“When students are able to access their accommodations, without barriers, this is a wonderful thing,” says Amy Curran, Director of Accessibility Services at WPI. In the education field, an accommodation refers to a modification that has been put in place in order to enable students to access the curriculum in both an in-person and virtual classroom setting.
Closed captioning for videos is one type of accommodation. Traditionally implemented for students who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing, the utility of closed captions extends beyond this community. According to Curran, closed captioning can also assist individuals with reading, retention and processing disabilities. “Anyone with any kind of processing-based disability would benefit from captions,” she says.
As the student population diversifies, Curran expects to see the demand for accommodations such as closed captioning grow. “The dynamic of students has changed,” says Curran. “The accessible world is opening up and more students are seeking this kind of support.”
Closed captioning is also an easy way to implement universal design , a framework which aims to “improve teaching and learning for all people” according to CAST, a non-profit education research and development organization.
Because students do not have to disclose disabilities, it’s important to remember that there may be someone in class with an undisclosed or undiagnosed processing challenge. Taylor Rohena, Assistant Director of the Office of Accessibility Services, notes that some students “may use captioning to really gain access to the content.”
Aside from auditory or cognitive disabilities that are addressed by an accommodation like closed captioning, there are a variety of factors that make turning on closed captioning a practical choice.
Environmental noise can be a reason for students to turn on closed captions. “I know a lot of people who use them when they want to watch the video in crowded spaces,” says Kade Woolverton, a Civil Engineering BS and Management MS, class of 2022.
“Sometimes it is difficult to hear the professor or read their lips on video,” acknowledges Hannah Belan, a senior IMGD major. “The closed captioning ensures that I’m getting the same information that all of my classmates are getting.”
Professors don’t have to wait to hear from the Office of Accessibility Services to create closed captions for their educational videos and lecture captures. Echo360 and Studio, two video content management platforms used by WPI, have transcription and closed caption features. To learn how to implement them, click here.
“The process of editing transcripts and adding to the video is simple,” notes Destin Heilman, Teaching Professor and Director of UMMS MQP Project Center. Heilman is currently captioning videos due to an accommodation. He uses the AI-generated transcript in Echo360 as a baseline for his caption track and works with a teaching assistant to edit them if necessary.
“The interface that easily allows one to review the text at the exact timestamp while the video plays is neat!” he says. “I think it is not only wise but good practice to have these at the ready.”
To learn more about closed captions and transcriptions for educational videos, please email WPI’s Technology for Teaching and Learning group at ATC-TTL@wpi.edu.