to use Notepad, you want to use Movie Captioner, you want to use Docsoft– it doesn’t matter. You use whatever you’re comfortable with, because the final product is the same no matter what.

And then again, using YouTube, we were able to standardize it down to a specific file type. So file types for video didn’t really matter. We can upload most anything. But we focused on SRT file types as far as the captioning. And on the left-hand side, you’ll see the outsourcing, where anything over 60 minutes we automatically sent out to kind of help minimize the amount of time they were spending on certain types of videos, or long videos.

And so that was what we did to clean up everything and get through that first year of captioning. And so I’ll talk about the numbers briefly in a second. But I want to talk a little bit about our evolution in these recent two years.

And so what we found in the second year of the process is that YouTube was familiar. So a lot of people, a lot of faculty members, are really familiar with YouTube. So they were very comfortable using that platform, whether it was personally or for school or whatever. Some even had their own accounts. So it was something that they were comfortable using.

We ended up having 2 and 1/2 times the number of requests in the second year than we did in that first year. The accessibility was starting to be incorporated in the DE course review process. Whenever they developed Distance Education courses, accessibility was starting to be looked at as one of those things before a course would go live.

And we were able to reduce our turnaround times to about 7 to 10 days with some of those updates I talked about. The bad thing is we still had a lot of manual handoff. So even though we were outsourcing content, and doing some in-house stuff, you still were uploading to YouTube, pulling down from YouTube, uploading to the vendor site, pulling down from the vendor site. So that handoff kind of resulted in lost time as well.

A lack of predictability– I couldn’t tell you how many numbers or how many requests we were going to get from one semester to the next. So we couldn’t really plan in terms of budget and we couldn’t really plan in terms of staffing sometimes. It was a little difficult to understand.

The graduate assistants are still struggling with immediate requests. If we found out that a student was enrolled in a course and they didn’t get their videos done, and you know, the video’s maybe 45 minutes long, you’re still running into an issue with that 60-minute time cutoff which we had. Retraining graduate students– hiring, losing, rehiring student workers. That was a big issue for us, too.

And then the copyright issues. We had one YouTube account which we had unlimited uploads and everything to. And then it got flagged. It became illegal. So we said, all right, we’ll set up another YouTube account. So we had a legal account and then we had an illegal account. And that’s kind of how we operated for a while.

And so the year after that, the university kind of made this shift towards using Kaltura. And so that platform shift really helped us in terms of scalability. Everybody was kind of making this move towards a video management hosting platform that the university would put in place and support.

And it was accessible. They have the 508 player and a number of other accessibility features that made it easy for us to get buy-in, in terms of people moving towards Kaltura. So that was a great thing that happened in this last fiscal year.

We started to see growing predictability. We had almost three times the number of requests just this past fiscal year than we did in the previous fiscal year. We did some negotiation with captioning vendors, too, for outsourcing. So that way we were able to reduce costs by negotiating with vendors up front. We improved our workflows. And we’ve actually reduced our turnaround time to about four business days now.

We still have some copyright issues. We have a third YouTube account, actually, because one got flagged again. Mainly because we still have a number of folks who are very comfortable using YouTube. They haven’t moved towards Kaltura yet.

The University as a whole is still– they were piloting it last year. It was supposed to be fully implemented in the fall of this year. But it still hasn’t been fully implemented for everybody to take advantage of yet. So we’re still doing some handoff in that respect. But once it’s fully implemented, it’ll be much easier. And then the bad– it’s just outsourcing costs are so high. So we’re driving that price down.

And so our most updated work flow– I’m only going to talk about the green areas again. Kaltura is a big part of what we’re doing now. That’s actually the larger part. It’s pretty much taken over YouTube in that respect. We’re still using YouTube and Kaltura. It depends on what the faculty member is using. But we’re encouraging and pushing folks towards Kaltura.

And as far as our outsourcing, we’ve actually cut it down so that anything over 15 minutes, or that we know is an immediate need in the classroom, gets automatically outsourced. We don’t even think about it. So the nice thing about that is that stuff that’s 15 minutes, we know can get cranked out in a day’s time, and even in pretty short order, depending on who’s doing it and how comfortable they are with captioning.

All right. So this is what the numbers look like. In our first year, when we did the pilot, we had about 147 video requests that were completed. The second year, we jumped up to 371. Just this past fiscal year– and when I say fiscal year, I’m going from July 1 to June 30– we had just over 1,000 videos.

