Importance of Accurate Video Captions for Learning

Raphael Kohn (second year medical student) discusses the importance of accurate video captions during online lectures to support students with a wide range of disabilities succeed in their learning.

Captions are very important to disabled students’ learning.  They don’t just help students who are deaf or hard of hearing, but also students with audio processing disorders and attention deficit conditions.

It is a requirement for captions to have been edited and corrected, as many times, the auto-captioning software on Panopto is not accurate enough, especially for technical terms. For example, in my course, medicine, long drug names are often not picked up well by the auto-captioning, as are terms in anatomy, but you will probably see across all departments that the auto-captioning struggles to recognise technical terms.  For my concentration, when I can’t see a lecturer’s face when they’re delivering a lecture or see them in-person, it feels as if they are talking not to ‘me’, but to a screen instead, which is much more difficult to focus on. Of course, it’s also really important to have captions as well for those who cannot hear the words that are being said, such as students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Find out more - If you wish to ask Raphael any questions about this MicroCPD, he has offered to answer any via email; his email address is




Accessible Educator - Digital Accessibility Summer Theme

This term HEFi hosts a series of Accessible Educator events encompassing digital accessibility and inclusion. The events include HEFi MicroCPDs and Showcase sessions. See full details about all the events which include an introductory session on captioning and audio descriptions on Wednesday 11th May.

Captions in Panopto

Panopto will automatically produce captions for your recording. For captioning Panopto uses automatic speech recognition (ASR) captions for all videos uploaded into or recorded with Panopto. This includes recordings of Zoom meetings transferred automatically or for recordings subsequently uploaded to Panopto. You may need to wait up to 24 hours after completing your recording for the ASR captions to become available.

 Since these captions are machine generated, they are less than 100% accurate and will need checking for accuracy and editing to ensure they have captured technical information correctly. 

You may find that captions are more accurate when you use a good quality microphone and consciously speak clearly when recording. This will also help with the audio quality of your recordings and aid student engagement and understanding. Where technical terminology or key vocabulary is difficult for the automated systems to interpret, it may also be difficult for student viewers to interpret, whether they have ADHD like Raphael, have a hearing impairment, have English as a second language or are new to the subject. 

Providing a list of common terms alongside the video (especially for those terms that are frequently used but rarely recognised by the technology) would be an appropriate approach and is inclusive for all students.

In addition, ensure that any key terminology provided in the audio of media recordings is also included in your slides or presentation content so that it is visually available.

Ensure that any diagrams, equations, chemical formulae, hand worked notes or other visual content which you refer to during any recorded video content are also made available to students. Making these available to students alongside the video will serve as an alternative format resource. When showing any of this complex visual content in your teaching ensure that you talk through the diagram, mathematical notation, or image. This is important for visually impaired students but also to aid the understanding of all students. It also means that you do not need to provide a separate audio description of the visual content.

HEFi has published guidance on making your media content accessible, including how to check and correct captions in Panopto.

What you can do today:

  • Check captions for major issues which impact student understanding.
  • Provide a list of common terms alongside the video in your lecture notes or a glossary.
  • Ensure that any key terminology is included in your slides or presentation content.
  • Talk through any diagrams, mathematical notation, or images when you display them.