Video Captions: They are for Everyone

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According to principles of Universal Design for Learning, because learners vary in how they can become interested or motivated to learn, it is crucial to provide multiple ways to engage learners (Meyer, Rose, & Gordon, 2014).  One medium to consider is video, which, when well-planned, can engage students and facilitate a sense of community.  However, when designing instruction, it is important to ensure that materials are usable and accessible to individuals with a range of abilities, ages, disabilities, ethnic backgrounds, language skills, experiences, and learning style.

One consideration is ensuring that video content offers captions. Captions are defined as “…on-screen text descriptions that display a video product’s dialogue, identify speakers, and describe other relevant sounds that are otherwise inaccessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Captions are synchronized with the video image so that viewers have equivalent access to the content that is originally presented in sound, regardless of whether they receive that content via audio or text.”  (http://www.washington.edu/accessit/print.html?ID=1050)

Closed Caption Example

While one might assume that captions would be helpful primarily to students with a hearing impairment, in reality, all students with a range of abilities could also benefit. These include students with a learning disability, individuals whose first language is different than the language spoken in the video, students who watch the video in a noise environment, or any student who might benefit from both reading captions and listening to the accompanying audio. Findings from a recently released national survey of college students seems to support this practice, revealing that 35% of students said they always or often used closed captions when they were available, while 52% said they used them because they aid with comprehension (Linder, 2016). The study found that approximately 46% used transcripts for the same reason.

Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center is available to help faculty who want to learn to add captions to videos they have created, through a time-saving process that does not require directly transcribing the video. The basic steps are:

  1. Record a video using a video camera, smartphone, screencasting software, or other means.
  2. Upload the video to YouTube as a Private video. This prevents the video from being seen by anyone but the owner.
  3. Once YouTube has processed automatic caption for the video, download the captions as a .srt file.
  4. Open the .srt file using a text editor and edit the text as necessary to be more accurate.
  5. Upload the video and the .srt file to the MEDIAL server to embed the video in your course. On MEDIAL, you can protect the video by using the Personal security setting, so the video is only available to the owner and the students in the course.

If you have written a script, you can upload it to YouTube’s Closed Captions editor, and YouTube will automatically synchronize the script with the video. This is more accurate than the automatic captions, and you won’t have to edit the .srt for accuracy. Once YouTube has processed the captions, you can download the .srt file and then continue with step 5 (upload to MEDIAL).

If you have questions, please contact Dan Cabrera, Multimedia Coordinator at the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center. He would be delighted to go through the process to ensure that you are comfortable adding captions to your videos.

References

Linder, K. (2016). Student uses and perceptions of closed captions and transcripts: Results from a national Study. Retrieved from  http://www.3playmedia.com/resources/research-studies/student-uses-of-closed-captions-and-transcripts/ on February 28, 2017.

Meyer, A., Rose, D.H., Gordon, D. (2014). Universal design for learning: theory and practice. Wakefield: CAST Professional Publishing.

MEDIAL: Updated Video Management with Webcam Recording

Helix Media Library (HML), the streaming media player for uploading and sharing video and audio content available to all NIU faculty, students, and staff, is now MEDIAL, available at hml.niu.edu. After a significant upgrade, the video management tool is faster, easier, and includes the ability to record video directly from a webcam.

Fastervideos on mobile devices

One of the primary benefits to MEDIAL is that videos are encoded and transcoded for streaming online to any device. This means videos are optimized for playing online, so that students are able to watch videos even with slow or intermittent internet connections, and multiple students are able to watch the video at once without issues. Transcoding the videos allows students to view them from a computer, tablet, or smart phone.

In the past, this has sometimes been a slow process with Helix Media Library, particularly with longer videos. The MEDIAL upgrade will speed the encoding and transcoding process up significantly, so there will be less time to wait after uploading a video. In some cases, encoding may happen at double the previous speed!

Easier

MEDIAL makes it easier for students to post videos in Blackboard. Students now have the ability to browse previously uploaded videos in addition to uploading a new video. The video playback controls have been enhanced, as well.

Record from Webcam

The most exciting new feature is the ability to record audio or video directly from a webcam. This functionality is similar to the Video Everywhere tool in Blackboard that no longer works since Google removed the ability to record from a webcam on YouTube.

medial-webcam

Video or audio can be recorded from within Blackboard and is stored securely within the MEDIAL library. That video can then be embedded within a Blackboard course. This feature is great for video announcements or providing feedback on an assignment. Students can use this, as well, to submit video or audio assignments – such as demonstrating for language proficiency, responding via sign language, or just for building a sense of community.

Tutorials

Learn more about using MEDIAL by watching these tutorials.

Helix Media Library: A Secure Solution for Uploading and Sharing Video

A useful new tool for securely sharing video online is now available to the NIU community, the Helix Media Library (HML). The HML is an on-campus streaming media server that allows faculty, students and staff to store media content (audio and video). Even more intriguing is that the HML is integrated with the Blackboard Learn course management system, making it easier to incorporate media into Blackboard courses by encoding and converting media so that it is optimized for streaming and able to play on most devices, including computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

In the past, faculty who wished to post media content to Blackboard, especially video, may have experienced difficulty when adding it to their course. The process was unwieldy and awkward, yielding inconsistent results because the Blackboard server was not able to optimize the streaming video.

