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Transcripts and closed captions for STEM content: What to consider

The benefits of closed captions and transcripts as learning aids have been extolled by more than 100 studies. Typically, STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and medical) content focuses on real-world issues and problems and is characterized by the open invitation to enquire, explore, and learn. Essentially, transcripts and captions make complex STEM content accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing community, more immersive to regular learners, as well as more approachable to laymen.

In this article, we’ll explore what STEM content creators and publishers should consider before integrating transcripts and captions into their workflow.

Which STEM content should you transcribe and caption?

1. Video extracts and video bytes

Video is a powerful medium that helps to instantly engage and inform viewers. So when businesses world over are leveraging videos as marketing content, why should the STEM industry be left behind?

Video extracts are short multimedia presentations of the key findings of a research paper specifically intended to increase the reach of a study. Video bytes, on the other hand,  are typically shorter and break down complex STEM material to make it accessible to stakeholders beyond academia, for example, journalists and popular science writers. So, adding closed captions will definitely boost the reach and comprehension of such STEM content.

2. Classroom lectures, E-learning videos, and other publicly consumed STEM videos

According to an Oregon University study, 98.6% students stated that they find captions and transcripts a helpful aid. Essentially, transcripts and captions help to improve comprehension, boost retention, and make the learning material more scannable for important data. Moreover, a Curtin University study noted that “Students who utilize captions as part of revision frequently re-engage with course content.”

Prioritize these three aspects

1. Accessibility and legal compliance

To make education inclusive and accessible, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act make it mandatory for government-funded organizations to add closed captions to their video material. In fact, advocates for the deaf and hard of hearing community filed a lawsuit against Harvard in 2015 because “Much of Harvard’s online content is either not captioned or is inaccurately or unintelligibly captioned, making it inaccessible for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.”

While it’s compulsory for government-funded educational video producers to add closed captions to their content, private enterprises should also consider including transcripts and closed captions to enable individuals with disabilities to pursue their love for learning at their own pace and with high-quality aids.

2. Accuracy

Transcripts and captions simplify comprehension of complex STEM content and help students pick up technical terms and complex formulae accurately. Moreover, these terms, subject-specific notations, and formulae should be consistent throughout the transcript and in the closed captions. Therefore, ask your potential online transcription and closed captioning partner about the level of accuracy of their outputs as well as their workflow in detail. Ensure that the transcription and closed captioning plans you opt for have a manual step in the workflow  – while automatic speech recognition (ASR) is a good starting point, the error count is quite high in such outputs.

3. Confidentiality

Plagiarism is a big deal in any industry that produces content, but more so in academia. Researchers want to ensure that their hard work is shared with colleagues as well as other relevant stakeholders through proper channels. Educational content creators also want to ensure that their proprietary course content is secure before they publish it. Accordingly, confidentiality should be another important checkpoint when you hire an online transcription and closed captioning partner.  A professional service provider will be happy to encrypt your files on their server at every step of the process as well as sign a non-disclosure agreement to protect your valuable data.

Challenges and possible solutions

Specialized language service providers cater to a wide range of industries, each with its unique set of complexities. And, the STEM content production industry is no different. Here are some common challenges (and their possible solutions) in transcribing and captioning STEM content.

1. Complicated content

STEM content is highly technical and needs the intervention of subject matter experts (SME) to produce accurate transcripts and captions. This rules out ASR as a solution because the error margin is quite high in such outputs.

Solution: Ask your potential vendor whether they employ SMEs to ensure that the outputs are technically accurate and true to the source. Moreover, when SMEs work on your files, the turnaround time is also lower because they are familiar with the content and don’t have to disrupt their core workflow and Google every technical term to ensure accuracy.

2. Technical challenges

Lecture capture has been proven to increase student attendance in classrooms. However, the audio quality may be hampered if the right recording equipment is not used. Poor audio quality can seriously affect the quality of output of transcripts and captions, and such recordings do take longer to be transcribed and captioned.

Solution: Choosing the right microphone can simplify the process and improve the quality of recording to a large extent. For a large lecture hall, choose an omnidirectional microphone to capture sounds from all directions and a unidirectional one for small study groups or for one-on-one discussions.

3. Long and complex workflow

Producing transcripts and captions with 99% accuracy is a detailed 3-step process that is best handled by industry veterans. Moreover, as a STEM researcher, you need to spend more time in your lab or reading other research papers rather than learning a new, highly technical skill.

Solution: Outsource your transcription and captioning requirements to a professional provider so that you can concentrate on what you love the most: solving real-world problems through scientific breakthroughs.

