Providing captions for online learning

This guide has been produced to support staff using automated captions in their teaching. This guide should be read in conjunction with the guide on virtual classrooms.

The importance of captions

All students can benefit from the use of captions in videos as an enhancement to their learning. For some students, the use of captioning is the only way they can access video content. Captions can also be of benefit to international students for whom English is not their first language.

Alongside benefits to students, having captions ensures compliance with new Web Accessibility legislation. The University has approved the implementation of video captioning as part of its strategy to improve equality of access in learning and teaching; being inclusive for all is key for our student experience.

At the current time, the availability of captioning capability varies between our digital education systems. This guide attempts to explain the functional capabilities in our systems and to support staff to provide accessible, inclusive learning content to students in the most efficient way possible.

Policy position

The University’s Audio Video Recording Policy (and guidance for staff) covers the provision of captions on audio-video educational content and should be read in conjunction with this guide.

The University’s accessibility statement will state our current position in relation to providing captions on audio and video content.

Creating captions 

Our digital education systems use speech to text technology called ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) to create captions. This is new technology and is therefore subject to some issues, however, it provides a useful starting point.

We understand that staff may have anxiety about the publication of captions with less than 100% accuracy, however, students who regularly access videos with captions often also use a large number of supplementary resources to enhance and double-check the accuracy. They will have adapted to working around inaccurate or delayed captions and are already aware that all captioning has some level of inaccuracy.

Automatic captions can be edited in our systems, but staff are not required to edit captions. Students should be advised that captions will not be 100% accurate, and should be used alongside other teaching and learning materials.

Captioning capability in our systems

The current position is as follows for our institutional digital education systems and virtual classrooms. This information will be updated as, and when, the functionality changes:

Digital Education System Closed caption functionality status on 15/03/20 Notes
  • All new Mediasite recordings/ uploads will be processed for automated captioning when published to students (made ‘viewable’).
  • Closed captions will be added to all Mediasite content, irrespective of the quality of the captions.

For information about Mediasite captioning, see IT Service Knowledge Base article.

  • Closed captions can be edited but staff are not required to edit.
  • Human captioning is available in Mediasite for students with disability requirements. If you believe there is need for human captions, please complete this form to be reviewed by the Disability Services Team.
Blackboard Collaborate Ultra
  •  No automated closed captioning functionality available within the system.
  • No automated live captioning available.

For more information about Collaborate Ultra captioning, see the Minerva staff guide.

  • Recordings can be downloaded and uploaded to other systems (E.g. Mediasite, Stream) for automated closed captioning.
  • Manual captions can be added to recordings.
  • Closed captions can be edited but staff are not required to edit.
Microsoft Teams meetings
  • Live captioning available.
  •  Automated closed captioning provided automatically for all recordings.

For more information about captioning in Microsoft Teams, see the IT Service Knowledge Base article.

Closed captions can be edited but staff are not required to edit.
Microsoft Stream recordings Automated closed captioning provided automatically for all recordings.

For more information captioning in Microsoft Stream, see the IT Service Knowledge Base article

Closed captions can be edited but staff are not required to edit.
  • Live Captioning available.
  • Automated closed captioning functionality available within the system.

For more information on captioning in Zoom, see the Zoom Help Centre.

Closed captions can be edited but staff are not required to edit.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I need to edit my captions?

You will not be required to edit your captions ahead of publication to students 

Will someone be available to edit my captions? 

No; staff resource will not be available to edit captions. The rationale for enabling a non-perfect captioning system to be implemented is that having imperfect captions is better than having no captions. It is important not to lose sight of the necessity of video captioning for the learning and teaching of our students.

I don’t have any students in my class who need captions. Why do I still need to caption my videos? 

Giving staff and students the opportunity to have the captions by default is helpful to all students. It helps us all work towards a more inclusive way of teaching and making learning available to all. The University has adopted this approach towards the production of captions because we do not always have a clear picture of student requirements. For example, if a member of staff reuses one of their lecture recordings from a previous year (where nobody needed the captions) they may now have a student in the cohort who needs it.

How can I ensure my captions are as accurate as possible?

As part of inclusive teaching practice lecturers should: 

  • Add key words to their slides – particularly when highly technical words are being used. This will help students to clarify what has been said. This is helpful for all students to access the audio stream more easily. It is particularly helpful if the recording/speech is not clear since captioning reduces cognitive effort and enables students to attend to the content of the session rather than to access the content.  
  • Wear lapel microphones when recording on campus via Lecture Capture. The better the audio quality of a video, the more accurate the captions will be. 
  • Consider the sound quality of Desktop or Personal Capture recordingsuse a suitable microphone and be sure to avoid any unnecessary background noise. 

If you are working with anyone who is deaf or has a hearing impairment, it is important to discuss captions with the student or Disability Services and decide what level of accuracy is needed for the studentThis will go into their individual needs’ assessment. 

What happens if I decide not to include captions in one of my videos? 

Staff are not able to “opt-out” of captioning – it forms part of the recent accessibility legislation. If you are producing new videos and not including captions, you are not abiding by the Web Accessibility legislation.

It is possible to edit your captions if you are unhappy with them, but this will be time-consuming.  Students can turn the captions off should they wish to do so.

Could I replace the captions with a script of what is being said in the video? 

Additional learning resources are always best practice and while it would be encouraged to add these to enhance student learning, they cannot be used as a replacement to captions.

Does audio-only content need captions, e.g. podcasts?

Yes otherwise someone who cannot listen to the content will not be able to access the learning it contains.

Do videos need transcripts?

No. Adding a transcript will enhance the accessibility of a video but it isn’t a requirement. Microsoft Stream can automatically create transcripts as well as captions, so is a useful tool if you specifically want or need a transcript. Guidance on creating transcripts using Stream can be found here.

Does video on external sites need to be captioned?

Ideally yes, but if this is not possible then the video must be supplemented by a text document which includes the same learning. This might be a verbatim transcript or another document which contains the same or similar information.

It also does not have to be specifically created for this purpose, the key point is that it allows students who cannot fully perceive the video to access the same or closely similar learning. In some cases, an existing resource could fulfil this need.

Sites which caption all videos include YouTube, LinkedIn Learning and Box of Broadcasts (Learning on Screen).