And so far this year, I actually have 880. We’re slightly under 880– about 872 or so. But so far this year, we’re at close to 900 requests. And spring semester’s always our biggest semester. This past spring, we did about almost 600 requests. And the track record has been that every spring we’ve doubled the previous spring. So if that’s the case– and our Acc Media Coordinator Courtney may not want to hear this, but we may be looking at roughly about anywhere between 800 and 1,000 just next semester. It’s what we’re kind of expecting.

All right. So let me talk about costs. This is the breakdown of our costs by fiscal year. The first– FY12 being our pilot year, FY13 being the second year, and then just this past June is when we ended fiscal year ’14.

And so the big things that I’ve highlighted here are the average cost per minute, outsourcing. And so you’ll see in our pilot year that we were paying about $2.94 per video minute for outsourcing. And we’ve been able to drive that cost down significantly with some of the changes that we’ve made.

We’re down at roughly about $2.35 per minute now. And I know we’ll be much lower going into this fiscal year, FY15, because we’re still looking at captioning contracts. But also, the contracts weren’t signed until the midpoint of this past year.

And so the other thing you’ll notice are the in-house numbers, underneath that top highlighted line. And so for in-house, the reason we’re able to capture the cost in that pilot year is because we used our graduate students solely for captioning, where they weren’t used for anything else. Now any student workers we hire kind of bounce between whatever we need them for. But we used the two that we hired then solely for captioning.

And so if you look, they did about 171 jobs combined. And the average cost per video minute for our in-house work was about $5.87. And honestly, if we had just gone ahead and outsourced those minutes, we would have saved close to $7,000 doing that.

And so in the last two years, we didn’t use students solely for that work. And we also had other ways that we were kind of recapturing costs. We started working with the library to ask folks that they have subscriptions with– some of the subscription content– if they would go back to the publisher and ask them to caption some videos. And some have actually gone ahead and done that.

We’ve been able to find SRT files, actually, surprisingly, online for certain things. If you look on certain websites like PBS, content’s already captioned in many places– Ted Talks as well. So by going out and finding those things, we’ve been able to not spend that money that you see there in that bottom line in fiscal year ’13 and ’14.

And so just to kind of break down that pilot year a little bit more– and this is just kind of a highlight, again. Again, the average cost per video minute outsourcing was $2.94. Average cost per video minute for our students was $5.87.

And I’m breaking it down per student now. So our first student actually was the one that struggled more than the other. And the average cost for video minute for that particular student was $7.93. And the average cost for the second student was actually $3.26. So he was more in line, closer to what we had, in terms of an average than the first student.

Now one thing I want to say is it wasn’t that student’s sole fault. We really didn’t set them up for success in the beginning. Because they were kind of there doing all of the nuts and bolts of figuring out the download process, and figuring out which formats and all that. And while some students who are a little more tech savvy can kind of bounce back and forth between those things, this particular student struggled with that part of it.

And so I think by just getting those students out of the hands-on process, the muck of trying to figure out all those details, they were able to just focus on captioning. I think it was much better in the end than it was in the beginning. And so I think that’s what that cost actually reflects as well.

So just summarizing, these are now our strategic partnerships that are built around accessible media here. Again, we used the Kellar Institute in the beginning. They were a huge part of us being able to get that Docsoft platform in place. And we haven’t been using the Docsoft platform as much going forward, but it’s still kind of a part of what we do. It’s still one of the tools in the toolbox, so to speak.

Ongoing, we work closely with the Disability Services Office. The Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Coordinator actually reaches out to faculty members who have a student who’s d/Deaf or hard of hearing in their course actually several weeks before classes start, to encourage them to get their videos captioned. With the Information Technology Unit, the Online Learning Services group actually host Kaltura and the Blackboard platform. So we’ve been able to work with them on incorporating accessibility into the platform.

The instructional design team– we do a lot of training and hand off with them in terms of working closely with faculty. When they bring together faculty development workshops, they’ll bring us in and talk about accessibility and about the need to get content captioned. We just finished working with the library on a streaming media policy. And part of that policy involves how we address the content’s that already in the library collections in terms of making sure that content’s accessible. And again, we work closely with the office of Distance Education in terms of making sure accessibility is incorporated in the very beginning of the course development process.

So who’s using the service? We’ve had over 150 faculty and staff members make requests since we started the process. We’ve also been able to track which schools, colleges, and units make the most requests– the top three being the School of Engineering, our College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and our College of Science.

