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In recent years, the education sector has rapidly adopted captioning, driven not only by its positive impact on comprehension and inclusive learning but also by the necessity of adhering to accessibility standards and providing accommodations for diverse learning styles.
While K-12 schools and higher-ed institutions have spent considerable effort adhering to accessibility standards (and should be applauded for that effort), one in four lawsuits in education center around accessibility. Thus, the focus on captioning–a requirement in K-12 and higher education–has intensified.
As technology advances, we have seen other tools arise, including summarized transcription. Given the choice between summarized transcription and real-time captioning, it’s crucial to understand which is right for your organization.
Summarized transcription: What and why
Summarized transcription, a form of “speech-to-text services,” provides “meaning-for-meaning” transcriptions by summarizing the essence of a discussion or other spoken content. This service aims to convey a speaker’s intended meaning in as few words as possible so that a reader can quickly understand the information and participate in the discussion. Because it’s meant for quick comprehension, it is measured in terms of how closely the content captures the speaker’s intended meaning but doesn’t take into account the precise words.
Summarized transcript transcribers are often trained in text-condensing strategies. They offer real-time summarized transcripts for lectures, meetings, and live events, either remotely or in the classroom.
Real-time captioning: When and why
Real-time captioning is performed by professionally trained captioners, automated speech recognition (ASR), or a combination of the two. Unlike summarized transcription, real-time captioning delivers verbatim, “word-for-word” transcriptions in real-time. Since word-for-word transcription aims to capture every word spoken in a discussion, the accuracy of real-time captions is meticulously measured in terms of word error rates and formatted error rates. Word error rate represents the percentage of incorrect words, while formatted error rate considers errors in punctuation, grammar, speaker identification, non-speech elements, capitalization, and other notations.
While there is currently no definitive legal requirement for live captioning accuracy rates, the industry standard for closed captioning on recorded content is 99 percent, providing some context as to where live accuracy rates should be.
Real-time captions can be delivered to students in several ways. If the student is in person, they can receive captions on a second screen, such as a tablet or laptop. Alternatively, real-time captions can be delivered remotely through solutions like Communication Access Realtime Translation, or CART, catering to students’ preferences.
Despite being more expensive due to the intensive training of stenographers and voice writers, real-time captioning is often necessary as an accommodation for students who are d/Deaf or Hard of Hearing, ensuring an equal experience as required under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
What to select
The decision to use a real-time captioning service or a summarized transcription service ultimately depends on a student’s needs and preferences, as these two tools, while serving similar purposes, have distinct applications.
Meaning-for-meaning transcription caters to consumers who prioritize the overall meaning of what is spoken over the verbatim details. For students who want to understand the overall gist of a discussion rather than every single word, summarized transcription can be a great option – an academic SparkNotes, if you will!
Hard-of-hearing students, who can hear some or most spoken content but may need reinforcement from written text, might prefer using meaning-for-meaning transcription. Conversely, d/Deaf students might opt for real-time captioning as a necessary accommodation.
It’s important to remember that the benefits of real-time captioning or transcription extend beyond those who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing. Students with Attention Deficit Disorder, for instance, often find that captioning provides the reinforcement they need to stay focused during and after class.
Simply put: Real-time captioning is an essential accommodation, while summarized transcription serves as a valuable study tool that cannot replace captions as an accommodation.
The value of both for fully inclusive learning environments
While summarized transcription serves as a valuable study resource, it falls short of providing the “equal experience” mandated by the ADA. The true strength lies in strategically integrating tools like real-time captioning and summarized transcription. This not only aligns with Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles but also showcases a commitment to inclusive education.
By incorporating real-time captioning, educational institutions demonstrate a dedication to ensuring that students with hearing impairments can fully engage with live educational content. Simultaneously, the use of summarized transcription aids in streamlining access to essential course material, supporting effective studying and knowledge retention.
Both of these technologies contribute to the creation of a more inclusive and supportive learning environment. Embracing these technologies demonstrates a commitment to addressing diverse learning needs and ensuring that all students have the opportunity to excel academically. As educational practices continue to evolve, the integration of these tools will play a crucial role in promoting equal access to educational content and enhancing the overall learning experience for students.
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