How to do Closed Captions Inexpensively

With shrinking budgets and ever greater demands on educators to deliver world-class, high quality education for each and every student, it’s critical to address and provide accessible course content to all students, not just those without hearing or sight impairments.

More and more institutions are turning their attention to address this need, and in this case it’s heartening to know there are several tools, services and ways of addressing closed captioning for video in courses.

When working directly with course designers or instructors, I’m always quick to tell them that if they’re developing video content or even presentations with voice over to script what’s they’re going to say – ahead of time.

Screenshot 2018-01-25 11.20.24
Screenshot from Brackets on correcting a VTT file. Auto-captions are convenient, but not always helpful. This caption should read, “Thank you David, I’m going to go ahead and enable my webcam. I have a face made for audio rather than video, but when I’m doing these sorts of things I always like to…

However, this isn’t always possible and in some cases, takes away from the instructor’s capacity to speak fluidly. Sticking to a script can at times seem rather stale, cold and impersonal.  There are times when an unscripted set of content may deliver a better end-result for the student.  However – providing an accessible asset for hearing impaired students is still necessary (take 2 minutes to read this post over at eLearningbrother.com). In fact, in some cases – students who do not need captions, will still choose to use the captions, because it helps them better identify what’s being said, or because they understand the content better when they hear it and read it at the same time. In my experience, turning captions on has also meant I grow to recognize certain words – I can look those words or concepts up because they’re spelled out in the captions. I can’t count how many times I’ve turned on the captions in a YouTube video when I don’t quite understand the speaker – and it’s the captions that made all the difference.

This video (auto-captioned-uncorrected), takes 20 minutes to watch and covers just one way captioning unscripted content can be done inexpensively with some widely available tools.

Warpwire

On a pedagogical note, some services – like Warpwire, include the ability to search captions and locate in the video where specific words are said (as of 2.0 release).  This opens up a slightly different way for instructors to provide content and check to see if students are attending to what’s being shared in the video.  As an undergraduate student, many of my instructors would provide guide-sheets that were filled with low-level Blooms Taxonomy type questions.  These were great because they helped guide me through the required reading – providing a structure for what I needed to focus on. The same thing can be accomplished by using a caption search function in services – such as Warpwire.  Video provides a great way for students to not only watch, rewatch and review content (making delivery of the content consistent), but could also be paired with closed captions (or transcript), so students can attend to – focus on parts of the content as they work through it. While this isn’t a ‘break through’ use of technology – it is of course just an adaption – yet it leverages students capacity to search and provides a means of helping them attend to the content actively.

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Setting dates for an Assessment

Setting dates for what’s due in a course is often a complex process even if you’re not using some sort of digital mechanism to do so – making sure to include your late policy, correct for official out of class dates and long holidays can be a challenge.  It can be done though by thinking about things ahead of time and knowing how to set them in the course.

When using Tests and Quizzes in a course for assessment, setting the dates is pretty simple, esp. if it’s the only thing you’re doing. Creating an assessment is another conversation entirely (because it’s also a complex concept – depending on what you’re trying to do).

If you’ve been given a course to prep, or if you’ve already got your assessments built in Sakai and just need to make them ready for students to take, you can follow the directions for each assessment:

Step 1. In the course, go to Tests and Quizzes

Step 2. Below the Create from Scratch area, on the Working Copies tab (a), select Settings from the Select Action drop down menu (b) for the Quiz you want to adjust or change.

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Step 3. On the new page, in the Availability and Submissions section, select the new available, due and late acceptance dates, and other settings as you deem necessary.

Step 4. Select Save Settings and Publish

Step 5. Confirm the setting and choose notification settings.

Step 6. Select the Publish button.

 

That’s it.  Note, also once an assessment is published, if you need to adjust the date/time again, be sure to do so from the Published Copies tab, instead of the Working Copies tab. As long as you’ve not changed the assessment title, if you’ve inserted it previously into a Lesson, it should be good to go. If it doesn’t seem to work from there, just go to the Lesson, and re-insert the link to the assessment, using the Add Content menu.

A course intro. idea

Lots of online courses look to provide a means of introduction – specifically as a way to warm students up to others taking the course. There’s bound to be some means of engagement of students one with another (or at least there should be). While it’s easy to tell students, “state your name, where you’re from and something unique about yourself”, doing so is an old and rather tired prompt.

