The last few years have ensured that educators are familiar with conferencing platforms like Webex. The shift to remote learning forced many institutions and instructors to adopt new tech skills related to virtual learning. As a result of these changes in higher education, Webex became a useful platform for many universities, businesses and others.
With the growth of virtual learning, comes the need for accessibility solutions that can work within this new instructional framework. One of the tools that’s most important for supporting equity in education is Webex closed captioning. Luckily, adding Webex captioning to videos and live events is easier than ever. Universities and other institutions that want to make captioning their course content as simple as possible should consider the benefits of forging a partnership with Automatic Sync Technologies (AST).
Webex’s role in the changing world of education
Online learning evolved rapidly when it filled a need for education during the pandemic. However, many universities were embracing online courses long before that seismic shift. Now that in-person learning is back on the table, the lessons that educators learned in 2020 remain as relevant as ever.
According to experts in the education field, remote learning through platforms like Webex offers benefits that will keep this format growing for years to come. Here are just a few of the positive impacts of online learning in higher education.
Offering flexible learning options to support diverse students
Higher Ed Connects writes that 47% of students enrolling in college are over the age of 25. “Non-traditional” college students may include parents and adults with full-time jobs. While these students are motivated to continue their education and improve their lives, they face logistical complications and obligations that extend beyond their studies.
Distance learning is helping millions of these individuals pursue their dreams of earning college degrees. Cutting out commutes and offering courses to people who don’t live near campuses is opening doors. As demographics change, the need for more flexibility will only grow. Distance and hybrid education are, thus, facilitating personal and professional growth worldwide.
Lower cost of virtual learning helps reduce financial burdens
The incredible costs associated with traditional higher education can make pursuing a degree unattainable for millions. Online degrees are, on average, over $10,000 less than on-campus programs. Other factors can also help make virtual learning more cost-effective. For example, students may be able to live with relatives or in a less expensive area away from campus. Also, remote learners don’t need to pay costs related to commuting to and from campus.
With student loans becoming increasingly burdensome, the demand for more affordable options, including online learning, will undoubtedly continue to grow.
Expanding learning options and improving access to education
Commuting isn’t just time-consuming and expensive- it’s also difficult for many students with mobility disabilities. Online learning can present a better option for many of these students. Additionally, with the technology that educators have access to today, online courses are becoming more accessible than ever.
One example is the ability to integrate a Webex closed captioning service into online courses. With closed captions, Webex collaboration is accessible for students who are Deaf or hard of hearing. Additionally, many other students perform better when they have the choice of using captions. For instance, students with ADHD often find that this feature helps them focus. Closed captioning Webex lectures and events is just one of many ways educators use technology to improve learning outcomes.
Does Webex have captioning?
Webex offers options for closed captioning. One way the platform indicates its commitment to accessibility is through its partnership with AST. AST integrates with Webex to provide accurate captions for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
Many educators understand the importance of offering accurate Webex closed captioning. Not only is accessibility a legal concern for universities, but it’s also vital for education. Without the right tools, students won’t be able to complete their coursework or understand their professors.
Fortunately, Webex is a platform that strives to support accessibility solutions. In addition to captions, Webex works to make its content screen-reader friendly and ensure users can navigate its site with their keyboards. Screen readers are a device that reads the written content on a screen to make the text accessible for people who are blind. Keyboard navigation makes it possible to use a website with the tab key instead of a mouse. This accessibility feature is critical for users with certain mobility disabilities, those who are blind and others.
While accessible websites are critical, one challenge for educators is the need for real-time accessibility options. Luckily, even when it comes to live solutions, Webex is prepared to support educators.
What about Webex live captioning?
Webex provides real-time captions because timing is a key aspect of equity. Offering Webex captions as an accommodation after a class is over means that students who rely on this feature won’t have the information at the same time as their peers. Delays can make it challenging to participate in courses in real-time or ask questions.
Therefore, AST’s Webex live captions are a vital solution for many students. With accurate live captions, students can work together in breakout groups, and ask their professors questions. Real-time solutions mean all students can benefit from the interactive aspects of live courses.
Although live captions are a vital aspect of online education, having a written record from classes is another tool many students rely on. Fortunately, educators using Webex for their captioning can also use the platform to provide their students with accurate transcripts.
Webex transcription for education
Many universities offer note-taking as a solution for students who can’t take their own notes. The note taker might be a student in the class who the school tasks with creating notes for their peers. However, this approach is often inadequate. The student taking notes might not have the same learning style as those who rely on them. Also, as non-professionals, student note takers can miss important information.
Professional note-taking options are a more reliable alternative. Another option is to use verbatim Webex transcriptions in place of incomplete notes. Interestingly, transcriptions of Zoom or Webex classes are helpful for more than just the students who need this tool as an accommodation.
For example, educators today are more concerned than ever about students’ mental health. Many schools are starting to look at mental health matters similarly to how they handle accommodations. Note-taking or providing transcriptions is one strategy universities can use to ensure that students who might miss classes because of mental health concerns have access to the course materials. This solution is equally valuable for students learning online and in the classroom.
Understanding the limitations of ASR
ASR, or automatic speech recognition, can create captions and transcriptions. However, this technology can’t yet meet the accuracy needs of students or legal standards. Recent accessibility lawsuits highlight the fact that having captions isn’t enough. Captions that are riddled with errors can be confusing for students who rely on them. Inaccurate captions are, thus, not able to offer an equitable educational experience.
Harvard and MIT famously faced lawsuits because of this exact issue. While these universities did offer captions, they used ASR-only to generate them. The results were, at times, unintelligible. It should come as no surprise that offering captions that may present as gibberish isn’t good enough. Students deserve more.
While ASR is improving, the software can struggle when it comes to accents, unusual language, poor sound quality or other complications. Courses often involve niche terminology and live conference calls may include any number of problems with sound quality. Relying on AST for Webex captioning is a good way to provide students with a quality experience. Enlisting the help of dedicated accessibility partners is also a way to showcase an institution’s commitment to inclusivity.
Moving toward inclusivity
The shifting attitude toward accommodations for mental health is part of a larger trend. Universities are now working to provide better experiences for all students. Leaders in many institutions realize that offering their students accommodations only when they ask for them isn’t enough. In fact, schools are also acknowledging that accessibility needs to extend beyond the classroom. Offering live captions for events like commencements, football games, guest lectures and other aspects of campus life are integral for inclusivity.
Additionally, while captions are becoming a more widespread offering, even without students making a specific ask, there are other steps institutions should take. For instance, whether courses are virtual or in person, they should include audio descriptions. Students who are blind need this tool to understand the visual aspects of video content. AST partners with many universities to offer this solution in addition to other accessibility tools. In fact, AST provides multiple options for audio description, like an extended version that better serves the needs of educators. With extended audio description, students get more in-depth, relevant information.
Whether you’re looking for a captioning solution for Webex or a whole suite of accessibility tools for your university, AST can work with you to provide the tools you need. Contact us today to learn more about captioning, transcription, audio description and more.