Final Thoughts

At iScribed, we face the challenges of transcribing and captioning STEM content head-on by providing unique solutions for discrete project requirements. We’re happy to sign an NDA to protect your findings and have a proven record for producing transcripts and captions with 99% accuracy. Let’s talk!


A simple 2-step guide to choose the right closed captioning service

Who is the right closed captioning vendor for you? The straight answer is someone who meets the demands of your business and the industry standards.

Yes, hiring the right online closed captioning partner will give your business a huge boost. But where do you even start?

We get it. So in this article, we’re going to share a simple process that will simplify your search and help you make the right hiring decision.

 First step: Ask yourself these 3 questions to understand your requirements

Why is this important? For a number of reasons actually:

  • it will make your search more streamlined
  • it will help you convey your expectations clearly
  • …which means the quality of deliverables will not only meet but exceed your expectations

So here are the 3 questions to ask yourself before you hire a closed captioning service:

  1. What problems are you trying to solve?

Whether you want to make your video more accessible, add more value to your video content, intend to boost your video SEO, or have all of these goals, understanding your requirement will give you extra clarity before you start searching for a vendor.

  1. Are your requirements short term or long term?

A long-term partnership with a closed captioning can be beneficial for your video production cycle and will help you negotiate costs according to volume. For short-term requirements (for example, closed captioning a full-length documentary), you need to understand your vendor’s turnaround time and whether they can work with your revision schedule.

  1. What should be the terms of your contract?

To filter your requirements further, you need to zero in on the following things:  Will your project need an NDA? How frequently are you willing to communicate during the project process? What should be the delivery schedule?

Having a contract in place before starting the project will make the entire process much smoother.

Second step: Ask your vendor these questions to ensure they’re a good fit

The vendor-client relationship can be extremely beneficial when both parties are a good fit for each other. This depends on a number of factors, most of which can be brought to the forefront by asking your potential closed captioning vendor the following questions (along with inquiring about the cost of services and turnaround time).

1. What is their captioning process?

Do they opt for high-end automatic speech recognition (ASR) to create closed captions for video files? Or do they have a more elaborate, two-step captioning process and a quality review protocol before delivery?

If they only rely on ASR, this puts the inaccuracy rate of the finished product at 5%-50%. ASR helps to make a good head start, but it isn’t a great standalone option.

A multi-step captioning process involves both ASR input and human intervention (typically crosschecking with the video and a round of editing), which produces high quality closed captions that are FCC compliant.

2. What is their accuracy rate?

Accuracy is the most important metric to judge your closed captions. Accuracy measures whether the captions are true to the source along with the quality of spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

A high-quality vendor has a proven record (take a quick peek at their testimonials) of delivering captions with 99% accuracy to add real value to your video content. Here’s why accuracy should be your number one filter when choosing a captioning vendor.

  • Inaccurate closed captions affect the reading experience, which makes it an unsuitable (and unequal) alternative for the deaf and hard of hearing community.
  • Inaccurate captions reflect poorly on your brand.
  • When products, technical terms, places, or names of people are spelled incorrectly in your captions, it makes your video content hard to find, thus defeating the purpose of investing in improving your video SEO.

3. Do they operate in your niche?

This is another important parameter to consider before partnering up. When a vendor specializes in your niche (for example, captioning specifically for short films or explainer videos), the value you derive from them pays for the service many times over. This means they can not only handle the captioning process faster but are also able to fine tune the output to exceed your expectations.

4. Can they handle diverse and challenging content?

Each project comes with its own set of challenges – hire a vendor who’s ready to rise to the occasion and deliver 99% accuracy irrespective of how intricate and nuanced your project is (accuracy of closed captions is largely dependent on audio quality as well as other factors like accents and technical terms).

Ask them whether they hire specialists in your niche and whether they have the subject matter expertise as well as the technical skills to execute your project.

5. Is their workflow user-friendly?

User experience is a huge part of your relationship with a closed captioning vendor. A friendly workflow makes technical tasks like captioning much less cumbersome. A professional captioning service ensures the following so that project execution is streamlined.

  • They support multiple file formats
  • They make the upload process easy
  • You are proactively informed when your captions are ready
  • They ensure all communication and information you share with them are secure
  • They give you control over how long your files should stay in their system

Bottom line

How to hire the right closed captioning vendor? Simple, align your project requirements with what they can offer by asking these questions. Quiz yourself first and know your requirements in depth before you reach out to a vendor. Next, ensure they are a good fit for your business by asking the right questions.