Rather, another way to do accomplish much more discussion and interest from students is to have them create a meme and post it to the course discussion area.  Meme’s are “an element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation.” A meme carries with it the idea of carrying forward a framework, while recognizing that other frames of reference exist.  In the case of class introductions, using the prompt, “Explain what you do,” can seem daunting and dry. Yet, when paired with a meme as a product – it asks students to create an image or set of images that when given the ‘right’ prompts – help students explain what they do as viewed by different audiences. Take the following one for example on teachers:

teacher-what-i-think-i-do Or here’s one on IT Support Desk folks (Tech Support):

tech-support-what-my-friends-think-i-do-meme

Some of the comparisons following the prompts are laughable, entertaining and yet telling at the same time.  Use the following prompts or just a few of them:

  • What my friends think I do
  • What my mom (parents) think I do
  • What society thinks I do
  • What my boss thinks I do
  • What I think I do
  • What I actually do

Any amount of searching the Internet will turn up quite an array of these memes, so it may be important to help focus student’s efforts to produce these.  You can find a Powerpoint template for creating them here. To be sure these don’t have to be incredibly complex. They can also serve as an entry point to discuss copyright, proper source citation and explanation of meaning.  Meme meanings are not always obvious – not unlike puns or humor from one language or culture to another.  Students could be prompted to explain their memes or attempt to explain the memes of other students.

Additional prompts could also be included, such as:

  • What my future will be like
  • What my parents think my future will be like
  • What my teacher thinks my future will be like
  • What my future won’t be like

Keep in mind these prompts and the pairing of them with creating a meme sets students on a path of exploration and elevates their thinking from information recall (about themselves) to reflection, comparison and contrast as well as evaluation which are considered higher order thinking skills.

As a technology extension, this could also be done using VoiceThread.

Online Video Tutorial Authoring – Quick Overview

As an instructional designer a key component to my work is creating instructional videos.  While many platforms, software and workflows exist here’s the workflow I use:

    1. Write the Script:  This first step is critical though to some it may seem rather artificial.  Writing the script helps guide and direct the rest of the video development process. If the video is part of a larger series, inclusion of some ‘standard’ text at the beginning and end of the video helps keep things consistent.  For example, in the tutorial videos created for our Online Instructor Certification Course, each script begins and ends with “This is a Johnson University Online tutorial.” Creating a script also helps insure you include all the content you need to, rather than ad-libbing – only to realize later you left something out.As the script is written, particular attention has to be paid to consistency of wording and verification of the steps suggested to the viewer – so they’re easy to follow and replicate. Some of the script work also involves set up of the screens used – both as part of the development process and as part of making sure the script is accurate.

 

  1. Build the Visual Content: This next step could be wildly creative – but typically a standard format is chosen, especially if the video content will be included in a series or block of other videos.  Often, use of a 16:9 aspect ratio is used for capturing content and can include both text and image content more easily. Build the content using a set of tools you’re familiar with. The video above was built using the the following set of tools:
    • Microsoft Word (for writing the script)
    • Microsoft PowerPoint (for creating a standard look, and inclusion of visual and textual content – it provides a sort of stage for the visual content)
    • Google Chrome (for demonstrating specific steps – layered on top of Microsoft PowerPoint) – though any browser would work
    • Screencast-O-Matic (Pro version for recording all visual and audio content)
    • Good quality microphone such as this one
    • Evernote’s Skitch (for grabbing and annotating screenshots), though use of native screenshot functions and using PowerPoint to annotate is also OK
    • YouTube or Microsoft Stream (for creating auto-generated captions – if it’s difficult to keep to the original script)
    • Notepad, TextEdit or Adobe’s free Brackets for correcting/editing/fixing auto-generated captions VTT, SRT or SBV
    • Warpwire to post/stream/share/place and track video content online.  Sakai is typically used as the CMS to embed the content and provide additional access controls and content organization
  2. Record the Audio: Screencast-O-Matic has a great workflow for creating video content and it even provides a way to create scripts and captions. I tend to record the audio first, which in some cases may require 2 to 4 takes. Recording the audio initially, provides a workflow to create appropriate audio pauses, use tangible inflection and enunciation of terms. For anyone who has created a ‘music video’ or set images to audio content this will seem pretty doable.
  3. Sync Audio and Visual Content: So this is where the use of multiple tools really shines. Once the audio is recorded, Screencast-O-Matic makes it easy to re-record retaining the audio portion and replacing just the visual portion of the project. Recording  the visual content (PowerPoint and Chrome) is pretty much just listening to the audio and walking through the slides and steps using Chrome. Skitch or other screen capture software may have already been used to capture visual content I can bring attention to in the slides.
  4. Once the project is completed, Screencast-O-Matic provides a 1 click upload to YouTube or save as an MP4 file, which can then be uploaded to Warpwire or Microsoft Stream.
  5. Once YouTube or Microsoft Stream have a viable caption file, it can be downloaded and corrected (as needed) and then paired back with any of the streaming platforms.
  6. Post of the video within the CMS is as easy as using the LTI plugin (via Warpwire) or by using the embed code provided by any of the streaming platforms.

