Captioning isn’t just for television shows anymore. Many organizations that create video that goes online are now grappling with how to best caption that material. Speaking at the inaugural Enterprise Video Conference in Los Angeles, Peter Schott, director of digital production for Cengage Learning, shared experiences from his organization.
Captioning became a priority at educational publisher Cengage thanks to a top-down directive, one influenced by possible liability claims and sales issues, as well as the desire to make content accessible to a wider number of students. The goal wasn’t simply an IT issue.
“It became an enterprise-wide initiative,” said Schott.
The first hurdle was getting all those teams — including editorial, production, marketing, and IT — to work together. Cengage had a unique obstacle since it’s made up of several acquired companies, all of which had their own workflows and asset management systems.
“Initially, it was quite a challenge,” observed Schott.
To tackle that, Cengage unified the captioning workflow by creating a standard player that handled videos and captioning assets in a cohesive way. Cengage didn’t want to reinvent the wheel for each division of the company, Schott said.
Having captioning in place has proven a win for employees, who are better able to search for audio and video assets when looking for resources for new editions of products. The sales team has also gotten behind captioning, using it to drive sales and improve ROI. Cengage has done well against competitors thanks to having captioned products.
Dealing with high-level educational materials on topics that include medicine and calculus, Cengage is sensitive about accuracy in its captions. Off-the-shelf captioning systems simply don’t do a good enough job. The company has subject matter experts check the transcripts, then resubmit the tracks for a second round of captioning.
The majority of the content Cengage captions is in English, but it works with materials in a variety of languages. For foreign languages, Schott’s team often has a transcript to work from, something he says is a huge plus when creating captions.
So far, Cengage has only had to caption pre-recorded materials, so it hasn’t had to solve the challenge of captioning live video. The company is now getting more involved in planning live lecture capture, however, Schott noted, so soon it will have to figure out the best way to caption live material, as well.