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Distance Learning Makes Investment in Accessibility

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Instructors now have access to auto-captioning in VoiceThread, adding to the suite of tools that allow for greater ease in achieving course accessibility.

Instructional Designer Carey Hamburg said the feature "did really well” in tests.

“It’s automatic, but it’s not perfect so you do have to go back and edit,” he said. “It takes 15 or so minutes to convert speech to text, depending on the length of the audio or video.”

He said it’s then fairly easy for instructors to click through the text and find the phrase or phrases they want to edit. When students add video or audio comments to a VoiceThread, these are also close captioned. These captions can be edited by either the instructor or students.

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Over the summer, Quality Matters updated its rubric, which the University of Louisiana at Lafayette uses to evaluate online and hybrid courses. As part of the update, there are now three essential accessibility standards that must be met in order for a course to pass review.

To help faculty meet those standards, the Office of Distance Learning invested in the additional service from VoiceThread.

“Accessibility is a very important issue for many reasons, primarily it’s the right thing to do,” said Hamburg. “We want to have the widest access to people of all needs.”

Hamburg said the Office of Distance Learning promotes the tenets of universal design, among them that by making content more widely usable and accessible, “it helps everybody in ways that you can’t foresee.”

For instance, adding captions or a video transcript not only creates resources required for students with disabilities, but it also gives all students more options on how they choose to interact with course content.

“Students like to consume material in different ways, either by personal preference or different situations, so the ability to have a video that can be listened to or read makes the content more flexible, makes it more accessible, and makes it more usable,” Hamburg said.

Hamburg said any new VoiceThread created by a student or instructor will automatically be run through the speech-to-text function, however the tool can’t retroactively caption older audio or video.

To learn more about using speech-to-text for VoiceThread, Panopto or Zoom, reach out to the Instructional Support Team at or request a consultation on our website.