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Closed Captioning and Learning Styles: How They Make A Difference

Editor’s Note: This article was written by Dr. Rebecca Graetz, an Instructional Designer at Inver Hills Community College in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota.

Many times the general population sees closed (or open) captioning as something that only benefits those that have a hearing impairment. But if one were to really look at the big picture, closed captioning and learning styles are highly related because captioning addresses everyone (old, young, abled or disabled). Students who take distance courses online are from all walks of life and they all have different learning needs. Addressing all learning styles is imperative to successful learning, especially if learning is taking place in an online or blended platform.

Recently a study was done at Inver Hills Community College in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota on open captioning of videos for required viewing in developmental Math courses. Open captioning is where captions are always available to the viewer. Data was collected for two sets of classes: the first set of classes used videos without captions and the second set used the same videos, but with open captions. The data showed that the time spent watching videos decreased significantly when open captions were provided, while student success, as measured by grades, was similar in both sets of classes. This pointed to open captioning as a way to efficiently address a broader variety of cognitive learning styles.

Cognitive learning focuses on three different styles of learning. These are visual, auditory and kinesthetic (or VAK). According to Sarasin (1999) VAK learning styles referred to human observation channels: visual, hearing and feeling. It suggested visual learners can learn effectively when they see the materials; auditory learners like to hear the material; and kinesthetic learners do best when doing an activity.

As video is now a commonplace in education, entertainment and many aspects of life, especially with the increased popularity of mobile devices, it is important to think about the audience for whom you are creating a video and what purpose the video is addressing. By being proactive with captioning instead of reactive, students find it easier to learn and in turn are more successful. Are we, as educators, thinking about the big picture for students and their success, or are we just trying to create the most entertaining course using videos, without really thinking about learning styles? This is just a point to ponder for the future when designing a course and using videos for learning.

Sarasin, L. C. (1999). Learning style perspectives: Impact in the classroom. Madison, WI: Atwood Publishing

Dr. Rebecca Graetz is an Instructional Designer at Inver Hills Community College in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota.

1 Comment

  1. I really like the idea that we can invest in the learning materials in a way that makes students more efficient learners. Most community college students have complex lives with many demands on their time and energy so efficiency is important.

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