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August 18, 2003

UVSC struggles to update videos with closed captioning

From: Provo Daily Herald, UT - Aug 18, 2003

THE DAILY HERALD on Monday, August 18

Christi C. Babbitt

Sharelle Goff struggled whenever her teachers at Utah Valley State College showed a video in class. As a deaf student, Goff had sign language interpreters communicating the words as the video played, but watching both was tiresome and affected her ability to learn the material.

"It was tough," Goff said through an interpreter. "You're constantly looking back and forth and back and forth. My eyes would wear out so quickly." Goff graduated from UVSC in 2002 with a bachelor's degree in psychology and now works as an advisor for deaf and hard-of-hearing students at the college.

Staff members in UVSC's Accessibility Services Department have been working since April to solve the problem for deaf and hard-of-hearing students by providing closed captioning for thousands of videos used on campus. The project will include captioning videos used by UVSC's 1,300 professors as well as those in the college's library and other departments.

However, because the department doesn't have its own captioning machine, progress has been slow. It currently has a few hours of access twice a week to a machine owned by UVSC's Distance Education, which provides closed captioning for its own videos, said Laurie Watts, UVSC manager of deaf services.

Providing closed captioning for all campus videos is especially important for UVSC, which has more deaf students using sign language interpreters than any other Utah state institution of higher learning, Watts said. UVSC will have about 40 deaf students this fall and is expecting more than 50 during spring semester. Watts said in the deaf community, UVSC is considered one of the top three schools in the nation to attend.

A federal mandate has made the project even more critical, requiring the college to have 75 percent of older films and videos and 95 percent of its newer films and videos closed captioned by 2006.

"If we can get a captioning machine and somehow get funding for it, then we will be saving the college thousands and thousands of dollars" by completing the project in-house instead of hiring an outside company to do it, Watts said. The machine costs about $10,000.

The process begins with a transcriber who types the dialogue from a video. An editor then does research to correct things such as the spelling of names and places. In the final step, the video is re-recorded with the closed captioning, with a worker adding the captioning line by line as the dialogue is said.

Watts estimated it takes 8 to 15 hours of work to provide closed captioning for one hour of video.

While many videos are now at some point of the process, only about 30 have been finished.

"We're getting backlogged already," Watts said. The project is being focused on completing videos that will be needed by deaf students during fall semester.

Watts had worked on a similar captioning project at a college in California before beginning her job at UVSC nine months ago.

Having seen the benefit of the project, she began the project at UVSC. It was after that point that she learned of the federal mandate.

"This whole project is just like an avalanche," Watts said. Videos came in slowly at first, but now videos and transcriptions are piling up.

"I will be into thousands of videos by the time it's done," she said.

In the meantime, Watts is researching grant opportunities to raise money for a closed captioning machine and searching "for anyone who's looking for a good cause."

Goff said she has students visit her office and express frustration about videos in their classes lacking closed captioning.

"It increases the learning potential so much," Goff said. "I love closed captioning. I couldn't live without it."

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