The nice thing about how we’ve positioned everything– and I talked about being a part of the Compliance, Diversity, and Ethics Office– is that we’ve been able to change the conversation from, well I don’t have a student who’s deaf or hard of hearing in my course, to OK, now I know I need to comply. So how do I do it? And so all of the process changes that I’ve been talking about really have been about, how do we make it easier for faculty members to comply?

A lot of faculty members really do want to make their courses accessible. They really want to do what we’re asking them to do. But we’ve really made a concerted effort to focus on how do we make it easy for them to do what they need to do. And so you’ll see almost 3/4 of the content that we caption is for compliance for DE course. And about 1/4 of that is for disability accommodation.

And so our next steps are really just to continue to assess our workflow and clean it up. I mention here as the third option under Assess Workflow– all options on the table. I’ve met some of my colleagues at conferences who are doing some really good things in-house, and some who are doing some really interesting things around grants or financial grants for academic units, to be able to get them to caption their own stuff. So we really are thinking about how we can actually do a more comprehensive solution here, and get everybody to find a solution that they think works better for them. And so all options really are on the table in terms of how we clean up our workflow.

Things to continue to improve campus buy-in– again, I told you about how we know who requests captions, what faculty members, what departments they’ve come from, what schools and colleges they’re part of. So the ones aren’t, who haven’t completely bought in, we can do very targeted marketing around getting those folks and spreading the word in those particular areas.

The other nice thing is that with Kaltura, everything’s located in one place. So it’s a little easier, knowing everybody’s going to be using this platform, and that we’re doing everything to put the right infrastructure in place for this process, will help as well.

And as far as improving costs and timelines, that really has to do with negotiating better outsourcing costs and continuing to make sure that requests over a certain time frame don’t get bogged down in the office. They’re more cost-effective for us to send out.

And so the final thing I’ll mention are things to consider for your institution. Think about what your budget and your priorities are now, in terms of trying to figure out your process. In-house doesn’t work for everybody. And outsourcing doesn’t work for everybody. But think about what works best for your institution.

Build your infrastructure first. That was one thing that we stumbled through during that pilot process. But I’m glad we went through it. The best thing we probably could have done was maybe remove the students from that early part, and just gave them the files to actually caption. That probably would have helped us a little bit more, as well.

Involve your stakeholders early. We didn’t get the library and the Office of Distance Education and all those folks involved early. And so that’s why we ran into some stumbling blocks out the gate, in terms of marketing that initial Docsoft pilot that we put out there.

And as far as in-house versus outsourcing, just think about what model fits best for your institution. If you have an institution and a culture where everybody’s going to buy in, and you have students that can do an effective job captioning and that’ll be with you for a couple of years, then by all means, go for an in-house process. If not, an outsourcing fits better because you don’t have the staffing or the time to actually build up some kind of model, think about that as well.

Put policies in place that people will read and follow. That’s helpful as well. And the last thing I’ll mention is training, training, training, training. As much as you can get out in front of people and educate them about how to do it, about how to take advantage of the process that you’ve put in place, that really helps down the road as well. So one thing we’ve been pushing big-time about training is not just to try and get face time, but to also have just-in-time tools that sit on our website.

So you’ll notice on our website, we have a training guide. We have a video training library to kind of match that training guide. And we still try to get face time in front of faculty and staff as well. And those things have been effective strategies for us to continue to market our services well.

And that is it. I ran a little over, so I’ll turn it over to Lily for questions.

LILY BOND: Great. Thanks so much, Korey. So before we start answering your questions– and again, feel free to continue to type questions into the box in your control panel– we have one more poll for you, if you want to answer that while we compile your questions.

How do you foresee your captioning needs changing in the next few years? And you can select increasing significantly, increasing moderately, staying the same, or decreasing. And we’ll give you a second to answer that.

So no surprises, I guess. Most people foresee captioning requirements increasing for their institution, either significantly or moderately. And a few of you think that it’ll probably stay the same. So that’s really helpful. Thank you.

And as we start answering questions, just keep in mind that we have some resources on the screen. And we will include some more resources in our email that we send out, along with a recording of this webinar with captions, and the slide deck. I know a couple of you asked about that.

So Korey, let’s get started with the first question.


LILY BOND: Someone is asking if you could talk more about your relationship with IT and DSO and faculty, and specifically how you work with them to provide campus-wide captions.

