All posts by Heidi Olson

Heidi enjoys working with content experts in developing eCampus courses to provide alternatives for students. Her other interests include faculty training in best practices for eCampus and researching eCampus tools to help fulfill learning outcomes. Having worked in the distance education arena for over 20 years, she has a wide range of experiences in supporting students and faculty as technology and pedagogy evolve.

Effectiveness of Video Captions for Students

Closed captions or (same-language-subtitles) can be added to video resources to provide accommodations to the hearing impaired and keep us in compliance with the Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Is it better to wait until a student asks for this accommodation or are there benefits to captioning that might assist other types of learners?


Captions have positive effects on groups other than the hearing impaired, including adults, non-native speakers, and online students.

Captions allow better access by allowing students to search within a video.

Inclusion of captions adheres to the principals of Universal Design.

The internet (and therefore online courses and MOOCs) constitute a place of public accomodation under the ADA.


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Gernsbacher, M. A. (2015). Video captions benefit everyone.  Policy insights from the behavioral and brain sciences,  2(1), 195-202. Captions improve comprehension, attention, memory. Inclusion benefits hearing adults. Reference list spans research across deaf education, SLA, adult literacy, reading acquisition, and now online education.

Grabinger, R. S., Aplin, C., & Ponnappa-Brenner, G. (2008). Supporting learners with cognitive impairments in online environments. TechTrends, 52(1), 63-69.
This is a literature review that talks about the benefits of universal design for all learners. Cognitive disabilities are rising and are often not disclosed by the student. Article has a nice table that provides some ideas about how instructor’s might make accommodations including using captioning on videos.

Kent, M., Ellis, K., Peaty, G., Latter, N. & Locke, K. (2017).  Mainstreaming Captions for Online Lectures in Higher Education in Australia:  Alternative approaches to engaging with video content. National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE), Curtin University: Perth. Literature review of captioning as well as findings of a survey. Non-disabled students benefitted in their review of educational materials. Engagement with recorded lectures increased with inclusion of captions. Ability to search within video using caption keywords was beneficial.  Captions benefit students with disabilities, older students, those with diverse learning styles, and those with noise or technology issues. Additionally, captioned video has the potential to significantly improve digital archival of files by indexing the full text, thereby facilitating searching and retrieving lecture content for all students.

“We therefore recommend the Australian university sector expand the use of captions from a purely assistive technology for people with disabilities to a mainstream instructional technology.”

Linder, K. (2016).  Student uses and perceptions of closed captions and transcripts: Results from a national study.  Corvallis, OR.  When made available, students use captions and transcripts 75% of the time.

Michael, P. H., & Webb, S. (2017). The Effects of Captions on EFL Learners’ Comprehension of English-Language Television Programs. CALICO Journal,  34(1), 20.

Evangeline Marlos Varonis, (2015) “From barriers to bridges: approaching accessibility in course design”,  The International Journal of Information and Learning Technology, Vol. 32 Issue: 3, pp.138-149,

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.  Crowdsourced 45 students to manually caption instructor’s videos. Improved understanding of accent, explanations by respondents.

Tobin, T. J. (2014). INCREASE ONLINE STUDENT RETENTION WITH UNIVERSAL DESIGN FOR LEARNING.  Quarterly Review of Distance Education,  15(3), 13-24,48.  Retrieved from

Van der Zee, T., Admiraal, W., Paas, F., Saab, N., & Giesbers, B. (2017). Effects of subtitles, complexity, and language proficiency on learning from online education videos.  Journal of Media Psychology.

further resources

Caption your course videos to benefit everyone

Shorter article from the Dr. Katie Linder, author of the 2016 survey study on caption use.