In addition, because video files are often larger than other course content, uploading media content could quickly fill up Blackboard course quotas. As a result, faculty might have resorted to using outside services such as YouTube or Vimeo, to post and distribute content. Now, with the HML, it is much easier to post audio and video files to this on-campus server and share them within the university or publicly. The HML operates behind a firewall, with content regularly backed-up by NIU.

The HML is a Mashups tool appearing in the Text Box Editor (see below). When you click the Mashups button, you can select the Helix Media Library link to begin the process of uploading content.

HML Mashup02

This means that media content can be uploaded anywhere in Blackboard that there is access to the text box editor, by both faculty and students. For example, faculty can add video or audio as an Item in a content area, or while creating Announcements, Assignments, and posting a Discussion Board topic. Students can upload their own media for a video assignment or when collaborating on the discussion board, blogs, wikis, or journals.

Currently, every NIU faculty, staff, and student has an HML account, with 4 GB of space available. However, if you need more space, you can submit a request to DoIT (Division of Information Technology) to increase that for free in 4 GB increments. Individual files can be up to 2 GBs in size, which allows you to upload longer video segments. Since video is uploaded into HML accounts, Blackboard course quota space remains unaffected.

When a video is uploaded, the Permissions feature allows you to determine who has access to view it. If the video is uploaded from within Blackboard, the ‘Personal’ setting allows only the instructor and students enrolled in the course to view the content. Selecting ‘Protected’ makes the content available to all NIU users (i.e., faculty, staff, students). Selecting ‘Public’ opens the content to potentially all online users.

You can check out your own HML account by logging into http://hml.niu.edu. You will be asked to authenticate with your university-assigned username and password.

To learn more about using the HML, be sure to visit the HML informational website.

In addition, the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center offers a specialized workshop periodically, Adding Video to Your Blackboard Course Using the Helix Media Library, to train faculty and staff about how to use this tool. One-on-one consultation is also available.

Blackboard Video Everywhere: Increasing Faculty and Student Communication

It is increasingly important to engage students and foster a sense of community and connection between students and faculty. This is true in all courses, but is particularly true in online courses, where students may not have the opportunity to meet together or with faculty. Simulating face-to-face interaction may help students feel connected to a learning community and enhance students’ motivation to learn (Carr 2000). Bolliger, Supanakorn, and Boggs (2010) reported that college students in an online course who had the option of hearing their professor’s voice in a course podcast made them feel more connected to him or her, while ‘listening’ to explanations of core course concepts translated into more meaningful learning compared to only reading a textbook. This supports the perspective that technologies can assist faculty to personalize and humanize online instruction by integrating multimedia elements that attempt to engage students in active and meaningful learning activities (Lee, Tan, & Goh, 2004).
Video Everywhere Icon
The ‘Video Everywhere’ tool in Blackboard can augment communication between faculty, student, and course content. Video Everywhere, which became available at NIU following the upgrade in June, 2013, allows users to record video anywhere in Blackboard that the text box editor is available (see image, right). Faculty can use this feature for creating and posting videos of course announcements, brief lectures, clarifications, discussion board posts, and instructions for assignments. Students can also post videos as submission to assignments, blogs, journals, and discussion boards.

Video Everywhere uses a webcam, either integrated in a laptop or connected via USB. Videos can be created quickly, but it is not possible to edit the videos.

Videos recorded with the Video Everywhere tool are stored in YouTube, so faculty and students must have Google accounts to use Video Everywhere. Once the video is recorded, Blackboard posts it to YouTube as an Unlisted video. This means the videos will remain private and will not appear in YouTube searches or on a users’ YouTube page. In addition to recording videos, users can also use the Video Everywhere tool to embed videos that were previously uploaded to their YouTube channel.

Some NIU faculty and instructors have already begun to incorporate Video Everywhere for their assignments. For example, Mary Kocsis from the School of Allied Health and Communicative Disorders uses Video Everywhere to test her students’ receptive skills in sign language. She records herself ‘signing’ a message within a test question. When students take the test, they must interpret what she signed. Other faculty have recorded and posted a video message welcoming students to a new course at the start of the semester. This can be especially beneficial as a ‘meet and greet’ if the course is entirely online, and never meets face-to-face.

There are other applications for student uses as well.  Students might record themselves ‘signing’ a message for a sign language assignment (demonstrating expressive rather than receptive skills), speaking a foreign language for later review in a language course, or conducting  ethnographic interviews for a cultural anthropology course.

Faculty who are interested in learning more about Video Everywhere can use Blackboard’s help guide for Video Everywhere or view the following brief tutorial, which is available at http://youtu.be/glYGzdxw-mM.

References

Bolliger, D.U., Supanakorn, S., & Boggs, C. (2010). Impact of podcasting on student motivation in the on line learning environment. Computers & Technology, 55, 714-722.

Carr, S. (2000). As distance education comes of age, the challenge is keeping the students. Chronicle of Higher Education, 46(23), A39. Available from http://chronicle.com/article/As-Distance-Education-Comes-of/14334

Lee, C.S., Tan, D.T.H., & Goh, W.S. (2004). The next generation of e-learning: Strategies for media rich online teaching. Journal of Distance Education Technologies, 2(4), 1-17