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How remote captioning makes online education easier

In these difficult times, we need to keep adapting to new situations. And we also need to make it as easy as possible for us to get important work done under the circumstances.

Most universities are transitioning to online education as classes begin again, if they have not done so already.

This will mean a new way of working for university staff, and a new way of studying for students.

For students with disabilities, this can be an even more fraught time. Access challenges can be compounded in isolation.

And this is especially true of many deaf and hard-of-hearing students, who can’t rely any more on face-to-face communication.

Remote captioning will be essential for these students as the COVID-19 crisis continues. But it can support not only these students, but all of their peers as well.

Here’s everything you need to know about remote captioning and accessible media services for the semesters ahead.

In this article, we’ll be discussing live captions for classes and meetings, but remote captions are also very commonly used for pre-recorded media.


How does remote captioning work?

There are two ways remote live captions can be created: by humans or by computers (also known as ‘automatic captions’).

Which type of live captioning you choose will determine how they work.


Human-generated remote live captions

Let’s look at human-generated live captions first. Using this method, the audio from the relevant speaker is sent to a human captioner in a remote location, through the internet or phone. The captioner then creates the captions and sends them back (through the internet) to the individual or venue via a web-enabled device (such as a mobile or laptop). This can be done within three to five seconds.


Computer-generated remote live captions

With computer-generated or automatic captions, Automatic Speech Recognition (or ASR) is used to listen to the audio and automatically generate identifiable words. They are often checked by a human for quality control before they are displayed, since their accuracy is not as good as it is with human captions. This means that this type of remote live caption will take longer to display.


The benefits of captioning remotely


Better engagement for all students

It’s easy for students to become disengaged when everything is being done online, especially if they are also feeling stressed by the pandemic.

Captioning can not only support students that are deaf and hard-of-hearing; those who have English as a second language; and those with disabilities including Autism Spectrum Disorder and mental illness – It supports all students.

Captions have been found to improve comprehension, boost information retention and increase student confidence in their learning. This makes them an extremely valuable learning tool in unusual circumstances like the COVID-19 pandemic.


Use any web-conferencing platform

Universities are increasingly making use of, and indeed depending on, web-conferencing software and applications to hold online classes and meetings.
Remote live captions can be set up for all the popular platforms including Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate, WebEx, and Adobe Connect.


Fast, inexpensive and easy

Remote captioning is quicker, more affordable, easier and more flexible than engaging a captioner on-site.

You can engage a captioner more quickly because they do not have to travel to the venue. Captioners can also work in teams, and they can be swapped seamlessly to provide rest periods and cover for unexpected events such as sick days. You also only have to pay for the duration required for the session, instead of an entire class or event that doesn’t necessarily need captions.

Written by Indre McGlinn, Ai-Media.

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