Captioning of Public Facing Videos- Berkley’s Tough Decision

Closed Captioning Symbol


The University of California Berkley recently announced a decision to remove some 20,000 publicly available videos from their website in response to claims that the lack of captioning for these resources.  Berkley determined that it would serve its students better by providing pertinent video resources behind an authentication login.  Removal of the videos includes from their iTune U presence.

In some ways, this is no surprise.  This move was telegraphed last fall when the suit originally surfaced.  It was unknown then what path Berkley would choose.  On March 1st of this year Berkley communicated its decision and its reasoning.  The debate in comments sections and across higher education boils on as to whether this was the correct decision.

Some things to consider.  Removing videos and then placing them behind a secure login does not inherently improve their accessibility.  And Berkley knows this.  But it does improve Berkley’s ability to control access to these resources and probably use better metrics on a life-span for videos.  Some of the 20,0000 online videos were probably due retirement anyway, due to the age and production quality of the sources..

More importantly, this provides Berkley a reset point to establish ground rules going forward.  They can use this as a “teachable moment” to improve accessibility standards and processes.

From a cost standpoint of actual dollars and cents- there are always non-monetary costs to consider- could Berkley have afforded to caption all 20,000 videos.  Possibly, and quite probably.  It’s hard to gauge the actual dollar amount based on a number of videos.  We’d need a count on the overall time/length of the videos, and that information does not appear readily available.

On the one hand, it’s easy to say that the existing videos should just be captioned.  It’s another thing altogether to successfully execute the process of retroactively captioning an archive’s worth of videos.  That’s not to say it shouldn’t be done.  But hitting reset by removing the existing videos outright, and then starting from scratch on captioning all new videos is a worthwhile alternative.

Captioning and accessibility are not rocket science but they do require substantial resources, beyond mere financial considerations.  All parties need to work as a team to implement a culture of accessibility.

Read more about this at Campus Technology.



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