Echo360 has the ability for all media to be accompanied by closed captions, transcripts, or both!
Transcripts (also referred to as ASR or automatic speech recognition) and Closed Captions are both text versions of the speech from video or audio media. They are both designed to allow viewers to hear and read the spoken words. Because the two are similar, there has been some confusion as to which is which, or how to access them, or what the capabilities are.
Closed captions in Echo360 work just like closed captions in most any video player. The text of what is being spoken is shown on the screen, with the video, in small chunks that correspond to the current location of the video.
Transcripts, like closed captions, provide the text of what is being spoken on the screen, and are divided into small chunks that correspond to the location of the video. The difference in transcripts is that the entirety of the transcription is shown, with a highlight on the entry that corresponds to the current location. Transcripts are also searchable within the player (because the entire transcript is visible), and users can jump to a particular location in the transcript, which automatically jumps to that location in the video.
The below figures both show the transcript button and transcript panel for a video, as well as the closed caption button and caption banner, and both are showing the same text for the current location in the video. The text is often the same, but can differ because closed captions are typically (and by design) more accurate. As noted later on this page, however, transcripts can be applied as closed captions to media, in which case the text in both would be identical.
The first figure is the newer player with both transcripts and closed captions showing.
The next figure is the legacy classroom with both transcripts and closed captions showing.
Technical Detail: Each of those "chunks" in both closed captions and in transcripts is called a "cue" and has start and end timestamps for the location in the video they occur. Those timestamps tell the player WHEN to display or highlight each particular chunk. This is why closed captions (and transcripts) get out of sync if the video is edited to remove sections from the middle, or to trim the ends. In that situation, the "video location time" changes with those edits, but the closed caption/transcript file has no knowledge of the change.
Opening and viewing closed captions
Closed captions, unlike Transcripts, are configurable, so you can display them in a way that works best for you. You can adjust the size, the location (top, middle or bottom), and the contrast (light text on dark banner; dark text on light banner).
Click the Settings icon, then select Subtitles/CC to see the configuration options shown below.
After the subtitles/CC setup is configured, click on the CC button at the bottom of the playback screen to turn them on and off.
For everywhere except the legacy classroom (discussed below), the closed captioning configuration you establish persists for all playback. Meaning you should only have to configure it once. Then when you click the CC button for any media, the closed captions will appear as you set them. You can always click the settings icon and change it if you want to.
Since configuration does persist for all viewing from the newer player, you can configure your CC options separately from turning them on for viewing. If the media does not have closed captions applied to it, the CC button is grayed out and not clickable. But the configuration options are still available.
Closed Captions in the legacy classroom
Configuring and turning on closed captions in the legacy classroom player is slightly different to the newer player described above. To begin with, your closed captioning preferences are NOT retained, so you have to configure it for each class you view if you do not want the default.
In the legacy classroom, all of the options are contained in the CC button of the player, identified in the below figure.
First, click the CC button, then turn ON closed captions using the CC toggle at the top of the popup box. After that, you can make changes to the caption banner, including text size, different contrast options, location on the screen, and alignment of the text.
Once turned on, the closed captions will appear until you click the CC button again and toggle them off. Remember, this configuration persists only in this classroom. You will have to turn on CC and configure it for other class viewing.
If the CC button is grayed out and NOT clickable in the legacy classroom, that means this media does not have closed captions applied to it, and since configuration does not persist to other media playback, there is no reason to present you with those options.
Opening and viewing transcripts
Transcripts, unlike closed captions, are not configurable for viewing. When you select to view transcripts for media, the full transcript opens in the transcript panel. The transcript panel appears to the right of the player by default. If you select to view the media in "full width" mode (the button with two arrows), the transcript panel moves to below the player.
Click the Transcript button, identified in both of the below figures. As the media plays, the transcript location corresponding to the playback location is highlighted.
The transcript button for the newer player resides with the other tools in the bottom of the playback panel as identified in the below figure.
The transcript button for the legacy classroom player resides with the other classroom tools, in the top right of the classroom window, as shown below.
Notice that at the top of the Transcript panel, there is a search box. Entering text into the search box immediately launches a search of the Transcript for matching terms. The number of matches changes as you type. The count of matching terms and previous/next arrow buttons appear below the search box, and are identified in the below figure.
The matches in the transcript are underlined, allowing you to either use the previous/next buttons to find them, or scroll through the transcript to find them. A term search and two matches are shown in the below figure.
Click on any cue in the transcript and notice that the video playback location changes to match the location of the selected cue. This allows you to find, very specifically, the portion of the media you are looking for.
Transcripts can also be downloaded. This provides a local version of the text file of the speech transcription. This may be helpful as a study aide, allowing you to review the text offline, or copy and paste portions of it into your own notes.
In the newer player, shown in the above figure, click the Download link located below the playback panel. The download options include at a minimum, a Transcript tab, which lets you download the VTT file or a TXT file of the transcripts.
In the legacy classroom, click the download icon located to the left of the search box.