New Video Tools for Course Content Development

Looking for a new and easy to use tool to create closed captions for video content you author for your course(s)?  There’s a few new tools just out this Fall 2017 term that area available to all University faculty (full time, online, part time, hybrid, extend ed, etc.)

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If you’re the kind that likes to figure things out yourself. Check out the links below and get to work:

  • Microsoft Stream
  • Screencast-O-Matic

The two services both provide means for creating closed captions, though they are not designed to do so exclusively.

Microsoft Stream

Microsoft Stream is provided to University faculty as part of the Microsoft licensing enjoyed and provisioned by the University Information Technology office.  You can login here, using your University credentials to explore the service.  Think of Stream as an exclusive video streaming service that’s specific to and for exclusive use by University students, faculty and staff. Stream is similar to Microsoft’s other service, Microsoft Video which is similarly included in the Office365 service and related licensing. Stream does not permit any uploaded video to be set to ‘public’ access – only those associated directly with the University can be permitted to see video content. A more exhaustive review of the service is available here.

To leverage the captioning function follow these steps:

  1. Update_video__DOE_20170915PD_Supporting_University_Adjuncts____Microsoft_Stream_🔊Login and upload a video asset to the service using your University login credentials
  2. Depending upon the audio quality (including voice diction, pronunciation and related sound fidelity) and file length, the service will produce a caption file in about 20 minutes.  This is done through a voice to text detection algorithm, so it won’t be perfect, but it may be better than typing things up yourself.
  3. You can then pair the caption file with Warpwire, YouTube, or even just provide it as a rough transcript of the content in your course.

Screencast-O-Matic

Screencast-O-Matic has long been used by University faculty for face to face and online courses.  What’s new is the pairing of the Pro level of service with a Google speech to text engine, which works much the same way Microsoft’s Stream does.  The difference here however is that the Pro level of service from SOM allows you to edit the caption from right within the program.  Microsoft’s Stream doesn’t permit easy editing of the captions, unless you download the caption VTT file and then hunt through this kind of mess to fix misspelled words, inaccuracies and complete blunders accordingly:

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 2.33.17 PM

To get more information on how to access the closed captioning feature in SOM, check out these tutorial videos:

If you have questions about using Screencast-O-Matic, or need directions on how to access the Pro service so you can access the editing function, record beyond 15 minutes and use the annotation tools contact the Department of Online Education.

For more information, faculty and course designers can contact the Department of Online Education.  Bear in mind, you need not wait to have a focused need based on enrollment in order to begin captioning course content you author.

Why would I use one service over the other?

  • If you already have a video in need of captions – look to use Microsoft Stream to create captions quickly.
  • If you are getting ready to create video content – and can do so, type out or correct the captions produced by Screencast-O-Matic.

How do I publish a course in Sakai?

Course sites are created for all courses offered by the University, even if it’s an independent study course.  These course sites are periodically updated to reflect the current registered enrollment reflected at My.JohnsonU.edu in keeping with Add/Drop and Withdraw deadlines.

Once a course site is created, it’s left in an unpublished state, and not available to students until an instructor publishes the course (thereby making it available to students officially registered to take the course). Course sites should be made available to students on or very shortly before the first official day the course begins.

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To publish a course site:

  1. Navigate to the course after logging into Sakai
  2. If the course is unpublished, you’ll see a status message near the top, indicating “Unpublished Site”
  3. Simply click the (Publish Now) button to change the status

To unpublish a course site:

  1. Navigate to the course after logging into Sakai
  2. Select Site Info>Manage Access
  3. Change the selection from Publish Site to Leave as Draft
  4. Save the change by selecting the Update button

LAMP_Consortium___JU_BUSN2010_OL___Site_Info2

Unless needed, course sites should be unpublished 2 weeks after the conclusion of a term or session.  Doing so helps limit the number of course sites students need to negotiate in their courses and helps prevent students from potentially sharing course content with students who have yet to take the course.

What if the video isn’t from YouTube?

Ok so you’ve finally finished planning out part of a lesson and you want to include some killer video content you’ve found online.  The only problem is – the video content isn’t yours, and it doesn’t appear as though there’s an easy way for you to get it into your course in Sakai.

So what do you do?

First of all – do you need to include it directly into the course?

The short answer: No.
The best answer: Yes.  Wait – what?

There’s nothing in the ‘How to be a Perfect Online Instructor’ that says you have to include the content in the course, inside the LMS.  Pointing students to otherwise well-curated, applicable and relevant content is good and it’s something you’re likely better better at than students.  However – it may be good to help retain student’s focus by including the content right in the course – inside the LMS.  How many times have you found yourself looking for something online – only to get side-tracked by some ad, link, other video or headline?  To some degree this may not be a big issue, it provides support for learning through exploration.  On the other hand, in the void that is the Internet, students may meet dead ends or distractions that completely take them away from accomplishing the lesson or course objectives.

