closed captions

Do closed captions impact student learning?

A new report indicates that closed captions are used by more than students with learning challenges.

Though most students using closed captions and transcripts on video and multimedia say they are a valuable learning tool, the resources are not regularly available to students who might need or want them, according to a national study from Oregon State University.

Surveyed students said nearly all of their courses contain some video content both online and in face-to-face environments.

But when asked about availability, 30 percent of respondents said closed captions were available for “all,” “most,” or “many” videos, and 27 percent said closed captions were available for “just a few” or for “none” of the videos in their courses. 27 percent of students were unsure about the availability of closed captions, and 18 percent were not sure about transcript availability.

Despite limited availability, 98.6 percent of students said they find closed captions helpful. In fact, 71 percent of students without hearing difficulties use closed captions at least some of the time in their learning.

“Many people associate the use of closed captions and transcripts only with disability accommodation, and that can mean they are not made widely available,” said Katie Linder, director of the Oregon State University Ecampus Research Unit and author of the study. “One hope for this study was to help educate university administrators about how a range of students are using these tools, and that making them more available could help more learners.”

According to Linder, closed captions and transcripts are now a legal obligation for universities that receive federal funding when they create videos for courses and for institutional purposes, to ensure that students with disabilities have equal access.

“Despite this, many institutions do not understand the legal obligation, or they only associate these tools with disability accommodation and do not consider how they could be helpful to all students,” Linder said.

Among the student groups that find captions helpful are those with hearing difficulties (71 percent find captions helpful), ESL students (66 percent), those registered with an office serving students with disabilities (66 percent), Pell-eligible students (65 percent), those with vision challenges (64 percent), and those with a learning disability (60 percent).

75 percent of surveyed students who use captions said they use them as a learning aid. Other uses include poor audio and video qualities (22 percent), to clarify an instructor’s accent (8 percent), and to help in a sound-sensitive environment (7 percent).

52 percent of students using captions said the captions help as a learning aid by improving their comprehension. Thirty-three percent said captions help ensure accuracy, 20 percent said they boost engagement, and 15 percent said caption use helps with retention.

Students most commonly use transcripts as study guides (47 percent), to retain information (46 percent), to find information (46 percent), and to focus (34 percent).

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Laura Ascione

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