Any downloaded transcript can be opened in any text editor, though Windows Notepad sometimes ignores line breaks. Suggest WordPad instead if using native Windows text editing programs.
IMPORTANT: For Interactive Media (videos with polls embedded) students opening the transcript will only see the portion of it UP TO any unanswered polls. So while the transcript panel will open, the transcript text is gated, just like the media, by the polling questions. Furthermore, the transcript cannot be downloaded by students until they have responded to all of the embedded polls. The download link does not appear until all polls have been answered.
Using Transcripts for Closed Captions
Closed captions are generally preferred when viewers want to read the text of the speech along with the video, because captions placement can be customized to allow for as little disruption in viewing as possible. Transcripts, because they open in a side panel, require the viewer to change focus in order to view the media and read the text.
Closed captions are also designed to be more accurate, and the accuracy level is determined by the contract agreed upon between your institution and the closed captions provider.
But what if your institution doesn't HAVE closed captions automatically provided?
Both closed captions and transcripts use what are called "WebVTT" files. These files are in a standardized format, that makes them effectively interchangeable. Echo360 allows you to download the transcript file for a video, and then upload that same *.VTT file as a closed caption file.
Furthermore, the Echo360 transcript editor has an Apply to CC button, that allows someone who may be editing a transcript for accuracy to then save their changes and apply the improved transcript to the media as closed captions. The transcript doesn't have to be edited to be applied as a captions file, but it's often recommended, so that you know the text for the speech is as accurate as possible.
Details about the differences
This section provides more detailed information about transcripts and closed captions, for those readers who want to know more.
So, what is the difference between transcripts and closed captions?
If asked for a quick answer, the response to that question often is "transcripts are machine generated and closed captions are human generated". Historically, yes. But given the increased ability of machines to accurately transcribe speech and the costs involved with strictly human-generated captioning, that isn't always true.
That being said, closed captions are often more accurate than transcriptions, because the PURPOSE of closed captions is to provide reasonable and accurate accommodation for hearing impaired users. Meaning that by definition, closed captions are supposed to be as accurate as possible. Institutions contract with closed captioning service companies to provide accurate (and in some cases very fast) closed caption tracks for media. The level of accuracy and speed of turnaround also determines the cost of the service.
The truth is, many non-hearing-impaired people now use closed captions to aid in learning and understanding, as reading and hearing the material can improve comprehension and retention. It also allows users to be able to review material in very noisy or very quiet places, where listening to the audio track isn't practical.
So why bother with transcripts?
Transcription services are usually cheaper than closed captioning services. This is because closed captions, even if machine generated, still usually require some level of human intervention to ensure that the accuracy promised by the captioning contract is met. Transcription services are essentially "one and done". The audio of the media is submitted to the transcript provider, the transcript is generated, and returned for the media.
In addition, even though transcripts are entirely machine-generated, most transcription service providers tout accuracy levels of 95% and higher. Though that accuracy claim may be language-specific, and certainly depends heavily on the quality of the audio and the clarity of the speaker.
Echo360 includes transcription services as a part of the Echo360 package, meaning that service is not billed separately (at least for a base set of hours), and may preclude the need to contract with closed captioning providers. If the quality of transcriptions meets the needs of the students and legal requirements for accommodations of the institution, transcriptions may be sufficient.
Echo360 also has a Transcript Editor feature that allows users to manually review and edit the transcript text. This can allow institutions to transfer to cost of closed caption providers to student work-study programs, for example, employing student workers as transcription editors.
Furthermore, Echo360 does provide language selection or automatic language detection for transcripts, which allows transcripts to be automatically generated in the primary language of the speech. This feature is NOT viable for "mixed language" speech tracks in media. Transcriptions are provided in a single language only. Mixed language speech tracks DO require human editing of the transcript to provide fully accurate transcription of the speech.
So why bother with closed captions?
Closed captioning providers provide a very specific service; to transcribe the speech (and other audio cues) for media as quickly and as accurately as the contract requires. This means that the closed captioning provider is responsible for getting it right, and doing so as quickly as they are obligated to. And institutions pay them for that service. If the accuracy level of automated transcriptions isn't sufficient, using a closed captions provider may be required. Or an institution can assign human editing of transcriptions to make them as accurate as possible.
Closed captions are also automatically applied to the media as a "visual track" that appears, in segments, on the screen, along with the accompanying video. Both Transcripts and Closed Captions are "time synced" with the media, but transcripts, as shown above, appear as a single panel, while closed captions appear with the speech or other audio cue they represent. This is what helps reinforce learning, as the user isn't distracted by the other text on the screen.
Transcripts CAN be added to media as a closed caption track, which simply takes the text and the timing cues of the transcript and applies it for display with the media as closed captions. But again, the difference between the two is often accuracy.
Furthermore, closed captioning providers are likely required to provide captions for mixed-language speech tracks in the language being spoken, making closed captioning a better option for institutions where mixed-language lectures are common. Again, however, this feature may be contract specific and is determined by the requirements set out by the institution for the closed captioning provider.