This morning a friend called my attention to a blog from Eric Stoller directed to Vimeo. Vimeo has been saying for years that they care about captioning and will do something about it in the near future. We have all waited and yet, still, Vimeo remains captionless. And Eric has called them on it publicly.
Thank you Eric!
Now I want to get the word out too. Vimeo needs to do something about this and stop talking about their good intentions. Their video quality is stellar, visually, but the lack of captioning prevents many of us from using it altogether, particularly those of us in higher ed. I’m not sure how Harvard came to the decision to post their videos up on Vimeo but I do hope they understand that they are brazenly breaking Section 504 ADA guidelines.
Insist that Vimeo support captioning
As a group we can make an impact. They need to understand that the need for captions doesn’t fall into the “would be nice” category, it’s essential.
I’ve been listening to Open University’s podcasts for quite some time and I’ve been impressed by the quality of their content, professors and speakers, as well as the way they offer up they’re content. They have a mix of mp3s and videos and a wide variety of courses to choose from.
What I like most about this article is that it’s grounded in reality. Questions arise about how course progress will be managed, the apparent lack of organization seen in OCW’s (Open Courseware) content and the premature announcement. There have been a slew of tweets and articles praising MITx without knowing much about it. Lots of fanfare and very few questions, which I find fascinating. It would seem that all you have to do is flash the MIT moniker and everyone will accept that things have been thought through and all have bought into this idea and are willing and full participants. MIT has more than its share of high minded educators with strong personalities who are more than happy to swim against the tide. And I’m not sure that’s the case here, but I certainly hope MITx succeeds. I’m rooting for MIT on this one and anxious to see what it will look like.
MIT Announced yesterday that they will be offering MIT courses in an online learning environment, for FREE. They’re calling it “MITx”. Students will be able to earn certificates for their online learning and progress. This is on the heels of Stanford’s recent announcement that it will be offering a handful of courses online.
When the announcement was made yesterday it was somewhat mystifying to those of us working in the institute. The idea is similar to the Open Courseware Initiative (OCW) but not exactly the same, and it seems there are fewer details about the project than we would normally expect from an “official” announcement.
Yet still, the second I read it I was floored.
I’m a big believer in online learning, having successfully taken a number of courses this way. I love the flexibility it offers, the camaraderie between students online, and the idea that you can pace yourself, dig in at midnight, and then take a test anytime throughout the day. You’re not limited to the class environment and a tight schedule where you have to schlep yourself there through traffic during a pre-determined set of waking hours.
As evidence of my belief, I’ve just completed my admissions paperwork for a Masters degree program in Instructional Design and Educational Technology and it’s 100% online. It will allow me to gain specific knowledge about theories of learning, distance learning and its tools – as I use them myself! – streaming and social media, virtual and gaming environments, and instructional design theory.This will come in handy at MIT, especially in light of the MITx announcement.
Accessibility of MITx
My hope is that my team will be consulted at key points along the way to assist with Usability and Accessibility concerns, and there is plenty to analyze in an online scenario such as this.
Right now we don’t know what technology will be used, I’m not sure MITx folks do either. Nor do we know who will be building it. But if the aim is to create an open source tool that’s shared across other universities solid usability and accessibility will make the project all the more attractive to use. Time will tell.
Isaac Asimov’s predictions for individualized online learning
Today I saw this youTube video that Nathan Koren sent out on Twitter (@nkoren) in relation to MITx. As Nathan wrote, it really is “astonishing” to see how accurately Asimov’s ideas have come to fruition.
Note: the auto captions “cc” on youTube isn’t too bad for this video but I hope to create a captioned overstream at some point too.
I just saw this article: The Power Behind Online Videos? Subtitles and was pretty happy about it, especially considering this was posted on Forbes.com. It’s nice to see dotsub get some attention for the scope of what they do. I think, and hope, that the 21st Century Telecommunications and Video Accessibility Act will push people: corporations, small business, even bloggers and vloggers who want to reach a wider audience, to find a way to caption their work before they put it out there. If you’re not familiar with the act, here are a few quotes from the original article in response to our own Massachusetts Rep, Ed Markey’s, introduction of the Act:
“Digital technologies make it possible for TVs and other video devices — of virtually any size — to receive, transmit and display TV programs and video clips with captioning,” said Rosaline Crawford of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). “Captioning is needed for video material shown on the Internet for the same reason captioning is needed on TV.”
Mark Richert, of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) stated,” We are fed up with playing catch up whenever new technologies are released. People with vision loss will finally have access to everything from text messaging, watching TV and receiving emergency infromation, if this bill is enacted.”
Added Eric Bridges of the American Council of the Blind: “Video description and accessible user interfaces on TV devices are essential for us. We’ve waited a long time for this.”
As someone who works in higher ed, I’m doing my best to make sure we lay the foundation for infrastructure and cost effective means to ensure that content developers of all means can quickly caption their video. It’s not an easy path in a decentralized scenario, but when the laws are in place it makes the push all the more effective. So, I’m grateful for the 21st Century Telecommunications and Video Accessibility Act. In the last 6 months we’ve had more traction around captioning at the institute and finding ways to make it less burdensome and costly for our community. I’m hopeful that we’re closing in on some solid solutions that will be in place by the New Year.
In the meantime, if you’ve never captioned your video but you’re thinking about trying it out, please do. I’m sure you will reap the benefits on many levels. Send me a comment and let me know how it goes.
I’m in the process of redesigning my website and I’m not quite there yet. But I do feel the need to post at least one of the hundreds of blog ideas that have entered my mind. So here it is…it’s a start. All links open in a new window.
Unless they directly benefit in some way or can’t get by without them, most people don’t give captions much thought. Thankfully, awareness has grown: more people are tuning in to view video clips at work without their headphones (captions to the rescue!) and news junkies are sneaking peaks at video on their phones in the middle of meetings or other inappropriate times.
Unfortunately, captioning is not something that’s without it’s issues and obstacles but there are many free online tools out there that make it a lot easier. It’s mostly a matter of finding a tool that works for you and feels right. Some are more intuitive than others – I like Universal Subtitles for files that are served online i.e. sitting on a hosting service such as youTube, Vimeo, or your own domain. Other tools allow you to caption your files regardless of where they live – check out Overstream.net.
Recently I had to caption something that couldn’t be served from the web due to privacy issues. I was fortunate in that I had transcript in hand and simply needed a tool to map the timing of the spoken words and generate the captions. I set out to find something that was free, easy to use, and worked on the mac. I settled on World Caption and was glad I did. I found it to be intuitive and relatively easy to work with. I had a few issues with the scrolling area where the lines of text from the transcript appear below the video; it was difficult to keep up with the audio sometimes as I had to stop the video and scroll down to see more lines of text. Other than that, the captioning process itself was quite easy. I simply listened for the first word of the line in the transcript and then clicked a check box in front of that line. The final files for the captioned project didn’t quite export the as I expected. I couldn’t get them to work in Quicktime. But when I paired the files with VLC – a free video player – it worked great and the captions looked amazing. I loved that I was able to control the size of the text, the color, and how many lines were displayed. I highly recommend it based on the one project.
The happy side effect of the final product was that non hearing impaired people came up to say that they enjoyed the presentation more with open captions, it was easier for them to understand!
Still not convinced?
Check out this video brought to my attention via a presentation by Glenda Sims aka the @GoodWitch on Twitter. See how it feels to watch a video when there’s no translation for you. Imagine how illuminating captions would be here.