After the pandemic, using subtitles in lectures online or via video has become commonplace for most instructors. However, many do not use subtitles during lectures for in-person classes, although they have access to all the same tools. The use of subtitles should be commonplace within both the virtual and non-virtual classroom.
The most obvious benefit to the use of subtitles is the benefit to student who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. The National Deaf Center on Postsecondary Outcomes found that 1.3% of currently enrolled college students are deaf and that 30.8% of deaf students have learning difficulties. In order to be as inclusive as possible on campus, it is imperative we make classroom content accessible for everybody.
Additionally, there are many other factors that may make it harder for students to engage in a lecture without closed captioning. Subtitles can benefit students who are non-native English speakers who may struggle to fully understand key concepts in more technical subjects during a live lecture.
As someone who has learned another language in the past, namely French, I found it is much easier to follow along when there is the option to use subtitles as a guide. Whether receiving an in-class lecture, watching an educational video or listening to a song in French, I would always be utilizing subtitles or transcripts to make it easier to comprehend. I can easily see closed captioning having the same benefit for those learning English.
Those with learning disabilities benefit greatly from the use of closed captioning. Providing this accommodation allows them to follow along with content much easier, helping to prevent students with learning disabilities from losing focusing and allowing them to reference the text if they do.
Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is a condition very common in those who are neurodivergent or have a learning disabilty, and the use of subtitles can be incredibly helpful for those with APD as well. Students with this condition may have a difficult time focusing on a lecture if there is background noise, recalling what was recently said when taking notes and understanding rapid speech.
The use of subtitles to accompany lectures can alleviate a lot of the stress students with APD face trying to process large amounts of information in a short time, especially with how distracting the classroom can be.
Embedding subtitles into lectures is easy when using PowerPoint. Tab from “Home” to “Slide Show” and then ensure “Always Use Subtitles” is selected. Use the drop down menu to change the language and positioning of your subtitles.
Pictured is Dr. Colin Lewis of the philosophy department at UCCS. Photo by Kira Thorne.