January 30th, 2012

Multimedia Lectures: Tools for Improving Accessibility and Learning


College course work is meant to be challenging. The content and the vocabulary used are often unfamiliar to many students. For at-risk learners, the challenges are even greater. In some cases, these students have physical or learning disabilities that create accessibility issues, other times the challenges may be the result of the fact that they’re an international student, have anxiety issues, or a strong learning style preference that runs counter to the instructor’s style.

For all of these reasons and more, today’s student body is a highly diverse group with many different learning challenges, often manifesting in problems with notetaking and listening comprehension. All of this creates what Keith Bain calls an “accessibility imperative.” And although there are many legal obligations that institutions must satisfy with regards to accessibility, Bain says recording and transcribing lectures can improve retention and success for all types of students.

In the recent online seminar Tools and Techniques for Improving Course Accessibility, Bain, the international manager of the Liberated Learning Consortium and an adjunct professor at St. Mary’s University, explained the value of digitizing, captioning, and transcribing course material, why you should do it and how.

At the most basic level, Bain said, an instructor could record a presentation with little more than a good lavalier mic or headset and a digital recorder. A more intermediate approach could include using audio recording software like Audacity, PowerPoint narration, or tools such as mp3DirectCut or Power Sound Editor. If the institution has invested in lecture capture systems such as Camtasia Relay, Mediasite, Tegrity Campus, Echo 360 or Panopto, there are even more options and much less work since the recording and synchronization are all automated.

Once the presentation is digitized, the next step is to transcribe it, Bain said, noting that this is often the most difficult aspect of offering students truly accessible course media. Some of the tools Bain recommends for converting speech to text include Dragon Naturally Speaking, Media Access Generator (MAGpie), CapScribe, and InqScribe.

YouTube also offers a captioning feature that Bain called “promising” and there are a few research prototypes with speech recognition based transcription, including an IBM Research’s Hosted Transcription Service and Synote.

During the seminar Bain also shared results of a case study that measured the performance of students who used multimedia notes (recorded lectures with real-time captioning and transcription) against those who used traditional notes. The students who studied using multimedia notes scored better on quizzes and exams.

“Accessibility is not optional but rather a critical success factor,” he said. “At the very simplest level, record your next lecture. At the minimum you can create an auditory based learning object that will greatly enhance learning opportunities for many of your students. I found that a lot of students will listen to these newly created podcasts.”

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  • Jeff

    Is the case study published? If so, where?

    • Hi Jeff,
      I checked with Keith Bain, the gentleman who presented the seminar this article summarizes, and he tells me that this particular study was conducted by Dr. Brad Duerstock at Purdue and has been submitted for journal publication, but has not yet been published. Bain said "We should know about publication in the spring. It will be posted to the Liberated Learning Consortium’s resource page as either a link to the journal / citation or directly to a local copy (depending on copyright). "

      Thanks for your interest.

      Mary Bart

  • Hi Mary – enjoyed the summary and I completely agree that digitizing classroom content this way helps the students who need it most!

    Also wanted to add a footnote that the transcription and captioning process can be largely automated now, too. For example, Camtasia Relay takes a crack at automatic speech-to-text and offers a workflow for cleaning up the captions: http://bit.ly/ye31Vw

    Hopefully by reducing the labor involved, more schools make more lecture content available (and accessible!) on demand.

    Daniel Foster
    New Media Specialist, TechSmith

  • Hi Daniel,
    Thanks for letting Faculty Focus readers and me know about Camtasia Relay's automated speech-to-text captioning function.

    Anything that reduces the amount of time and effort involved in making lectures more convenient and accessible for all students is always most welcome.

    Mary Bart
    Editor, Faculty Focus

  • Ted Turgeon

    A Tool not listed, that you might consider is Adobe Connect which can do basic lecture capture at a significant savings over tools like Echo360 and Tegrity. In addition to lecture capture you can hold synchronous meetings not only with you class but with speakers and colleagues world wide. You can, as well, create pre-class and post class materials that can be accessed on-campus or online using any device connects to the internet via a web browser.

  • Transcription

    I think lecture transcription is a good way to improve student's accessibility and learning. Nowadays by using latest technology everyone getting beneficial and transcription tools are one of those best blessings by technology for students to improve their open mind. I highly appreciate Faculty Focus such presentation and as a reader I learn about digital classroom and reading systems. Thanks.

  • I completely agree with Bain, recording and transcribing lectures can improve retention and success for all types of students.
    Lecture transcription is an effective studying and teaching tool for Students and professors at schools and universities. Many a times it becomes difficult for students to understand the lecture with the same pace as it is taught.
    Lecture transcription is the best solution to this, when you get your lectures transcribed you need not worry about what you are missing out in class.

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  • Cat

    Don't know if any of you out there need transcription services but that's what I have been doing for the last 15 years. Transcribing lectures for medical students but can do most any transcription.

    • sharon

      hi how much do you charge to tanscribe lectures

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  • Amanjot

    It’s a rather old post but I can’t help sharing my two cents here. The technology has evolved a lot in last few years. Lecture capturing has become more of a necessity now. And it has also become a lot easier to record lectures. There is this free tool which is used by my network of educators for the purpose. It not only allows you to record live audio and video, at the same time, you can turn your presentations into video lectures. Amazing, right? Times have changed. You may like to check this tool here – https://www.wiziq.com/features/rapid-video-content-authoring/