Wondering how we handle closed captioning projects at iScribed? Reach out to us today – we’ll be happy to answer your questions with a no obligation to purchase!


Can closed captions and transcripts really improve your video SEO?

As competition ramps up, brands are looking for ways to build a rapport with their customers beyond making a sale.

So, businesses, both big and small, are turning to video content to position their brand, deliver value by talking about industry breakthroughs, and share behind-the-scenes updates for humanizing their brand. Why? Because video is a fantastic medium for storytelling and for instantly connecting with viewers.

As a result, this has led to a surge in video content online, with 63% of businesses (out of 311 unique respondents) turning to video marketing in 2017. Of the businesses who decided to ride this wave last year, 83% believe that video content is great for their ROI.

But how do consumers come across these videos?

Brands disperse video content pretty much everywhere – their website, on social media, and even on affiliate marketing channels. Video content producers (for instance, vloggers and web series producers) also take a similar approach while also optimizing their videos to be found through search results.

This is where video SEO comes in.

What is video SEO?

Search engine optimization or SEO ties up neatly with Google’s core mission: “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” There are a number of factors that determine your Google rank, and keywords and content relevance, social media shares, the quality of links (both internal and backlinks), and readability.

Basically, makes it clear that authentic, high-quality, and relevant content have higher chances of ranking on the first page of Google rather than keyword-stuffed rip-offs.

Now, while video is a type of content, Google’s bots can’t watch the videos while crawling your website or YouTube channel.

Sounds troubling, doesn’t it?

Don’t worry though – you can still drive traffic and build brand awareness through your video content by carefully crafting a good video SEO strategy that includes integrating captions and transcripts in your videos.

How can closed captions improve video SEO?

Closed captions are the textual representation of your video narrative, integrated with the video file and synced to enhance the video-viewing experience. Closed captions, not subtitles, depict non-speech aspects of your video (for example background noise) and are mandatory according to accessibility laws. While the laws are unclear regarding closed captions for online videos, you should definitely consider including captions in your video content now to build authority on Google in the long term.

Here’s how closed captions can boost your video SEO:

  • First, closed captions link to an integrated text file in the video that Google’s bots can crawl to index and rank your video content. To make it easy for Google and your target audience to find you, pepper your video narrative, and consequently your closed captions, with keywords you want to rank for.
  • Did you know 85% of Facebook videos are watched on mute? Include closed captions to ensure viewers don’t move on to the next video in their queue (possibly of your competitor’s and with captions!). Moreover, videos with captions are proven to reduce bounce rates and increase conversions by extending the time visitors spend on your website or social media landing page. (Session length on a landing page is a crucial ranking factor in Google’s algorithm.)
  • Closed captions improve your reach by being accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing community – a demographic that would be alienated if your videos are published without captions.
  • Closed captions make content consumption easier for those without disabilities too. In fact, 80% of users who watch videos with captions do so because captions spell out the content accurately and because captioned videos can be watched in noise-sensitive environments (for example, during the commute or in a library). When users derive more benefit from your videos than from your competitors’, they’re bound to come back as well as link to your content more, thereby boosting your authority in your niche, which is an important ranking factor in search engines.

How do transcripts boost your video SEO?

Transcription is the process of converting speech in video and audio files into text: consider transcripts a text twin of your video content. Also, adding a transcript on your video page means that it can be easily crawled by Google’s bots and indexed according to content relevance.

Here are some SEO benefits of adding transcripts to your videos

  • Include relevant keywords in your transcripts to help Google’s bots index your content.
  • Viewers consider transcripts for online videos a value-add because transcripts make it easy to search topics discussed in the video. When you satisfy as well as fuel viewer curiosity, you’re likely to be considered an authority in your niche. This also means your content will be shared and linked to more than that of your competitors’! (Pro tip: Opt for non-verbatim rather than verbatim transcripts for your videos – these transcripts will become a great starting point for future blogs, whitepapers, or case studies.)
  • Like closed captions, transcripts make your videos accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing community. Apart from the marked benefits of reaching a whole new demographic, you will be rewarded with brand loyalty for being inclusive.

Bottom line

According to a CISCO report, online video consumption will increase by a CAGR of 31% between 2016 and 2021. This means more brands will turn to video content to market products, build brand loyalty, and share industry knowledge. Stay ahead of the competition by integrating closed captions and transcripts in your videos now – remember, ranking on Google is a marathon rather than a sprint!


