You Can’t Always Get What You Want (Or, Maybe You Can): Working with Vendors to Create a Custom Captioning Solution

Concurrent Session 4

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Needing custom solutions to the challenges that arise in higher education is a universal experience for distance learning administrators. Kennesaw State University’s Distance Learning Center and University Information Technology Services worked with vendors to create custom captioning solutions, setting KSU on a path to become a truly inclusive academic community.


Specialist of Education, University of Georgia M.Ed., Georgia College & State University BS.Ed., University of Georgia Office: 3203 Campus Loop Road, Room 109 DLC Telephone: 470-578-7668 Email: May 2011 Kennesaw State University Shining Star Award KSU Presidential Commission on Disability Strategies and Resources, Carol J. Pope Award for Distinction (Diversity Awards) - April 2014 Distance Learning Administration Conference Wagner Awards, AliveTek Innovation in Distance Education - June 2014 Outstanding Faculty Member, EdS in Teacher Leadership Program (Faculty Member for Special Recognition -chosen by student) - April 2015

Extended Abstract


  • Participants will be able to identify the knowledge and skills  necessary to work with vendors to develop a custom solution 

  • Participants will explore the pros and cons of working with vendors for custom solutions 

  • Participants will be able to identify key strategies for leveraging the strengths of vendors to support closed captioning initiatives.

  • Participants will be able to identifying first steps in developing and initiating a vendor/university project.

PROJECT Description:  

  • Context – Kennesaw State University offers over 70 degree, minor, certification, or endorsement online programs. With over 35,000 students, the university has earned a reputation throughout the state of Georgia as a leader in online programming. As that leader, KSU is committed to providing a premiere, personalized educational experience for leadership and engagement within a diverse nation and world. This educational experience is achieved through recognition and appreciation of the differing backgrounds and experiences reflected within the University community. KSU strives to create accessible learning to students with disabilities and diverse learners in accordance with applicable state and federal laws including, but not limited to, Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

  • Problem – Because of the explosive growth in our online programs, the Distance Learning Center could no longer keep up with faculty requests for closed captioning for their online course videos and audio files. In the past, a speech to text appliance was used for machine generated captions and student assistants would clean up the files and return them to faculty. This process involved no fewer than 12 steps on the part of faculty, many of them quite time consuming.   The university needed a solution that to meet the following needs:

    • reduce the number of steps faculty must take to get videos captioned,

    • allow faculty to request machine-generated captions that they can edit,

    • allow faculty to request professionally captioned files, and

    • remain within the prescribed budget.

  • Process – After adopting Kaltura’s MediaSpace as the university’s instructional video repository, the DLC and UITS partnered with vendors Kaltura and Ceilo24 to embed Ceilo24’s closed captioning tool into MediaSpace while creating a custom editor to allow faculty to edit caption files inside of MediaSpace.  This system also allows the Distance Learning Center to have videos professionally captioned by the vendor’s team. The project was not without hiccups, and the KSU team regularly worked with the vendors’ developers to make sure the system could provide administrators, faculty, and staff with all of the functionality envisioned by the team. The DLC team lead was often heard saying, “Why would I ask faculty to use this if YouTube’s editor is easier for them to navigate? Let’s make some changes…” The process took a year to complete.

  • Results – The result of this partnership with two vendors is a closed captioning system integrated into MediaSpace that provides faculty with speedy machine generated captions and an embedded editor for faculty to use to “clean up” these files. The process is very easy and very simple. Faculty do not have to download and upload files. They can create, edit, and share videos directly in this environment. And now, thanks to the efforts of this team, they can create and edit caption files as well. Kennesaw State has a practical solution to remove accessibility barriers to multimedia now, thus making them one step closer to ensuring accessibility for all.


  • Innovation – Due to the high cost of third party closed captioning, most universities are lagging behind in meeting the needs of students with disabilities requiring text alternatives or captioning. By partnering with vendors, KSU was able to develop an integrated system that facilitates the fast and efficient creation of high quality closed captioning at a reasonable cost.

  • Replicability – This system has already been adopted by the University System of Georgia and its 30+ institutions. Many of those institutions use the tool created by the collaboration on a daily basis.

  • Impact – Providing tools that make it easier for universities and their faculty to create quality closed captioning for online courses will help to ensure that the needs of all students are met in online courses. The process can also be used by any campus entity that needs captions for multimedia.

  • Evidence – During the month of May 2017, 4,011 minutes of video and audio were captioned using the system’s machine captioning tool. Presumably, these minutes of video/audio would have gone uncaptioned without this tool. In just one month, this project made 4,011 minutes of video more universally accessible. If we apply those numbers to the entire year, the impact is huge.

  • Scope – The scope of this project was initially a learning technology project.  Because of the success of the vendor partnership the results of this project are already expanding to other campus offices, including Student Disability Services and Campus Events.  The product of this project can be used in a variety of ways by a variety of entities. And, the team working on this project is already investigating other technologies and vendors with whom they can create other custom tools that will help KSU expand services to a diverse community of learners.