iScribed > Transcripts and closed captions for STEM content: What to consider

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!