Accuracy Matters: Accessibility in Faculty-Created Video

Accurate captioning improves videos, which is vital for online learning programs

Videos are essential for online programs, but they must be accessible. Requiring busy faculty to create video captions can be a challenge.

In this web seminar, the co-director of the Center for Excellence at Northwood University in Michigan discussed strategies for ensuring that faculty include accurate captioning in videos.


Jeanna Cronk
Co-Director, Center for Excellence
Northwood University (Mich.)

Jeanna Cronk: Our journey began with purpose. Our students are used to learning through videos, so we’ve been encouraging our faculty to try to use more videos for homework demonstrations, mini-lectures for classes or even just introductions.

At the time we started encouraging this a few years ago, our faculty mainly used webcams. A best-case scenario would be faculty giving the video to our media services team, who would then put it on their server so that students could at least stream it. About three years ago, we found out that our lecture capture product was reaching its end of life. And when I say lecture capture product, it was just instructors recording from a webcam or putting together a PowerPoint.

We knew we needed to find something better. We do not have a recording studio. We don’t have a department dedicated to helping our instructors record or edit videos with fancy equipment. So the responsibility was on the faculty members’ shoulders, with their university laptops, their webcams and some microphone headsets. Some of them were even recording on their smartphones.

We selected TechSmith Relay because we were already familiar with some of their products, and also because of how user-friendly this captioning product is for our faculty. The instructors are able to follow a few demonstration videos, and then they can access the product from their own devices, record, do some minimal editing, and upload. We also like that it integrates with Blackboard and that it has analytics with the videos, so the instructors don’t have to try to guess who is watching.

The TechSmith Relay tool analytics will say: Here’s the name of the user who played your video, and here’s the percentage of the video that was played. The tool also integrates with our grade center. So an instructor can indicate, for example, that if a student watches 80% of the video, then they get 80% of the possible points that were tied to that. Instructors can add quizzing into their conversations or chat messages.

An additional benefit is that the program can automatically generate captions. About six months prior to launching our TechSmith Relay program, we rolled out Ally in our Blackboard classes. It’s integrated into multiple learning management system instances, but it essentially helps faculty improve the accessibility of their course files. So when we started with Relay, it was an easy extension to talk to our faculty about the importance of captioning.

I try to move beyond just the legal requirements of captioning and get into the variety of benefits. The first one is obvious: A student has a hearing impairment and is relying on the captions to understand the content. Accuracy is important in that instance. Captioning is also fantastic for students who are nonnative English speakers, such as international students. We also talk about the viewing environment. Maybe the student is in a situation in which they can’t have the audio playing, or their earbuds died, or they have the wrong cord adapter so they have to rely on the closed captions.

The quality of audio is also a critical piece. If the video has bad audio, students won’t watch it. So that’s another advantage of having captions—for an additional resource if the audio is bad.

Then, of course, there’s retention of content. A lot of students say they want to see the words as well as hear them in certain subjects. For example, if there is terminology they’re not familiar with, or if there is a specific spelling they need to become familiar with, they can turn on that closed captioning.

Finally, there’s multitasking. Students may be at the gym, and they’re on the elliptical machines and they’re trying to watch your video at the same time. With captions, they have the opportunity to read while doing something else.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please visit