KOREY SINGLETON: With the Information Technology Unit, there are two specific offices we work mostly with. One is the Instructional Design team. They have played a large role in helping faculty transition their face-to-face courses to online. And so we work to provide the instructional designers with training on how to incorporate accessibility into the course development process. Part of that includes the captioning process.

And we did have one instructional designer in the very beginning who was basically our guinea pig in the captioning pilot process. And we’ve had other instructional designers who’ve given us a lot of feedback on ways we can improve or try to get more faculty buy-in. So that’s one unit.

The other unit in ITU that we work closely with was Online Learning Services. And Online Learning Services manages the Kaltura Video Management platform. But they also manage Blackboard. And so in terms of being able to figure out how we push content from Kaltura into our Blackboard courses– because we’ve had to do a lot of hand off with that during the pilot process now. That’s one other way that we’ve worked closely with Online Learning Services. We also work with them on using the 508 player, which is Kaltura’s accessible video player, as opposed to just using the standard skins that they have available.

And with Disability Services, it really involved us working closely with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Coordinator to identify what classes the students who are d/Deaf and hard of hearing are enrolled in, making sure those faculty members know that any videos in their class need to be captioned, and getting those faculty members– educating them on how they submit their videos to us to be captioned. I think that answers your question.

LILY BOND: Yeah. Great answer. So another question here is asking where the money came from, and whether debts chip in at all, or if it’s generally university money.

KOREY SINGLETON: Actually, no. It’s all central funding. So our money has come from central funding. And I think part of the reason is because in the past, we were having fights with Disability Services about who pays. Because they had a tight budget. We had a tight budget. And so when we wrote our proposal, we went specifically up through the Provost’s office to try and get Central Funds to back it.

And so at this point, we essentially have Central Funds backing whatever we do. So if, for example, we run over our budget, then Central will cover any overruns.

LILY BOND: Great. Thanks. So there are a few questions in here about your outsourcing process– people asking specifically where you’re outsourcing to, and if you could just talk about your approach to outsourcing.

KOREY SINGLETON: Our approach now is to focus on vendors who have relationships with Kaltura. Since Kaltura is going to be the basis of our video process here on campus, we’re focusing on outsourcing to vendors who have relationships with Kaltura. We’ve used a number of different outsourcing companies.

We’ve used 3Play Media. We’ve use Automatic Sync. We’ve used Cielo24. We’ve used a lot of different ones. We’ve used some local ones here in the state of Virginia. So we’ve had an opportunity to test a lot of different resources who are out there.

LILY BOND: Great. Thank you. A lot of people are noting that the challenge that you’ve experienced appears to be less the tech side and more the person hours needed to do a comprehensive program. They’re wondering if you could talk more about your coaching and training process for your grad students and staffers.

KOREY SINGLETON: Well the coaching and training process– the tech process was the huge part of it in the beginning, honestly. And the tech process was huge in terms of figuring out what we were going to do, what platform we were going to use. Now once you figure out what platform you were going to use, once we settled on YouTube, it was training the students and ourselves on how we go and actually caption within YouTube.

And again, it was training on several different tools because we were using Docsoft at the time– transcript editor– to do some editing. We were using Movie Captioner to do some editing. We were using YouTube itself to do some editing. And so when we brought students in, we really talked about all of those tools, and said, whatever you find easiest to use, go ahead and use. But we’re going to show you how all three work.

Now that was effective for us. For some people, it may just be, we’re only going to use YouTube. Or we’re only going to use whatever. And then you kind of go that route. Now once you settle on some tools and some platforms, then it’s just a matter of writing out a workflow that everybody can kind of follow and figure out, and kind of fall in line with. And that’s what we were able to do with some of the different tools that we used.

Now as far as coaching with faculty and staff, it really had more to do with– in-house, we figure out what’s an easy way for people to kind of fall in line in terms of making requests and getting feedback from faculty and instructional designers on what was difficult, what wasn’t difficult, and blah blah blah. And once we kind of took all that feedback and incorporated it back into our process, it resulted in an online process that made it easy for people to submit stuff. It resulted in a few different ways that faculty members could get the videos to us. And it resulted in us going and talking to the instructional designers and educating them on exactly how they make requests.

And once we were able to kind of get our quote unquote “mouthpieces” out there, to kind of echo what we were going to say in front of people, that helped a lot as well.

LILY BOND: Great, thanks. So what have you done about existing media content that never was captioned? And how far back did you go, if you did caption existing media?

KOREY SINGLETON: For existing media that hasn’t been captioned, we’ve done them basically on an as-needed basis. So if a faculty member has video from the library that they then want to incorporate into their class, they can submit a request. And we’ll have it captioned.

