Closed Captioning in Education: Enhancing Accessibility & Learning for All 

By: Verbit Editorial

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Educators who use video as a part of their instruction can provide immersive experiences that significantly improve student engagement and learning retention. With the rise of virtual classrooms and online resources, educational video content is playing a more pivotal role in curriculums. As a result, the need for accessible video content is more pressing than ever. Not only is closed captioning in education a legal requirement, but it’s also a step towards inclusive learning, where every student has the opportunity to succeed. 

Why Closed Captioning in Education Matters 

Closed captioning in education ensures that videos are accessible to all students, including those who are Deaf or hard of hearing and those with certain learning disabilities, like ADHD. Captions also support non-native speakers and enhance clarity by providing a textual representation of the audio content. By incorporating closed captions, educators can reach a wider audience and create a more equitable learning environment.  

However, captioning isn’t just crucial for making content more inclusive and educational. Accessibility laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) make this accommodation mandatory in an educational setting.  

young woman on a computer studying

Captioning Services, Accuracy and the Law 

The ADA is just one of several laws that address accessibility. Because of these laws, captioning for educational content involves strict accuracy requirements. Using free captioning software might result in captions that don’t meet those standards. In addition to falling short of the law’s requirements, this can also impede student learning.  

In the worst cases, poor-quality captions make content impossible for viewers who need them to understand what’s happening. The text might say things that are complete nonsense. However, the situation doesn’t need to be that bad to have an impact on a video’s usefulness as a learning tool.  

There are three main categories of captioning errors that pop up commonly with automated speech recognition technology (ASR): substitutions, insertions and deletions. A substitution happens when the software replaces one word with another, perhaps even two words that sound exactly the same, or homophones. For example, “flour” instead of “flower.” 

Insertions occur when an extra word ends up in the captions, and in contrast, deletions happen when the captions miss a word. While these mistakes might seem small, even a simple case of adding or missing a word can completely change the meaning. Consider these two sentences: 

“Connor did finish his homework tonight.” 

“Connor did not finish his homework tonight.” 

Adding or deleting the word “not” will lead to an opposite meaning. Captions don’t need to have these errors too often for the meaning to be completely different, or for the message to be lost. Such mistakes can lead to legal complications, but they also fail to provide equitable learning experiences for students who rely on captions.  

For these reasons, most educational institutions turn to professional captioning services.  

A young woman in headphones studying

Captioning Providers and Technology 

Although free automated software might not be the best option for educational content, technology can play an important role in promoting accessibility. Providers like Verbit and VITAC incorporate technology into the captioning process.  

Verbit tailors its proprietary in-house ASR to meet the needs of specific industries, including education. Instructors can even pre-train the AI-powered technology by inputting names or niche terminology that they plan to include in their courses. Taking these steps can make for better, more accurate results.  

Still, in some cases, technology can’t provide the appropriate level of accuracy. In those situations, Verbit turns to professional human transcriptionists who edit the output from the ASR, boosting the accuracy of the captions.  

More Reasons to Caption 

Inclusivity and adhering to the law are compelling reasons to offer high-quality, accurate captions. However, there are even more benefits to providing this solution to students. Here are just a few:  

Reading comprehension enhancement 

Studies show that when viewers watch with the captions on, it improves their literacy and reading comprehension. For early learners, captions help them learn basic reading skills. However, the comprehension benefits appear even at the university level.  

Global education accessibility 

Same-language captions are extremely useful for those taking courses in a non-native language. The text reinforces what they’re hearing. With multilingual translation, or by subtitling the content, educators can accommodate an even larger pool of students.  

Searchability 

Captioning and video transcription are similar solutions that convert audio to text. By creating these files, educators can make their videos and even their lectures searchable. Students looking for a specific part of a video or lecture can jump to that section, streamlining their studying and saving time.  

Captioning Beyond the Classroom 

When it comes to higher education, teaching students is only one of the important aspects of campus life. There are many events, both live an in person that universities should be making more accessible. For example, sporting events like football or hockey games should be inclusive for audience members who are Deaf or hard of hearing. Guest lecturers are another common campus event that should have captions and that could be in person, online or both.  

Graduations and commencements are also crucial when it comes to accessibility. In fact, since the audience for a graduation will include family members such as parents, grandparents and others, there is an even greater chance that many people watching will need captions.  

Unlike video content, these events all need live captioning to support real-time audiences. Live captioning opens up more opportunities for something to go wrong unless the university is working with a professional captioning provider that understands the logistics of supporting one of these events.  

a young woman in a graduation cap

Making Accessibility Partnerships in Education 

Navigating the complex requirements and best practices related to accessibility can be challenging. Universities’ disability support services departments can better serve their students by partnering with experts in accessibility.  

Verbit is a leader in accessibility technology for educational institutions. Whether it’s captioning for online learning resources, interactive transcripts for course lectures or audio description for more accessible videos, Verbit offers professional, high-quality solutions. If you’re interested in exploring how Verbit can boost the accessibility of your educational materials, events and courses, reach out to connect with us today.