The lesson here: If you can legally and efficiently include content into an online course’s LMS – do so. This becomes especially important for adult students taking online courses – where their time and energy are likely being utilized in a full-time job or other responsibilities.  The other added benefit is that you’ve curated and organized content in such as way that demonstrates to students how you value their time and the content of the course. This also helps to minimize the barriers between students and the content they need to engage with – online advertisers do the same thing.

Ok, what about finding the content elsewhere?

Many instructors, faculty and/or course designers will look to see if the content has been posted to YouTube – albeit sometimes by others who have used other means of ripping the content and posting it illegally. While there is a lot of good content on YouTube and other video sharing sites that would benefit your course – be sure to steer clear of using content that is more than likely pirated or otherwise posted without consideration of copyright and fair use.

The lesson here: Don’t use content you know or suspect to be posted illegally. It’s so easy to pull that image or video and think, “No one will know, and the students won’t care.” This however is the same type of thinking that galls instructors when students turn in papers which have obvious plagiarizing issues. While you wouldn’t want your students to turn in content that’s not theirs (or otherwise well cited) – demonstrate the same level of integrity you’d expect from your students.  There is room for leaning on fair use policy, but don’t use it as license.

One way to address the ability to place content into your course is by using an embed code.  Yes, YouTube provides these rather handily.  They make it very easy for anyone to copy the embed code and make the video content appear in another website or in this case in the LMS.  In some ways, the use of an embed code provides a somewhat balanced approach to fair-use and inclusion of content in a course without claiming it as your own.

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Embedding a video from a website into a course site in the LMS.

What exactly does an embed code do? Essentially it acts as a pointer to the content – and the browser understands to go ‘fetch’ the content included in the embed code and display it accordingly.  In some ways it’s like the picture-in-picture (PIP) function of many televisions – it shows the content from some other channel (website) but here, while the other content is being displayed.xmiddleware_pip_01_2b1b72662199a309e45c823b8684d9ea-pagespeed-ic-waatcewutd

So what does an embed code look like?  Something like this, but it’s always specific to where on the Internet the video is really located – sort of like referring to the channel in the PIP example above:

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So where do you do with the embed code once you find it? Basically – you copy the code itself and then place it into a HTML area in the LMS – according to where it best fits for students to see and access the content. In Sakai, for example – you can place the code into any area that uses the Rich Text Editor, by clicking on the SOURCE button:

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So the pasted code would look like this:

skitch (6)

Once you save the edit, you’d end up with something that looks like this (but without the blue and red area designations):

skitch (7)

Ok so now we get to our final question, or our original question and the one that prompted this particular post. What if the video isn’t from YouTube?  Short answer: look for an embed code. Long answer: Really look for an embed code. There’s no question the Internet is filled with content – not all of it good and yet some of it is really excellent – like this video from TIME.  An instructor contacted me and wanted to include in his online course – but was unsure of how to do so. Thankfully – TIME provided just the right solution – an embed code.  Sometimes these things are hidden or ‘organized’ under a share area or button:

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In this case, hovering over the video itself for a second, allowed the share options to appear in the top right of the video.  The icons represent information, share, link and embed respectively (left to right). Clicking the <> icon displayed the following and provided the means to place it right into the course:

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And here’s how it appears in a course:

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Not every website provides an easy way to share content this way – likely because they just don’t want to or because it’s not within the framework of how they want to provide their content for public access and consumption.  Sites provide ways to embed more than just videos – you can also embed audio and images.  Smells are still quite a ways out of technologies reach for now – thankfully.

Many other popular services provide this ability to embed content including the following:

If you’re still curious or worried about the legality of embedding content check out this interesting post from Andrew Feather (especially the part about the Terms of Service section) on the matter and this ruling from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 2012 as reported by CNET. You can even read about Google and Facebook’s position on the issue here if you’re super board or extra curious. Oddly, as of this posting the actual ruling from the Seventh Circuit isn’t available. There’s also this posting by Eric Goldman on the ruling at the Technology & Marketing Law Blog.

FINE PRINT: The easy link can be the weakest

It’s important to recognize an inherent limitation to linking or embedding content.  While doing so does a great job of riding the fair use/copyright line, it also means that content integrity in a course can be compromised.  If someone has uploaded content to YouTube that is later deemed by YouTube to infringe on the copyright owner and YouTube removes the content, your course (by association) is affected. Consequently students become frustrated about content that isn’t accessible.  This isn’t a deal breaker – but it is something to bear in mind.