US universities lead the way on classroom captions

Tuesday, 2 August 2011 16:23pm

Support for closed captions is sweeping US universities and colleges as educators catch on to the benefits of accessible tools for all students. Using a number of methods, the universities are demonstrating how captions can be easily implemented in the classroom.

Universities are responding to increasing demand from students who are Deaf or hearing impaired, but are also seeing the potential for the student body at large. Captions for lectures and multimedia are proving beneficial for students who speak English as a second language or study by distance.

There have been a number of technical advances which have made captioning easier to implement. George Mason University has begun using remote Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) services which, like Red Bee Media’s Live Remote Captioning service in Australia, relay the audio to a trained captioner. This is then converted to text and accessed via a secure website, providing the lecture content in near to real time.

For George Mason, the more cost effective route of automation is the future for its captioning program. The inaccuracy of voice-recognition software will be counterbalanced by staff who edit the transcript before it is made available. This occurs with a delay of about 45 minutes for a one-hour lecture. Systems such as McGraw Hill’s Tegrity allow lecture audio to be searched via keywords, decreasing the need for accompanying written notes and increasing the efficiency of lectures for all students.

When Yale University chose to make their lectures freely available to the public via YouTube they included captions for each lecture. The decision is an important endorsement of accessibility and inclusion from an influential institution.

The CAP THAT! campaign encourages programs such as those used by universities to be taken up in primary and secondary schools across Australia. Captioning in the classroom is shown to improve inclusion for Deaf, hearing impaired and ESL students, and raise literacy across the board.


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