Educational app review: captions for learning

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Monday, 11 February 2013 14:30pm

Educational apps are increasingly being used by teachers as a fun and interactive way of engaging students, but captions are often lacking on the video content found within them.

Studies have shown that using captions can enhance the learning experience for all students, with particular benefit to students who speak English as a second language or with learning difficulties, not to mention the Deaf or hearing impaired students for whom captions are absolutely essential.

Media Access Australia found and tested three educational apps that include captions for all students.


Cost: Free, $1.99 per month, $6.99 per month (unlimited access)

Brainpop is aimed at schoolchildren from the age of 5 to 9 and covers subjects such as science, social studies, English, maths, arts & music, health and technology. The app has three levels of availability:

  1. The free version provides one captioned movie per day, only available for the day. A 10-question quiz on the movie can be completed by students at the time. A small number of movies are permanently available in each subject field, nevertheless. Prior to each day’s movie availability there is no list of upcoming movies so it’s a bit of a lucky dip in what you receive.
  2. For more access, a monthly in-app Explorer subscription amount of $1.99 can be paid. On top of the daily movie, four additional movies are made available on the daily topic. Again, these movies and quiz are only available on the day.
  3. For permanent access to more than 750 captioned BrainPop videos and related quizzes, subscribers can pay $6.99 per month.

Khan Academy

Cost: Free

Khan Academy has a library of more than 3,500 videos for students aged 5 to 18 and the majority of content is captioned. Topics mainly cover maths and science but there are some videos around finance and history also.

The caption option allows students to follow along, skip ahead or go back by navigating through the captions provided as a time-coded transcript that appears underneath the video. On-screen captions are also provided.

Videos can also be downloaded to a student’s tablet or smartphone to be watched offline. However, it should be noted that captions for the Khan Academy videos can only be viewed on the minimised screen.


Cost: $0.99

TEDiSUB is an app for the iPad that provides access to TED Talks, a series of videos that can be viewed on demand on the website of the same name. TED is a non-profit organisation that organises conferences and talks with the goal of sharing people's ideas on a wide range of topics, including design, technology, entertainment and science.

While not exclusively an education website, the videos allow students to explore a wide range of interesting topics.

The videos in the TEDiSUB app include captions, allow you to select subtitles from a variety of languages and you can also view an interactive transcript of each video. As the transcripts are time-coded, you can easily jump within the video by selecting a line of text on the transcript.

Videos can also be downloaded and viewed later without connection to the internet.

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