As an online instructor, I often worry whether I’m meeting all of my students’ needs. I try to include a variety of multimedia options to teach concepts and build in opportunities for my students to interact with their classmates and socially construct their understanding. I thoughtfully design online learning environments that foster communities of inquiry through the development of social, cognitive and teaching & learning presences. I try to create assignments and assessments that cultivate student creativity, even in online spaces.
Even after all that learner-centered design, I still worry whether I’m missing the mark with some of my students. One area that really worries me is my use of screencasts to explain concepts and demonstrate processes. For most of my students, the screencasts are a valuable resource. The videos are on demand so students can rewatch sections if they need to. But the videos use audio as the primary means of translating information. Sure, there’s a visual component to my video tutorials, but so much of what I say is critical to what is being shown. What if one of my students has a hearing impairment? How would that student access my tutorials? When I think of examples like this, I know I could be doing more for my students.
At a conference last week, I thought I had found a way to expand my delivery methods. One of the presenters shared how she used an online service that transcribed her screencasts and added captioning to all of her online tutorials. My initial excitement was soon thwarted when we began discussing cost. As an individual instructor, I would never be able to pay to have all of my transcribing done for closed captioning. While my institution is motivated to expand our online offerings, the cost would be too prohibitive to offer the service to all online instructor. There had to be another option.
As luck would have it, YouTube offers an automatic captioning service for all of its videos. If you’ve uploaded a screencast to YouTube, go to your Video Manager and select Captions from the Edit menu for any of your videos. YouTube will perform a voice analysis on the video and offer a time stamped transcript that you can review before publishing. The voice analysis was a little spotty but with some minor editing, I was able to get the captioning on the screencast from last week’s blog completed in about five minutes. You can check it out below:
While it shouldn’t take free or easy technology for instructors to do the right thing and meet all students’ needs, YouTube’s automatic captioning service should help motivate all of us to expand the multimedia materials we create for our students.