Inclusive live online presentations with automated real-time captions/subtitles: Understanding students’ experiences

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Brief Abstract

We discuss our qualitative study that explored students' experiences when using real-time automated captions/subtitles during live online presentations. Universal Design for Learning served as the study framework. Attendees will experience PowerPoint Live, discuss challenges and opportunities when offering equal access to content, and share ideas for practice and research.


Dr. Anymir Orellana is a Professor in the Department of Education at the Abraham S. Fischler College of Education and School of Criminal Justice, Nova Southeastern University. She currently teaches online graduate courses in the areas of instructional technology, distance education, instructional media, and instructional design. She earned a Doctor of Education in Instructional Technology and Distance Education from Nova Southeastern University, a Master of Science in Computer and Information Sciences and Engineering from the University of Florida, and a Bachelor of Science in Informatics Engineering from Universidad Centroccidental “Lisandro Alvarado” in Venezuela. Her research interests are in the field of instructional technology and distance education, specifically quality in online courses and effective integration of technology for learning.

Extended Abstract

Often, educators find diverse learners with various cultural backgrounds, abilities, and learning preferences in their classrooms. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a research-based framework that addresses such expected variability through the design of instruction and the curriculum (CAST, 2018a). By implementing the UDL principles and guidelines, variability is acknowledged when learners are empowered to choose their learning path among options for multiple means of engagement, representation, and action and expression. Thus, UDL-based instruction promotes inclusive learning that meets the diverse needs of all students.

The UDL guideline to provide options for perception, under the UDL principle to provide multiple means of representation, suggests that options for perception should be provided “to ensure that key information is equally perceptible to all learners by … providing the same information through different modalities (e.g., through vision, hearing, or touch); [and] providing information in a format that will allow for adjustability by the user” (CAST, 2018b, para. 1). The UDL checkpoint 1.2 suggests that alternatives for auditory information can be offered by using “text equivalents in the form of captions or automated speech-to-text (voice recognition) for spoken language” (CAST, 2018c, para. 2).

In general, research has shown that captioning is beneficial to many, including individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, hearing adults wanting to retain what is heard, and persons learning a second language. Specifically, educators can offer captions or subtitles as a text-based alternative to auditory information to make content equally accessible to all learners.

On the other hand, advances in automated speech-to-text or speech recognition technologies (SRT) have facilitated the production of captions for recorded videos and enabled real-time subtitling in multiple languages during live sessions. Thus, the use of SRT-based applications during live class presentations could be a cost-effective approach to providing text-based alternatives to auditory information, as suggested in UDL checkpoint 1.2.

However, how effective and useful are these SRT-based applications for live class presentations, online or on-site? How accurate are the captions/subtitles generated in real-time by SRTs? How do instructors and students describe the benefits and challenges of using these applications? How do instructors and students experience real-time automated captions/subtitles for teaching and learning? To partially examine these questions, we conducted a qualitative study to understand students’ experiences when using real-time automated captions/subtitles during live online class presentations with Microsoft PowerPoint Live (Microsoft, n.d.).

In our study, we referred to captions as the transcription of the presenter’s spoken words in their language and subtitles as the transcription of the presenter’s spoken words in a different language. The technologies we used were (a) PowerPoint Live (Microsoft, n.d.) to deliver the presentation with real-time caption/subtitles; and (b) Zoom video conferencing system to connect the remote group (i.e., presenter, researchers, and participants), transmit the presenter’s spoken words, and conduct the research focus groups. We expected that the findings of the study would help educators effectively integrate SRT-based applications to address the diversity of learners in their classes and promote inclusive learning when providing automated captions/subtitles as an alternative for auditory information in live presentations.  

Session Goals

At the end of the session, attendees will be able to

  1. discuss challenges and opportunities when addressing equal access to content with automated real-time captions/subtitles in PowerPoint live during online class presentations, and
  2. articulate ideas for practice and research.

Level of Participation

The session will be structured as follows:

  1. We will describe the study, share the main themes that emerged from study participants’ experiences, and discuss recommendations for practice and research (25 minutes)
  2. Using their mobile devices or another computer browser, attendees will connect to a brief PowerPoint Live presentation and follow it in their preferred language (10 minutes).  
  3. Attendees will share their experiences with PowerPoint Live caption/subtitles and conclude with ideas for practice and research (10 minutes).


CAST (2018a). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.2.

CAST. (2018b). Guideline 1, provide options for perceptions.

CAST. (2018c). Checkpoint 1.2, offer alternatives for auditory information.

Microsoft. (n.d.) Present Live: Engage your audience with Live Presentations.