Captions (for video) or a transcript (for audio) should be included with all multimedia content produced, including instructor- and student-created content. These alternate formats improve the playback experience for your audience in a variety of contexts and situations.

Audio and video content, including podcasts, videos, narrated slideshows, and more are increasingly being used to enrich and deliver course content. Captions may be integrated as a user-selectable option (“closed captions”) or as “open captions,” which automatically display in sync with the audio or video.

What are captions and subtitles?


  • Display all audio information including sound effects or music
  • Identify speakers
  • Are displayed in the same language as the audio
  • Can be either “closed” (able to be turned on or off by the user) or “open” (on all the time)


  • Display only spoken content
  • Are often (but not always) in a language other than the language of the audio
  • Can be turned on or off by the user

Who benefits from captioning and/or transcripts?

Captions are necessary for accessibility and usability as they provide access to a wider audience, including users:

  • learning another language or those whose native language is not that of the audio content (e.g. international students)
  • with learning disabilities or other cognitive impairments
  • who learn by taking in information in multiple ways
  • in quiet environments where audio output is undesirable (e.g. libraries)
  • in noisy environments where audio may be difficult to hear or understand (e.g. student unions)
  • Users whose equipment does not support audio output or who simply do not have an audio output device available — headphones
  • Users who are looking for information contained in the transcript; search engines can find info in transcripts, but not in a video or audio file

Source: University of Minnesota -