Understanding the importance of inclusive learning design


A Q&A with Elizabeth Yong and John Murphy

In 2018, Elizabeth Yong was awarded a Learning Enhancement & Innovation (LEI) Grant for her application entitled: “Video captions and inclusive learning design”.

The goal of this LEI Grant project was to explore the use of video captioning to promote inclusion, accessibility and digital capabilities and find out if the use of captions could assist in promoting self-reported learning gains and student satisfaction.


As Project Leader, Elizabeth Yong along with other ECMS academic staff Dr Hiromi Teramoto and Catherine Irving worked closely with Learning Designer, John Murphy who mentored and supported them in the design and implementation of the project in the UofA blended learning environment.

As part of this project, eight short videos from the Engineering Communication Unit were recorded in Echo 360 Personal Capture. These videos were then auto-captioned using the ARC tool in MyUni and then edited for accuracy and published in a range of courses. After the roll-out of these captioned videos, a student survey was completed to evaluate the effectiveness of the captions.

We talked to both Learning Designer: John Murphy and Academic: Elizabeth Yong on their involvement in this project, and why we should be moving towards embedding inclusive learning design in all courses.

What was your main motivation for wanting to get involved in this project?

Learning Designer Voice, John Murphy:
As a learning designer, with a background in university teaching in education, I am interested in the use of technologies to support diversity and inclusion and enhance accessibility, particularly for students of English as an additional language (EAL) and those with sensory disabilities such as hearing impairments. I was also motivated by the opportunity to enhance the digital capabilities of staff in online and blended learning environments – in this case in the creation of key concept videos using platforms such as ARC and Echo 360 Personal Capture. From a broader perspective, I was interested in exploring to what extent this project could enhance learning and teaching and contribute to student success, retention and their overall experience.

Academic Voice, Elizabeth Yong:
I was interested to find out if by captioning videos, we could increase the likelihood of students watching them, and thus enhance their learning. I am always keen to provide various modes for students to learn and I was excited about the opportunity myself to learn a new tool in MyUni. 


What was your role in the project?

Learning Designer Voice, John Murphy:
As a Learning Designer working with the Faculty of Engineering, Computer Science & Maths, I initiated the idea for this project and invited Elizabeth Yong in as the Academic Lead. Elizabeth is the Director of The Engineering Communication Unit at ECMS. Elizabeth invited a diverse group of other academic staff on board who were interested in piloting captions in their courses, each of which had a high number of students with English as an additional language (EAL).

I worked with the academic staff on the background research, scoping out the project and the design of survey questions. I also up-skilled them in the use of ARC (which was added to each of their courses), as well as the auto-generation and editing of transcripts and captions. I also provided advice on the purchase and use of video editing software and wireless microphones, as well as some advice and assistance with video editing and production as proof of concept.

Academic Voice, Elizabeth Yong:
In consultation with John Murphy, Learning Designer and my colleagues from the Engineering Communication Unit, I selected a range of courses and student cohorts, best suited to a pilot of the captioning project.


What was the most surprising discovery you made during the project?

Learning Designer, John Murphy:
The results of the survey supported previous research that showed that captions were popular among all students and that there was a correlation between language proficiency and preference for caption type – the lower the proficiency, the greater the preference for word-for-word captions. Students reported that captions enhanced clarity and understanding of the video presentations, while stressing the importance of well-organised and clear presentations.

However, the most surprising discovery for me was in how video captions can also be used to support diversity and inclusion among staff. When generating captions in ARC, there was an option to select US, UK or AUS English, depending on the speaker’s accent. Three of the academics involved in the pilot were native speakers of Japanese, Vietnamese and Mandarin respectively. Surprisingly, selection of AUS English in ARC resulted in a more accurate transcript than either of the other two options. I am exploring this area further in the pilot of Echo 360 Automatic Speech Recognition in Semester 1, 2019 with lecturers from a range of other language backgrounds.

Academic Voice, Elizabeth Yong:
I was surprised how accurate ARC was in auto-generated captions. I was also surprised (although I shouldn’t have been) that my colleague, who is a native speaker of Vietnamese was keen to trial captioning in his lectures. I had embarked on the project thinking only of students’ interest in captioning.


