Asking the Wrong Questions About Captioning

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Closed Captioning 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I first read about this at Stephen Downes’ blog, a study entitled “The Effects of Captioning Videos on Academic Achievement and Motivation: Reconsideration of Redundancy Principle in Instructional Videos” by Muzaffer Ozdemir, Serkan Izmirli, and Ozden Sahin-Izmirli. In their abstract they state that “in contrast to the suggestion of the redundancy principle, motivation and achievement scores of students do not vary according to the instructional video type under investigation (captioned vs. non-captioned). Thereby, it was concluded that a moderating effect of the streaming feature of instructional material should be considered to interpret the redundancy effect.” I do agree with them that more studies should be done on this aspect of captioning BUT, this is NOT why we do captioning in the first place. This question of the redundancy principle completely misses the point of why we do it. Do you know whose motivation and achievement scores will suffer with no captioning despite this study? The deaf, the learning disabled, and ESL students. This is why captioning is the law. Also, according to the flowchart, captions are a distraction. I think these videos do not have to have the captions burned in. In YouTube for instance, you can turn them off. Further, we did captioning at College of the Redwoods and in viewing the analytics of the transcripts and the use of captioning, the users most often likely to use them were the students in the nursing dept. who are all top students (they have to be to enter or finish the program) and their number one reason was that it helped them remember what was said.

I am really hoping that articles like this will not discourage faculty and administrators from making their materials accessible. Please contact me if you would like to further discuss the tools and methods for making online materials accessible.

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3 Responses to Asking the Wrong Questions About Captioning

  1. That is a bit of an odd study. What are your thoughts around the need for captioning video content for a specific audience (no accessibility needs) and where the video is temporary in nature? Case in point, recorded training videos for attendees to use as review for a finite amount of time.

    • admin says:

      I think accessibility should be the driver. For temporary training videos available for a short time for a specific audience, I think you are okay. What I am hoping for is that more software includes automatic captioning like Camtasia Studio 8. And I think YouTube is becoming better at auto captions. One of the issues is that the laws states that those with a disability do not have to identify that disability in order for media producers to bear the responsibility for captioning. As long as your institution has captioning services available and there is a triage system in place (public videos on websites get captioned first, then classes, etc.), there is a “good faith” effort in place. I think we are near a universal tech solution though.

  2. I will have to look into the Camtasia option as we have licenses for it at work. YouTube still has a ways to go before their auto-caption can be a viable solution. We use it for our video blog but we still have to correct about 30-40% of the transcript.

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