How captions can be necessary for some, but boost learning for all

Our Accommodations in the Digital Age webinar series continued with a deep dive into the value in providing captions to all for an equitable learning experience.

Clock 2 min read Calendar Published: 13 Nov 2023
Author Jacob Goodwin
How captions can be necessary for some, but boost learning for all


Following on from the first instalment of our latest webinar series, Accommodations in the Digital Age, the Glean team continued the conversation in part two, exploring how captions can be necessary for some, but boost learning for all.

The session included how captions support more effective note taking, boost engagement, and increase accessibility for all students, not just those with a disability.

Here are three of the key takeaways from the session…

Captions are a vital accompaniment to video

According to a 2019 Verizon media study, 92% of US consumers watch videos with audio off on mobile devices. Alongside this, the report uncovered that 80% of viewers are more likely to finish a video with subtitles whilst 37% of viewers said video subtitles encourage them to turn the sound on.

As video content continues to proliferate, these figures are only going to increase, demonstrating that this is how people are consuming media online. Subtitles are not only an accessibility need, they’re an expectation.

This is further reinforced by the World Health Organisation, whose research has shown that  360 million people, over 5% of the world’s population, have disabling hearing loss.

And whilst the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are very clear that video must have captions, this is the minimum first step.

Captions directly affect our memory

Whilst captions are relied upon by some, there is real potential for all when it comes to memory.

The Verizon media study mentioned above also found that when captioning was utilized, there was an 8% improvement in ad recall, a 10% increase in ad memory quality, and a 13% boost in brand linkage.

If we can increase ad memory by using captions surely we can improve knowledge retention too?

Students are no longer consuming content within traditional confines. The portability of the mobile device has meant we take our whole selves, and our whole online content, with us as we move from place to place - meaning that captions are increasingly popular.

Naturally, this creates an opportunity for educators to improve knowledge retention through the use of captions.

Captions are not only for students with disabilities

By offering captions to all, there is an equitable learning experience at play. This is supported by the EDUCAUSE 2022 Students & Technology Report which highlighted:

“Assistive technology is not only for students with disabilities. It is well-known that students with disabilities are underserved for a number of reasons.

In this survey, only 5% of respondents indicated that they have a disability for which they need assistive technology. However, when provided with a list of specific assistive technologies, every item on the list was selected as necessary by at least 18% of respondents.

Over a third of respondents (38%) also said that they need captions on videos." 

50% of all college student experiences now involve online learning and captioning can support multiple means of engagement within a lecture, both in the moment and beyond.

This online environment has the potential to offer a UDL lens on our approach to teaching and learning. Captions will of course support your pursuit of accessibility and inclusion but they go beyond that.

Those students with undiagnosed challenges that will benefit from captions are also included. Think about those with executive function challenges, processing challenges and those facing mental health challenges. Or even students with English as an additional language.

The ability to read and reflect on what was said live in class offers another means of input for the content but also a method to reflect on post lecture; simultaneously easing stress and the cognitive load by knowing that you won’t miss what is being said.



To learn more about the topic, click the button below to rewatch the session in full.

Rewatch the webinar in full here
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