Why is it important to include video captions and inclusive learning design into courses?

Learning Designer Voice, John Murphy:
I think it is important that inclusive learning design is embedded in courses, not only to meet our obligations as an institution, but to address the unique, multiple and complex identities and needs of our students in terms of their educational, dispositional, circumstantial and cultural backgrounds (HEA, UK). Inclusive design recognises a student’s right to equal access and participation in courses, and removes barriers that impact on their well-being, success and retention.

As learning designers, we have an opportunity to work with academic staff at all levels to apply inclusive design principles to teaching methods, as well as the development of content, activities and assessment to support course and program outcomes. The use of video captions supports the above principles and helps EAL students build skills and knowledge aligned with graduate attributes in this multi-cultural but predominantly English-speaking environment. 

Academic Voice, Elizabeth Yong:
I believe it’s important to provide a variety of modes of delivery of learning materials to cater for a range of student preferences in learning. Without knowing the abilities or individual circumstances of every student in my class, I like to offer choices that make learning as convenient as possible. This means that captioned videos can be used alongside other ways of conveying information, such as Powerpoint and podcasts, for example. Captioned videos are an aid to EAL students’ language skill development, as well as their understanding of a key concept in the course, and they help all students to locate specific points for review in the video.


What advice would you give to lecturers wanting to implement video captions and inclusive learning design into their courses?

Learning Designer Voice, John Murphy:
For lecturers considering the use of video captions, I would advise/remind them of the principles of inclusive design and the need to design for diverse groups of students, including those of EAL background or those with sensory impairments. Many EAL students are recent arrivals and may have an IELTS 6.0 or 6.5 – a level at which some errors and misunderstandings will still occur. The use of video captions removes a barrier to success and enables them to access and participate more equally in the course(s) they have enrolled in and paid for.

Second, I would advise them to consider what type of video they would want to caption whether it is a key concept (5-10m) or a full-length lecture, as this will impact on the workload. I would also advise them on recording options (e.g. Studio, Lightboard, Echo Ad Hoc or personal capture) and the choice of platform (e.g. ARC or Echo 360) for generating and editing transcripts and captions. 

Academic Voice, Elizabeth Yong:
As John has said, I would advise colleagues to consider the workload of editing captions in a key concept (5-10m) video or a full-length lecture. ARC is relatively accurate with words but less so with sentence breaks and punctuation, which can significantly affect meaning. If lecturers are careful in the video about specific references to a semester or an assignment date, for example, then the recording and the editing may not need to be repeated every semester.


How much effort is required to implement video captions and inclusive learning design into courses?

Learning Designer Voice, John Murphy:
The effort required to implement video captions in a course depends on the type of video being captioned and the level of accuracy required. Our LEI Project was limited to the use of shorter Key concept videos (5-10m), where auto-transcripts were generated in ARC then edited by academic staff before being published.

To minimise the workload in editing captions, I would advise staff to experiment with the pace of their delivery using Echo 360 Personal Capture on their desktop and particularly to emphasise key words to optimise the accuracy of their transcript before editing and publishing as captions.

I am involved in a trial in Semester 1, 2019 of Echo 360 Automated Speech Recognition (ASR) in full length lectures. The pilot involves approx. 15 courses and feedback is being sought from around 20 academic staff as well as students participating in those courses. I am particularly interested in how the use of transcripts can support diversity and inclusion and how staff can use these tools to enhance the clarity of their presentations.


How will the knowledge that you have gained from this project influence how you teach in the future?

Academic Voice, Elizabeth Yong:
I am inserting captions in multiple short videos in a large course this year. At John’s suggestion, we have inserted short videos in graded quizzes, which are an incentive for students to watch. We don’t know yet, but I hope that students’ learning outcomes are enhanced this way.


Blog Voices

Learning Designer Voice: John Murphy
John Murphy is a Learning Designer at the University of Adelaide and has a university teaching background in education. He has worked in online and blended learning since 2001, including as eLearning consultant to a number of Universities in Japan.

Academic Voice: Elizabeth Yong
Elizabeth Yong is the Director of the Engineering Communication Unit in the Faculty of Engineering Computer & Maths Sciences at the University of Adelaide.


Tagged in Learning Enhancement & Innovation, learning design, LEI Grants