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.
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.
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.
Many of our faculty and courses use the institution’s online streaming service Warpwire. Together with the combined effort of hundreds of faculty, Warpwire houses over 2000 video, image, audio and related media assets, placing, securing and delivering each and every one of them using Amazon’s global content delivery network (CDN) to help all our students make content connections around the world.
Not many of our faculty know however, that Warpwire is a continually evolving platform, and since it’s adoption in 2015, has continued to up the ante of services and features available without increasing the cost to use it.
Most recently Warpwire released two new features: screen capture and live broadcast.
Screen capture – enables users to use a Chrome browser plugin to record a portion of a desktop or laptop screen along with audio and then include it in a course.
Live broadcast – provides a way to stream live sessions via web-cam and audio within a specific course.
Each of these features offers unique and interesting opportunities for online, hybrid and even face to face courses. Some faculty are looking for a way to create short lecture or instructional videos ahead of time. Use of a screen capture platform enables an instructor to pull up a presentation in much the same way many instructors present in face to face courses, but be able to record it. Live broadcast enables instructors to hold live sessions with students, record them and make them available to students afterwards. Live broadcast even includes a means by which faculty can tell how many people are watching the broadcast and can include a live chat during the broadcast. While this may sound a lot like Google Hangouts or even Skype, the benefit here is that it’s all secured and held in an institutionally backed and recommended service. Some students may be wary of attending Hangout or Skype sessions and may violate FERPA regulations.
How else could you use screen capture? Here are some ideas:
Use it to record an overview of the course syllabus (actually screen capture the syllabus and guide students through it, especially the complex parts).
Provide an alternative course resource that can be made accessible through a captioning service. (Most PowerPoint presentations don’t follow appropriate formatting and alternative text requirements to make content accessible to all learners – creating a video and pairing it with captions can make the presentation far more accessible than say the canned presentations from course text publishers.)
Use an internet-based screen capture available to students – for students to record their own video-based presentations to share with the class. (Again, securing this kind of asset with Warpwire verses having students post their speech assignments publicly to YouTube demonstrates better cohesion to FERPA regulations.
Screencasts could be used in a language course for assessment or assessment prep. Create a video with language vocabulary displayed while the instructor pronounces the word. Warpwire will even track which students watched it and when, which can inform your instruction or how well students as a whole did on a unit assessment.
Record a session where you and a colleague discuss or share conversationally about a course topic – knowing you’ve covered all the content the way you want and delivering that content to students consistently every time the course is offered.
Create specific videos for specific assignments as reminders or as quick “60 second helps – in much the same way advertisements create breaks or logical interruptions to television shows.
How else could you use live broadcast? Here are some ideas:
For students taking courses with a lab – such as a science course, schedule and conduct a live broadcast of a complex lab procedure, asking all participants to ask a unique question in the chat about the session’s content or steps (for you to answer during the live broadcast).
In a speech course – provide a chance for students to deliver their speeches asynchronously (live) to others in the course, while the watchers (other students) provide during-broadcast feedback about the quality of the speech.
Bring in a guest speaker located somewhere – anywhere, who can inform or add additional credibility to what you’re already sharing.
What are some other tips in creating these kinds of video assets?
If it’s a screen capture – don’t be afraid of having the video be less than super-polished. Students like to see you in your ‘element’ – you’re not a robot teaching the course you’re a person. Maybe you sneeze, or your cat jumps on the keyboard – those things create a contact point with students.
Keep screen capture content to less than 15 minutes. If you think about it, your tension span at this point in this post is beyond bearable, in fact I’m surprised you’re still reading this. Shorter videos of six to seven minutes are easier to digest and keeping it shorter may help you distill the best of what the “normal” 45 minute lecture may disclose.
When used discretely, creating videos providing feedback to students directly (one per student) on an assignment may be better than just giving a student a letter or percentage grade.
Use screen capture or live broadcast to provide a wrap up or weekly summary of the week or unit’s content.
Use screen captures as a means of introducing discussion forum prompts or questions.
Check out the following tutorials from Warpwire on the use of each of these features for use in your classes:
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:
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.
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
If you’re the kind that likes to figure things out yourself. Check out the links below and get to work:
The two services both provide means for creating closed captions, though they are not designed to do so exclusively.
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:
Login and upload a video asset to the service using your University login credentials
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.
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 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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
So the pasted code would look like this:
Once you save the edit, you’d end up with something that looks like this (but without the blue and red area designations):
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:
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:
And here’s how it appears in a course:
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.