But we don’t go back and just start looking randomly at the collections. That was one thing we thought about doing early on, and it just became– it’s a drop in a bucket. It’s just too much. So we just kind of focus on everything going back on an as-needed basis.

So a faculty member makes a request to the library. The library gets that request to us as far as getting it captioned. And we work with the library on digitizing it, captioning it, and making sure that it’s streamed through the proper channels.

LILY BOND: Great, thank you. So there are a few questions here about copyright and fair use issues. We have a pretty in-depth blog post that we will include in the resources later that goes over copyright for captioning existing videos for education. But Korey, if there’s anything you want to add to your discussion of copyright, I’m sure people would be interested.

KOREY SINGLETON: There are a couple of things that I’ll add to that. In terms of copyright, we made a decision in the beginning that we would err on the side of accessibility over copyright. So if you’ve got a student in the class who needs the video, and everybody else is going to be watching this video, but you know it would get flagged for copyright, because a faculty member’s just thrown it up there, we’re going to make sure that the video’s captioned so that student has exactly what they need. With the library, we’ve had a lot of discussions around copyright issues and accessibility issues. And we’ve really tried to partner closely with the library to make sure that we address any copyright challenges up front.

And so part of our copyright manager– I can’t even think of what Claudia’s title actually is. But she’s in charge of the Copyright Office. And so we partner closely with her, the Media Services librarian, and the Distance Education librarian to really try and address any issues around copyright. But they know that our attitude and our practice is that we are going to err on the side of accessibility if we have to.

LILY BOND: That’s a great response. Thank you. So someone else is asking, are you captioning for the entire university, or just for accommodation requests?

KOREY SINGLETON: No, we are actually captioning for the entire university. So we will accept requests from any faculty or staff member for videos that are going to be used in face-to-face, online courses, or on websites. So we’ll caption for any of those. Our priority is, of course, students who are d/Deaf and hard of hearing and their needs in the classroom. But we’ll caption for anybody in terms of compliance.

And so as you saw in the numbers earlier, 3/4 of what we get are people who are complying, and not just wondering whether or not they have a student who’s d/Deaf or hard of hearing in their class.

LILY BOND: Great. Thank you. So there’s another question here asking whether there are specific DE courses, like core or required courses, that come along with captioning policies specifically– like all videos in those courses need to be captioned.

KOREY SINGLETON: To my knowledge, no. As far as any specific online programs, I do not know of any. It is the practice of the Office of Distance Education for any online courses that are coming through their umbrella– which is pretty much most of the online courses here at the university now– they’re going to be looked at for accessibility, captions being a part of that accessibility.

LILY BOND: Great, thanks. So there’s a question here about whether your marketing department closed-captions their videos. Or if you don’t have a department that produces marketing videos, whether or not there’s any captioning involved in your marketing.

KOREY SINGLETON: No. That’s actually a good question. I’m pretty sure our marketing department is not captioning most of the videos. We will reach out to them to try and get videos captioned. If we see things that go up online– I mean, by no means have we covered everything here. So there are a number of units, and that might include our marketing department, that don’t always think about captioning up front. And so, because we have a process, we can actually start to push more. And we’re not as worried about the technology part. From our own perspective, we can start marketing a little more effectively. And that’s one of the units we probably need to work closely with.

LILY BOND: Thanks. So someone else is asking what tools and strategies you use to track your metrics, like minutes or who’s requesting– that kind of thing.

KOREY SINGLETON: Mainly, everything is done through SharePoint. And so mainly we look when people kind of submit minutes and all that kind of stuff. Originally we were pulling everything in using CommonSpot. We’d basically pull all the information in that comes, and we can upload it into a spreadsheet. The big part is really to have that as a part of the online request form. So we have the faculty members input how many minutes and all that kind of detail. And then once it gets pulled in, we can actually just start quantifying that stuff after a while.

LILY BOND: Thank you. So how did you work with the library to make existing content accessible?

KOREY SINGLETON: With the library, there are a couple of different things that happen. When a request comes in, oftentimes we will check it to see if the library owns a copy of it already. If the library owns a copy, then we will reach out to the Media Services librarian to say, hey, you own a copy of this. Can you check to see if it’s captioned already?

