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How to use transcription to boost podcast engagement

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Over the past decade, podcasts have grown from a niche entertainment form to a genuine cultural phenomenon. The massive success of hits like This American Life and Serial have catapulted podcasts into the mainstream, and it’s easy to see why. At their core, podcasts are stories, and people love stories. A compelling narrative structure appeals to basic human nature. Whether it’s true crime, economics or a good old fashioned audio drama, podcasts represent a highly effective way of bringing these concepts to life.

The numbers don’t lie. There are over 500,000 active podcasts available on a wide variety of platforms, and approximately 25% of the US population tune in on a monthly basis. As the audience consistently grows, it appears this trend isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

With millions of people tuning in regularly, it’s clear that podcast listeners are committed and eager to consume content. Transcription represent a great strategy to engage people further by providing new and creative ways to connect with existing audiences, and find new ones. Here’s how:

Appeal to different needs and circumstances

Transcripts allow podcasters to appeal to as many people as possible and attract new audiences. Everyone absorbs information differently. While some prefer visual or auditory methods, for others there’s nothing like the written word. Transcripts also make podcast content available to non-native speakers as well as those with hearing impairments. It all comes down to accessibility and convenience. Transcribing podcasts ensures that content creators cast a wide net and catch anyone who may be interested.

Transcripts also enable podcasts to be easily accessible for people who may be in noise-prohibitive environments. If listening is impossible due to ambient surroundings, people can still consume podcast content by reading the transcript, thereby removing a potential barrier and making it easy for people to interact with the media.  

Increase SEO

Converting podcasts to text has great SEO (Search Engine Optimization) benefits. A listener who had just fallen in love with a podcast is highly motivated to visit the corresponding website and download other episodes, or subscribe for regular updates. Search engines can’t crawl audio files, they work exclusively through text. That’s why transcription is necessary for increasing visibility and strengthening an active online presence.

Including text-based content increases rank and visibility on search engines and allows audiences to locate content that interests them. In addition, a transcript will already be inherently keyword-rich, making it easier to index, which boosts search engine results for that particular niche. Snippets of transcripts can also be be easily shared through social media, providing yet another avenue for people to discover content.

Provide a better user experience

Transcripts provide users a multitude of flexible options for finding the information they are most interested in. For example, a text-based version of the podcast makes it possible to pique the interest of potential listeners with a brief synopsis. Converting audio to text also allows listeners to choose exactly which sections they would like to explore further, or which parts of the audio they want to listen to. Transcripts also help make the content more interactive, with access to general themes and notable keywords.  Including a text-based version of podcast content also helps people who prefer to skim through the material to find exactly what they’re looking for.

Repurpose compelling content

If a particular topic or theme is resonant with audiences, why not capitalize on the opportunity to create other forms of engaging content on that subject? Transcribing podcasts makes it possible to turn text into show-notes, put together lists of key takeaways, build slideshare presentations, write blog posts, create infographics and more. Transcripts simplify the process of creating new content and breathe new life into popular, SEO-friendly pieces, transforming them into other engaging collateral.

With over 70 million listeners and counting, podcasts have captured the public’s interest like few other mediums before it. It’s clear that there is an active audience that is hungry for more relevant content and more opportunities to connect. Transcription is the ideal way to provide them with what they are looking for, increase their engagement and maximize the tremendous potential that exists.

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Why every university should be on board with Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design for Learning, or UDL for short, is a strategic approach to instruction that prioritizes diversity and accessibility. At the heart of UDL is a belief that a classroom designed for students at the margins is better for all. Rather than instructors devising a curriculum and then retrofitting it to students with different needs, UDL preaches an inclusive, holistic approach from the get-go. Like a curb cut on the sidewalk that helps wheelchair users and anyone with reduced mobility, UDL ends up benefiting all students, not just those with disabilities.

From UD to UDL

UDL evolved from its predecessor, Universal Design (UD). Inspired by the disability rights movement of the 1970’s and 80’s, and emboldened by the passage of the ADA in the 90’s, UD is a philosophy and set of principles pertaining to accessible product architecture and design.

When UD is applied to the specific context of education, the result is UDL. Both share the common goal of universal access, but while UD seeks to eliminate barriers from the built environment, UDL strives to do the same in the learning environment. Above all, UDL is an equitable model of teaching and learning that guides the creation of accessible course materials to support diverse strengths, weaknesses and learning needs.  

UDL Explained

UDL is built on three core principles: representation, action and expression, and engagement. Everyone learns differently due to strengths and weaknesses in the various brain networks that are involved in learning. Therefore, each of the three principles corresponds to a distinct area of the brain.  

1. Representation

Representation is all about showing and communicating information in different ways. It can be thought of as the “what” of learning and maps onto the recognition networks in the brain; the sensory areas that perceive information.  

Presenting academic content in different ways helps students absorb information and make sense of what they observe. This principle is especially critical for individuals with sensory difficulties or disabilities, who may be unable to take in information that is presented via a single modality. For example, audio and video content present a challenge for those who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing. Providing transcribed audio and captioned video is critical for these learners, and helps others who may prefer to learn by reading or those who may not be native speakers of the language of instruction.

2. Action and expression

This principle emphasizes giving multiple ways for students to interact with the material and express their knowledge. This connects to the “how” of learning, or the strategic plans people make to tackle mastering the subject at hand. Correspondingly, these skills map onto areas of the brain that engage in complex reasoning and executive functioning.

This involves giving learners multiple ways to engage with the course material and providing varied opportunities for them to express their knowledge. For example, if the final project in a course is a classroom presentation, a UDL approach would mean offering alternatives such as students filming themselves and showing the video in class, or producing written responses.

3. Engagement

Engaging students means looking for different ways to motivate and inspire learners to interact with the material. This principle is all about finding the optimal way for students to connect with what is being taught in order to foster an intrinsic desire to learn and an engaged disposition. This can be conceptualized as the “why” of learning and links to affective networks in the brain that are involved in emotional responses. Offering a variety of reward choices or different levels of challenge illustrate this principle in action.  

Positive Effects on Student Success

Beyond the theoretical, UDL has been shown to have a measurable impact on student success. In fact, research shows that this approach helps increase GPA and information retention for all students. A study conducted by the University of Northern Illinois found that exposure to closed-captions increased students’ recall and understanding of video-based information, as those students scored significantly higher on the subsequent assessment when compared with their peers.

Although all students are positively impacted by UDL, the benefits may be experienced most effectively by students with disabilities. While studies show that UDL boosts grades for students with disabilities and without, the results tend to be more dramatic for the former. Regardless of the circumstances, the data paints a clear picture: UDL enriches learning for everyone.  

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Suppose you decide to throw a dinner party for a large group of friends, many of whom have unique dietary restrictions and preferences. In this scenario, cooking the same dish for everyone wouldn’t work, nor would preparing a custom-made meal for each guest. The ideal solution is a buffet, where you can provide many options, and each guest can fill their plate with what suits them. This is UDL in a nutshell. Providing options and choices gives learners the opportunity to take ownership and personalize their pathways to achieve academic success.

All universities want to see their students flourish academically. Taking a UDL approach is a highly effective way for schools to give students the tools they need to achieve that goal.

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