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Captioning video content is an essential part of creating high-quality educational resources that improve student outcomes and user engagement. Captions and transcripts provide a text alternative to audio that provides viewers with additional ways to access content, improves overall comprehension, and supports audience variability. Captions improve comprehension by removing common miscommunications stemming from variations in:

  • hearing ability,
  • speaker accent,
  • audio quality,
  • listener’s primary language,
  • complexity of the subject matter, and
  • missed audio content


Captioning terminology can be confusing. Establishing consistency in conversational language is important, for example: 

  • Captions are synchronized text that appears on a video. Closed captions can be turned on and off and open captions are locked on.
  • Transcripts are documents with what was said in a recording but aren’t synchronized. Interactive transcripts are searchable and selecting text will jump the video to that location. 
  • Captions and transcripts can be machine-generated ("ASR" automatic-speech recognition) or professionally-generated (by a human).
  • Live captions are real-time, during an event, and post-production captions are added to recorded video and audio. 

Legal Requirements and University Policy

Virginia Tech is proud to commit to inclusive media for faculty, staff, students, and all audiences who consume video/audio content across our digital platforms. By proactively considering the need for captions, the university aligns efforts with legal requirements. These include the Americans with Disabilities Act (as amended) including Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (as amended) Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as required by Virginia State Law. Additionally, captions support Virginia Tech’s Keep C.A.L.M and Caption-On campaign. By making closed captioning a priority, we successfully meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG) criterion 1.2.2. and further demonstrate commitment to IT Accessibility Policy 7215.

For all of these reasons, Virginia Tech requires that all public-facing videos and live events produced by the university include captioning. Captioning provides universal benefit to increase engagement and message clarity and aligns with Virginia Tech’s commitment to inclusion and access as outlined in the Virginia Tech Difference - Advancing Beyond Boundaries. This commitment has been  endorsed by senior leaders across the university, resulting in the allocation of centralized funds to provide both live and post-production closed-captions to advance the university mission.

Live Captioning

Live captioning is required for any live, digital, public-facing event across the university (e.g., webinars, seminars, and town halls). Synchronous live captions can be integrated into Zoom or provided via a separate browser window for the end user. Live Captioning is a requestable service for university faculty and staff. Consider the following when determining if an event requires live captions:

  • Class meetings are supported through accommodations from Services for Students with Disabilities
  • Internal meetings for Virginia Tech employees may benefit from live captions, but may not require live captions unless requested as an accommodation. 
  • Events that are exclusive to Virginia Tech students may benefit from live captions, but may not require live captions unless they are open to the entire campus or requested as an accommodation. 
  • University sponsored events should include an accommodation request statement to help determine if live captions or other accommodations are required. The synchronous live captions can be integrated into Zoom or provided via a separate browser window for the end user.

Post-Production Captioning

For pre-recorded videos, such as news announcements or course lectures, post-production captions are legally required. Zoom cloud recordings are automatically captioned using machine-generated captions (70-90% accuracy rate). Any recordings that will be shared through a public-facing website or Canvas course should be edited for accuracy using the Captioning Key Guidelines and built-in captioning editor in Kaltura. Video owners, if desired, can hide the automatic captions while they are being edited for accuracy.

Videos for instruction are eligible for 99% accurate professional captions at no cost to the requestor. Videos that do not qualify for the centralized captioning service can still be professionally captioned at the rates listed in 4help. Videos stored in a location outside of Kaltura (e.g., YouTube, and Vimeo) can leverage the capabilities of those systems to create captions or download the output from Kaltura and upload it to the host location.


Transcripts are required for audio-only content like podcasts. Previously, transcripts had to be downloaded and made available to viewers as separate documents. While that is still an acceptable solution, audio and video files within Kaltura now have an interactive transcript widget that appears as soon as the machine-generated captions or professional captions finish processing. When using the Kaltura video player in Canvas, the link to the interactive transcript will appear beneath the video player. When using Live Captioning services integrated with Zoom, a live transcript is also available. Providing a transcript for systems outside of Zoom and Kaltura depends on the capabilities of the video player


Morris, K. K., Frechette, C., Dukes, L., Stowell, N., Topping, N. E., & Brodosi, D. (2016). Closed Captioning Matters: Examining the Value of Closed Captions for “All” Students. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 29(3), 231–238.

Tisdell, C., & Loch, B. (2017). How useful are closed captions for learning mathematics via online video? International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, 48(2), 229–243.

Whitney, M., & Dallas, B. (2019). Captioning Online Course Videos: An Investigation into Knowledge Retention and Student Perception. Proceedings of the 50th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, 511–517.