As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been feeling conflicted about whether to keep performing lecture capture, because of the huge amount of additional work it would take to caption those videos. I don't seem to have any visually-impaired students who have requested disability accommodations, so perhaps that buys me a bit of time to found out whether I can access additional campus resources to support captioning 150 minutes of lecture capture per week.
However, I'm still optimistic about captioning, and that's the topic for this post. I mentioned that I attended a Captioning workshop held by our University Communications group before the start of the semester. I'm here to share a few hard-earned best practices on incorporating accessible videos into tablet-based instruction.
Best practice 1: make short videos
Although I still intend to produce and post all of my office hours and class sessions, I'm starting small. The idea here is supported by pedagogy and practicality. For a flipped classroom, it is good practice to have students access material before coming to class. In my case, sometimes this includes screencast content I've recorded in advance. When I first started this process a year ago, my videos would occasionally run to thirty minutes, which is way too long! As I've been struggling to release myself from the burden of teaching content (replacing that with more authentic practice during class), it seems that the necessary pre-lecture content has shrunk as well! So far this term (four class meetings so far), I've created and captioned five short videos: two screencast videos teaching methods (one on using Google Sheets; one for PDF annotation) and three quiz keys. Baby steps! It is so much easier to caption a few short videos than one big one, I certainly suggest starting with short videos for both reasons: it is easy on you for captioning, and it is best for your pedagogy and your students: it forces you to focus on what is the most important concept to get across.
Best practice 2
YouTube Captioning is only efficient using this one weird old trick!
Clickbait aside, my first two captioning sessions were not efficient! Briefly, here's the outline for YouTube captioning:
- Upload a video
- In the Video Manager screen, click the Edit button (with black arrowhead)
- Select "Subtitles and CC" from the drop-down menu:
- Then the button "Add new subtitles or CC" and select a language:
- and the button "Create New Subtitles or CC" (unless your video was produced from a script, in which case you can upload the script and use it to generate the captions.)
Now you can start playing the video and typing the captions. Note that what I type in the text box on the right shows up as a caption in the video.
Here's where keystrokes are key. The captioning process works like this: you start your movie playing, and then you type in captions as you hear words being spoken. Hit return (or the giant plus "+" sign) to close that caption and start the next one, and then keep typing. It is really useful to use the tool YouTube provides to pause the video each time you start typing a caption (which is the default setting). So, I tend first to listen to the audio, about a sentence at a time, and then type that into the caption field and hit return. Then, I transcribe another sentence, and so on.
The slowest (sloooooowest) part about this process is re-starting the video playing once I'm done transcribing a phrase or setence. I initially thought that this requires mousing to the play button in the video screen, and then quickly (using the mouse) placing the cursor back in the text field to frantically start typing. It turns out, at least on my computer, that while YouTube does pause the video when I start typing, it doesn't automatically resume play when I stop typing (which would be a GREAT feature).
Then, I happened to discover (just by the way I mash keys when I type, I suppose) that the keystroke shift-space lets you pause and play the video while leaving the cursor in the text field for captioning. Use this keystroke - it is a huge time saver! Then, after I discovered that keystroke, I Googled "YouTube caption shift space" and found the YouTube help page I had tried (unsuccessfully) to find earlier. It turns out there is one other very useful keystroke: shift-left arrow rewinds the video in five-second increments, which lets you easily replay the part of the video you just watched and transcribed without your fingers leaving the keyboard.
Best (mandatory) Practice 3
At the very end of captioning, go back and rewatch the entire video, making sure the captions are synchronized appropriately. You can click-and-drag the caption text in the movie timeline (in the image below: the text box in the movie timeline beneath the video window) so that the caption text only appears during the times in the video when that phrase or sentence is being spoken. Hovering the mouse over the left or right side of each caption text box that appears in the movie timeline makes a handle appear. You can click and drag the handle to increase or decrease the horizontal size of the caption box (i.e. how long the caption appears in the video).
Finally, when everything is accurately transcribed and synchronized to the video, Publish the captions.
Best Practice 4
As a backup, I go back to Video Manager and download the text file of the captions I just entered (including their timings – a .srt file, which is automatically generated by YouTube after you've done all of the captioning work) to my computer.
The Bottom Line
The upshot of putting all of this work into captioning is two-fold:
1. For the audience members that need it, you're vastly improving their ability to access your resource. Even better, captioning can benefit those of us with reasonably good hearing, too! Especially in my discipline (and with me as a professor), I might occasionally have a tendency to speak quickly, especially when throwing around my disciplinary jargon. It is certainly the case that my students will benefit from hearing me say the words and also see the spellings of those words at the same time.
2. For us (faculty), we can leverage in the future these accessible resources that we're producing! I already have two short video "lectures" on using tablets in my discipline (for PDF annotation and Google Sheets for some genetics-related data analysis). Now I can easily use these videos again in future terms; I can incorporate them into a digital course packet; I might even wind up publishing them as scholarly/creative work!
If you have any questions about the details of the process of video captioning, please feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail. I'm always happy to talk!