Can closed captions and transcripts actually help students?

closed captionsWhen we think of closed captions and transcripts, a few things come to mind: they need to be included because they’re a legal requirement and that they can be treated as peripheral aids to your video content.

But apart from compliance and business-growth-related benefits, transcripts play an important part in how your educational videos are accepted, perceived, and comprehended.

Closed captions and transcripts are great for students with known disorders

And we’re not just talking about students and viewers with hearing disabilities. You need to know when you’re choosing to accurately caption your e-learning videos, you’re making learning easier and accessible for many communities with known disorders.

Holistic takeaways for students with dyslexia

According to this report, 1 in 8 student in the US has dyslexia. Dyslexia, a neurodevelopmental disorder, is characterized by slow and inaccurate word recognition. Since captions and transcripts are basically your video expressed in the written form, you may think the practice is counterintuitive. Moreover, the overall goal of reading is to comprehend the reading material.

So how do captions and transcripts help students with dyslexia?

Video material is great for engaging students with dyslexia, but note-taking can be hard from a video. So, captions and especially transcripts serve as great tools and learning aids for such students because they can simultaneously refer to the video and the transcript and retain much more at the end of it.

Help students with autism comprehend e-learning videos better

Prevalence of autism in U.S. children has increased 6%-15% between 2002 and 2010 and more than 3.5 million Americans are on the autism spectrum.

Both children and adults on the autism spectrum have difficulty engaging in complex conversations, part taking in activities in noisy environments, and comprehending social cues and emotions. So boosting learning comprehension through e-learning videos alone still leaves a huge gap for retention and understanding in such cases  – in fact, 35% of young adults on the autism spectrum in the US do not participate in the labor force and have not pursued post graduate education because learning is still not as inclusive as it should be.

Captions and transcripts help students on the autism spectrum comprehend e-learning videos better as they can turn off the sound and refer to the written materials instead for better understanding.

Students with down syndrome heavily rely on captions and transcripts

E-learning videos are great for breaking down complex concepts. However, students with Down syndrome often have poor auditory retention capabilities. This makes closed captions and transcripts a great aid for understanding such educational materials better.

Helping students learn better beyond disabilities

According to a nation-wide study (with 2124 participating students across 15 private and public universities)  conducted by Oregon State University, captions and transcripts definitely go a long way to help comprehend e-learning videos better.

According to the study, 98.6% students claimed captions are helpful for learning better and that they used video transcripts as learning aids 85% of the time.

Here’s how closed captions and transcripts boost e-learning video comprehension and help students learn better.

Accuracy

Students may not catch a technical word or names correctly while watching a video. Captions and transcripts can remedy this by spelling out accurate technical terms and names and help students learn and retain accurate content.

Comprehension

Closed captions and transcripts are complementary to the higher level of engagement and ease of learning enabled by e-learning videos. Students can benefit from the easy breakdown and visualization of complex concepts and refer to transcripts and captions for better understanding.

Retention

Videos with closed captions and transcripts help in better retention as students can both watch as well as read at their own pace, helping them approach the content in a manner that makes them comfortable.

There are challenges (but also workarounds)

Overhauling an established system comes with its own set of challenges, but in this case, there are definite workarounds. Let’s see what they are.

Caption placement can be distracting

Some survey respondents (32%) claimed that captions can be distracting as they blocked a part of the visuals.

Essentially, this means that such captions were not compliant to FCC and ADA regulations for closed captioning, which specifically outlines font and placement details to root out distractions due to captions in e-learning videos.

Transcripts and captions include incorrect information

Incorrect closed captions in e-learning videos along with errors in an accompanying transcript can do more harm than good.

Now, this a testament to the fact that a lot of institutes and private e-learning video producers are resorting to automatic captioning, which can only provide accuracy levels of 60%-80%. In such cases, partnering with a reliable transcription company can be a prudent business decision.

At iScribed, we ensure 99% accuracy in our captions and transcripts, along with a rigorous quality assurance process that makes captioning your videos easy, streamlined, and accurate.

Captions and transcripts cause more cognitive overload

Several students cited cognitive overload as a factor when watching e-learning videos with closed captions. However, 41% of them claimed that it was momentary, and a significant advantage of closed captions is that they can be turned them off at any point if students don’t want to use them as a learning aid.

Captions and transcripts are the best next step in holistic education

The challenges of including closed captions and transcripts are minor compared to how much students benefit from their usage. Benefits that go beyond compliance and speculation, we’d say.

Are you looking for a trusted transcription and captioning partner to make the video production process easy for you? Let’s talk.