The Academic Captioning Project

Funded by the Provost's office and managed by the UVA Library, the Academic Captioning Project is a centrally funded effort to encourage the provision of accurate captions and transcripts for recorded academic course content.

There are many benefits to adding captions to your content. The benefits include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • A requirement for members of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing community to engage with audio/video events and materials.
  • Offer clarity when speakers are difficult to understand.
  • Help students with a greater understanding of content through increased focus and retention of content.
  • Provide for better comprehension of content for students whose native language is not English.

While the benefits are clear, captions must be as accurate as possible for those relying on them to take advantage of the service provided.

Many of our tools offer options for captioning through automatic speech recognition (ASR) technologies — for both live events and the recording of these events. While our tools (e.g., Zoom, Panopto, Kaltura) make this option relatively easy to offer, the accuracy of this automated content is usually insufficient for a clear understanding of what is being said or provide the intended context of the event. To achieve the level of accuracy needed, human intervention is required to review and edit the resulting transcript/caption files.

The Captioning Project

Understanding the demands on an instructor's time coupled with limited experience or support in the production of captions, this project seeks to remove these and other barriers associated with creating accurate captions for pre-recorded audio/video events and materials used within an academic course.

To accomplish this, the University has provided funding — along with a coordinated management approach — to encourage the use of approved captioning vendors (currently 3Play Media and Verbit) to produce transcripts and captions with a minimum of 99% accuracy. The team leading this project includes:

  • Elyse Girard; Executive Director of Communications and User Experience (Project Lead)
  • Barbara Zunder; Director, Student Disability Access Center
  • Matthew Burgess; Director, Learning Technology Services
  • Kristin Roush; Coordinator of Deaf/Hard of Hearing and Accessible Media Services

Captioning coordinators

The Captioning Coordinators team is essential to the success of this project. Each college/school and key support units have designated one person to be the primary point of contact for project-related efforts. For information on how to take advantage of this opportunity, contact the Captioning Coordinator for your area or send an email to captioning@virginia.edu:

  • Gary Peters: Darden School of Business
  • Stephanie Conley: McIntire School of Commerce
  • Keely Ledford: McIntire School of Commerce
  • Eric Field: School of Architecture
  • Kevin Lucey:School of Continuing and Professional Studies
  • Sue Haas: School of Data Science
  • Kimberly Bavis: School of Education and Human Development
  • Courtney MacMasters: School of Engineering and Applied Science
  • Starrie Williamson: Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy
  • Keith Samuels: Learning Design & Technology – College of Arts & Sciences
  • Tiffany Stull: ITS Learning Technology Services
  • Leigh Rockey: UVA Library
  • Hirak Ray: UVA Library
  • Whitney Wells: UVA Wise
  • William Canter: School of Nursing
  • Johanna M.B. Craig: School of Medicine
  • TBD: School of Law

For more information about The Captioning Project or captioning in general, send an email to captioning@virginia.edu.

To request captioning, please use the Captioning & Transcription Assistance Form.

Getting Started: What to caption?

The project's goal is to provide accurate captions for as much recorded academic content as possible. To achieve this 99%+ accuracy, professional services need to be used.

What should be captioned?

  • Video and audio-only content that is used repeatedly in the classroom.
  • If you record your lectures via Panopto, professional captions can be provided automatically. We just need to modify your account.
  • Content provided in large classes (roughly 65+ students) should have video/audio content captioned, regardless of any accommodation requests.
  • Best practices in UDL and other pedagogical practices strongly suggest accurate captions be provided.
  • World language content can be captioned in the language requested.
  • Translation services are available.
  • STEM, medical, and legal captions are provided by employing subject matter experts to achieve the 99%+ accuracy.

How do I get started?

Submit a Captioning & Transcription Assistance Form and we will reach out to help you.

Frequently asked questions

What is the definition of 'academic course content'?

For this project's purposes, academic course content refers to any recorded audio/video materials (i.e., video recordings, podcasts, recorded interviews) used within a course. This definition is intentionally broad. If you have a question about the content you'd like caption, contact your Captioning Coordinator or send an email to captioning@virginia.edu.

Does the project cover captioning of live events?

No, this project focuses on the use of approved vendors for accurate captioning of recorded materials, not live events.

Can I use this funding to hire a student or TA to caption my lectures and other content?

This funding is for the explicit use of contracted vendors to provide these professional services. Hiring additional employees to review, edit and create accurate transcripts/captions is at the department's expense.

Does this project cover funding to caption materials not used in an academic course?

This project focus is academic course content. It provides funding to engage with our select captioning vendors to produce highly accurate captions/transcripts and to make this process as painless as possible for our instructors.

Centralized funding is currently not provided for captioning non-academic materials or live events.

Are there specific vendors I should use for live captioning events and/or captioning of non-academic materials?

Yes. The VHEAP Captioning Initiative provides a group of vendors who have signed agreements negotiated by UVA for live captioning, post-production captioning, and audio description. You may use any of these vendors to captioning your non-academic content or for live events.

These services are to be covered with departmental funds.

Aren't the automatic captions and transcripts provided by tools in my learning management system (LMS) or other applications good enough?

Several options are available for automatic or machine-generated captions/transcripts for both live and recorded materials. This process is commonly referred to as automatic speech recognition (ASR) and often has an accuracy rate of anywhere from 60% - 85%.

ASR solutions are available within an LMS (i.e., Blackboard, Collab, Canvas), video tools (i.e., YouTube, Panopto, Kaltura), and video conferencing tools (i.e., Zoom, Teams, Webex). While this technology is improving quickly, the resulting product still does not meet the level of accuracy for academic purposes by default.

AN ADDITIONAL STEP IS REQUIRED when ASR captions/transcripts are the planned solution for captions/transcripts of a recorded event. After the event has ended and the recording is ready, the ASR captions/transcripts must be reviewed and edited to meet the 99% accuracy threshold required. 

When using vendor-based, professional services (companies that employ human transcriptionists), the resulting product reaches a minimum of 99% for most recorded materials and often 85% or above for live events. A person creating these resources is also more likely to understand the context of the audio and provide more accurate captions/transcripts, and understanding the context of the event/recording.

Understanding the time involved with this review, the Captioning Project focuses on providing solutions that do not require this additional step. Captions and transcripts provided by professional services are required by contract to achieve an accuracy rate of 99%. The intention of the project's combination of central funding and the coordinated management approach is to remove as many barriers as possible, making it as straightforward as possible for instructors to provide these resources for enhanced engagement in their courses. 

More information on captioning at UVA