And they will go– because their online database is not totally up to date to identify which videos are captioned and which aren’t. And so once they receive a request from us to actually go and check that resource, they’ll check the resource to see if it’s captioned. If it’s captioned, and the only thing we’re talking about is having it digitized, they’ll digitize it for us. And then we’ll get them linked to the faculty member. If it’s not captioned, then what happens is the library will digitize it, get the file back to us, and then we will outsource it to have it captioned. Or we will caption it in-house, depending on the length of the file.

LILY BOND: Thank you. One question here is what’s the most labor-intensive part of the process?

KOREY SINGLETON: I would say that’s the captioning itself. So manually sitting down and captioning– and that’s one of the reasons we had to cut down the number of minutes that we actually process in-house. In the early part of the process, I was doing a lot of the manual captioning myself.

And to caption something that’s 60 minutes, 90 minutes, is just very difficult to do if that’s not your day job. And when I’m doing that and balancing all these other different things that I had to do here in the office– as well as other staff members, too. If that wasn’t your sole duty, then it’s a very difficult thing to do.

And it can easily run into days on end where you have things just sitting that aren’t getting done. Or you have this video there really needs to go out and you’re still stuck trying to edit it and clean it up. So the biggest part, really, is the transcription and cleanup part itself.

LILY BOND: Thank you. So there’s a question here about how difficult it was to get stakeholders to buy in, and whether or not there are still outliers in your organization.

KOREY SINGLETON: There are outliers. The outliers have more to do with– I’m sure there are some folks who are still thinking about it as, well, I don’t have anybody who’s d/Deaf of hard of hearing. There are folks who just don’t know. Because again, the university can easily be siloed. And they’re just not paying any attention. Or they don’t think about the need. Somebody mentioned marketing– marketing is a good example of a unit that probably needs to think a little bit more in terms of accessibility and broadening their reach, but they’re not considering it.

So I would say yes. As far as the academic units that haven’t been brought in, I would again probably piggyback off the two previous responses. Which is that many don’t know the service probably exists. And some think about it more in terms of, I don’t have a student who’s d/Deaf or hard of hearing who has an immediate need.

LILY BOND: Great. So if you knew, back when you started, what you know now about getting buy-in from faculty to have video captioned, what would you have done differently?

KOREY SINGLETON: I think what we would have probably done differently– a few things. We would have known up front which platform we were going to use. We would have known up front what we were actually going to train the students on. That way we would have given the students the best opportunity for success. And in my eyes, that would have been focusing on transcripts.

The training part with Docsoft and all those other kinds of things– what you’re seeing with us is our process, which is what’s worked for us, and what we’ve kind of used to figure out. There are a lot of people who are just outsourcing videos. They’re outsourcing their stuff to have it transcribed, but then they’re doing the time-stamping in-house. And then you have other folks who are using, say, Docsoft to have their stuff time-stamped. And then it goes out for somebody to clean up the transcript.

There are a lot of different strategies that can be used. This is just ours. And it’s worked very effectively for us. But I think if we had known more about what all these other folks were doing, or maybe knew a little bit more about what challenges they encountered, I probably would have spent more time doing some research to kind of find out about other folks who are doing captioning, to kind of find out where the hiccups were, and where we could have saved ourselves some time.

LILY BOND: Thanks. So someone is asking if you have any comparative data or lessons for community colleges that are looking for captioning solutions.

KOREY SINGLETON: No. I don’t have any comparative information for community colleges. What I would encourage is there are a couple listservs out there– one is DSSHE, which is D-S-S-H-E, Disability Support Services in Higher Education. DSSHE is a listserv. There’s also the AHEAD, listserv, which is the Association on Higher Education and Disability. Both of those listservs, if you were interested in sending an email, getting registered with those listservs, but sending an email out to them to kind of find out what other institutions of higher education are doing, I think those would be great places to start, in terms of finding out what’s out there.

Another listserv that I would mention is ATHEN, which is the Access Technology in Higher Education Network. And ATHEN is more the folks who do what I do in higher education. DSSHE and AHEAD are folks who are more so situated in the Disability Services Office, and not really as technology-heavy. But one of those three listservs I think would be very helpful in terms of finding out more information about how other institutions of higher education are doing the same thing.

LILY BOND: Thanks, Korey. Those are really helpful resources. I think that at this time, we’re going to wrap up. There are still some unanswered questions. But we’ll make sure we get back to you about those. So thank you everyone for joining us. And Korey, thank you so much for a great presentation.

KOREY SINGLETON: Thanks Lily. I appreciate it.

LILY BOND: Thank you for joining us. Have a great day.