MIT OpenCourseWare, University of New Hampshire, and Regis University Discuss Captioning in Higher Ed and MOOCs

Accessible Video Captioning in Higher Ed and MOOCs

The use of online video in lecture capture, class materials, and massive open online courses (MOOCS) has become an essential part of teaching and learning. As a result, many campuses have updated their accessibility policies to accommodate video captioning requirements. In this session, MIT OpenCourseWare, the University of New Hampshire, and Regis University discuss their campus accessibility policies and demonstrate the solutions they’ve implemented. The panel also discusses the costs and benefits derived, as well as best practices and tips for implementing accessibility technologies.


Brett Paci
Video Publication Manager | MIT OpenCourseWare

Nicole Croy
E-learning Technologist | Regis University

Katherine Berger
Director, Disability Services for Students | University of New Hampshire

CJ Johnson (Moderator)
Co-Founder | 3Play Media

Webinar Insight: Accessible Video Captioning in Higher Ed and MOOCS

Campus Technology, Universities, and Accessibility Law

Accessibility law is complex and can be confusing to university personnel working to implement it. Here is a quick rundown of applicable accessibility law for institutions of higher learning.

Section 504

  • Part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • Anti-discrimination law for those with disabilities

Section 508

  • Added to Rehabilitation Act in 1986
  • Enacted to eliminate barriers to information
  • Applies to federal agencies and organizations with federal subsidies

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

  • Updated in 2008 via ADA Amendment Act
  • Enforces Section 504 through accommodations for the disabled

21st Century Communications & Video Accessibility Act (CVAA)

  • Applies to video content that airs on TV and the Internet
  • On Sept 30th 2013, pre-recorded programming that is edited for internet distribution will require captioning

Captioning Benefits Beyond Accessibility

Each of our speakers came to understand various additional benefits of captioning as they worked to make their online video accessible. Let’s review a few of the additional benefits they discovered.

ESL: Berger touched on the importance of captions for students still learning English; the ability to read and hear spoken content at the same time is an enormous aid to comprehension. Furthermore, in the online environment, ESL students have the ability to rewind videos or print transcripts to gain reinforcement of terminology and context.

Flexibility: Croy brought up an additional benefit Regis University discovered after captioning their video–captioned video is accessible anywhere and everywhere. No matter what kind of device a student is viewing video on, captions will appear with the Regis content. Berger expanded on that by pointing out that in very large lecture halls, a student with perfect hearing may still not be able to hear a video. Captions allow multimedia to be utilized as an enhancement to any learning environment. The flexibility of captions and transcripts can overcome difficulties encountered in various non-traditional learning environments.

Search: At MIT, students who tested interactive transcripts greatly enjoyed the ability to search the content. In fact, 95% of students recommended that interactive transcripts be added to all MITOCW courses. Paci hopes to see captions and transcripts roll out to edX classes in the near future.

Reusability: Croy pointed out that students in various professional development programs enjoy repurposing transcripts into study guides to review before assessments.

User Experience: For linear, step-driven teaching, Croy explained that the ability to search and navigate within a transcript for a specific concept assists student comprehension. In a learning model where each step is dependent on the one preceding, the flexability to be in charge of material review strengthens understanding.

Translation: MITOCW supplies educational content viewed by students all over the world. As such, when a translation request comes through, Paci uses the English transcript to generate multilingual subtitles through a translation partner. Recently, MITOCW translated a course into Hatian Creole. In elearning videos, the content must be taught, not simply presented. This is even more important when addressing a worldwide audience. Paci is trying to minimize the barriers to education by providing content in the native language of students.

What about accessibility? While the institutions above started captioning video for deaf and hard of hearing users, the apparent benefits to all users created a push to caption video content beyond the occasional accomodation request. As Croy said: “We are fulfilling our duty; we set out to make our content accessible to all learners, and we enhanced our videos in the long run. So we are very pleased with the process.”

A Simplified Workflow with 3Play Media

As the discussion progressed, each speaker briefly covered their captioning workflow. Integrations with video platforms and lecture capture systems are some of the easiest ways to caption and transcribe videos quickly. For Nicole Croy at Regis University, the captioning workflow was reduced from nine steps to four. A variety of integrations has allowed each school to customize their captioning process.

Regis University uses 3Play Media with the Kaltura video platform.
Read more about the Kaltura captioning integration.

MITOCW uses 3Play Media with YouTube.
Read more about the YouTube captioning integration.

UNH uses 3Play Media with the Kaltura video platform and Mediasite lecture capture system.
Read more about the Mediasite captioning integration.

What do universities do if they need to caption videos that they don’t own?

Sometimes teachers hastily grab videos off YouTube to explain a concept or idea. While the video undoubtedly assists the learning process, this content is much harder for universities to caption because they don’t own the media. One attendee had a question about copyright law. At Regis, their copyright expert has advised them to contact the owner of the public video and ask for permission to caption and post video content. It seems that 90% of Regis requests have been met with acceptance. 3Play Media gives Regis the ability to caption videos they don’t own by simply pasting a video link into the account system.

How do universities budget for captioning?

The subject of budget arose, and each of our panelists has a different strategy for how they pay for video captioning.

MIT OCW currently budgets for captioning of ten to twelve courses. Their biggest challenge is how to deal with older classes/archives that have not been captioned. As there are fewer funds provided for these older works, Paci takes on a strategy of captioning based on popularity or request. At the University of New Hampshire, captioning of videos is payed for by each department. As Berger puts it: “If your department owns it, it’s your responsibility to caption it.” She admits it is easier to honor accessibility requests for courses that can be used over and over. Regis, however, has taken a unique approach to paying for captioning. Since their policy is to make all course materials accessible, there is no picking and choosing between video content. As such, accessibility is built into the cost of each course.

As you can see, video captioning policies, workflows, and budgets differ widely depending on educational needs and institutional structure. There is no right way to implement video accessibility, but these experts will tell you there are many reasons why captions and transcripts enhance the learning experience for students.

You might also be interested in:

Strategies for Deploying Accessible Video Captions: Tegrity User Conference Session

Video Captioning for Accessibility: Penn State Demos Its Solution (PASSHE Conference)

Films Media Group: Future-Focused with Searchable, Interactive Video Transcripts

Kaltura Captioning, Transcription, Translation Made Easy

Regis University: Video Captioning Case Study