5 Tools for Live Captioning Your Zoom Class

Since we’ve all dived head first into Zoom, I thought I’d take a look at a few different options for captioning videos. If you are on a Pro or Educational license, Zoom will automatically create a transcription of a meeting after it’s completed. I also wanted to see what we could do for live captions during the meeting to improve accessibility. Over the last week I’ve played with several tools for live captioning your Zoom meeting:

Google Docs

One of the first solutions I came across was using voice typing tool in Google Docs to capture the conversation. If you are using the Chrome browser, you can activate voice typing from the Tools menu or by pressing command+shift+S.

By tapping into the Chrome recording tool, this Google voice typing offers passable accuracy (80%+) for both you, the user, and anyone else in the Zoom meeting. To share this “captioning,” you can either do a screen share or share a link to the document with the other people in the meeting, so that they can load it in a browser on their own computer.

There are a couple of drawbacks to using Google Docs. The biggest problem is that it doesn’t automatically add punctuation, paragraph breaks, or timestamps. The “captioning” is thus a long string of words.

This option also requires that you use the Chrome browser (it doesn’t show up in other browsers). I switched to FireFox as my main browser a while ago, primarily because Chrome is a resources hog, chewing up a lot of memory and CPU. The combination of Chrome and Google Docs also means that you’re welcoming Google data collection into your Zoom meetings.

Recommendation: I would only use Google Docs if I was talking through a project with collaborators. We could edit the notes that it captured as we go or after the fact.

Otter.ai

Otter was recommended to me by both Joe Sabado at UCSB and Kate Sonka at MSU, and it has lived up to the hype. In my brief testing, it has provided the most accurate voice capture of any of the tools.

Unlike Google Docs, Otter creates a new line of text each time a new speaker starts talking. It also inserts punctuation and line breaks whenever it thinks there’s a paragraph break. These features combine for a much more readable account.

Here’s a demo from Union College Instructional Technology of Otter recording both before and during a Zoom recording:

Otter requires that you create an account. Each meeting is recorded into it’s own notepad, which has a nice rich text editor, reminiscent of Medium. These notepads can be shared during the meeting or afterwards using links similar to what you find in Google Docs.

Otter offers 600 minutes of free transcriptions per month. At the premium level ($5/month or $50/annually for a student or teacher), you get 6000 minutes of transcription per month.

Recommendation: This is the tool I’ll use moving forward. The free version should be sufficient for a lot of faculty, and the premium version is reasonably priced.

Streamer.solutions

Streamer Solutions is similar to Otter in terms of the accuracy of its transcriptions, and it offers a lot of additional functionality. Streamer feels a bit like a mashup between Otter and Slack. It wants to be an entire platform for sharing transcriptions of anything. They put together a video on live captioning that both demos the tool and gives a sense of the market they are trying to tap into or create.

As with Google Docs, you have to use the Chrome Browser to record in Streamer. Also like Docs, you have to use verbal cues for punctuation. I suspect that Streamer is using the Chrome speech to text engine which is why both the functionalities and mediocre accuracy are so similar to what I found in Google Docs.

Streamer does provide some additional functionalities as compared to Google Docs. It has an overlay tool that reduces the screen real estate needed as compared to other tools. It also encourages users to log into its platform and create accounts. It uses the user profiles to label who is speaking in the text transcription.

Recommendation: I didn’t like Streamer as much as Otter, and I think that the functionalities are overkill for an individual faculty member. If your whole school is looking for an enterprise tool for captioning, this might be an interesting solution.

PowerPoint

Everyone at OU has an Office 365 account. Because of this, we can use the built in subtitle feature in O365’s version of PowerPoint to capture and even translate subtitles during a presentation.

In the video below, Chris Menard walks us through how to turn on Subtitles in PowerPoint and alter a few settings. I would suggest confirming your settings before you start a Zoom meeting. Welcome the students as the come into Zoom, and then go ahead and launch your screen share to share the captioning with your students.

Recommendation: If you’re going to be sharing a slide deck in Zoom, this seems like a good way to do it. It seems like the voice to text is more accurate than what you get in the similar Google Slides functionality. However, if you’re a GSuite school, you likely don’t have access to O365.

I would also suggest just doing a recording of your voice over PowerPointt with captions and then sharing that file ahead of time with your students. Then, if you need to do a Zoom session, you can focus more on Q&A.

3Play

3Play imports captions directly into Zoom through an API connection. While the other services mentioned above use screen sharing to show their captions, 3Play’s captions can be displayed without doing a share screen.

The downside of 3Play is that it appears to be set up for enterprise level use. They do not display their pricing anywhere, but I suspect that this would be cost prohibitive for most individual faculty and possibly even at the college level.

Recommendation: 3Play and similar tools are really slick, but expensive.

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