Videos have gained a lot of terrain lately, whether they are meant for learning or entertainment. High-speed Internet, accessible-priced smart-phones and all the amazing free apps that can turn anyone into a director/producer have all lead to an explosion of video content everywhere.

The young generation is a very visual one, keen on screens, animations and overall engaging or fun stuff to watch. With Millennials becoming the majority of the modern workforce, L&D specialists have had to adjust learning programs to their unique needs and preferences so videos are today an integral part of both classroom and e-learning training units.

Yet as great as videos are for information retention and skill development, there is one small addition that can greatly improve these areas: using captions.

The benefits of using captions in your training videos

So here are some advantages that the use of captions in training videos brings to the table:

The benefits of using captions for your training videos

Captions increase inclusivity

First of all, it is important to keep in mind that training programs are supposed to be inclusive and that means taking into account the fact that some of the users might suffer from certain disabilities. One example would be hearing impairment. For people with this condition, captions are a must.

But apart from that, studies show that that the use of same language subtitles has a positive impact on all viewers. As far back as 2009, Greg McCall and Carmen Graig conducted a study — a randomized controlled trial to examine the impacts of Same-Language-Subtitling (SLS), another word for captioning, on the reading comprehension skills of secondary school students in Kaneohe, Hawaii. The researchers randomly assigned 198 secondary school students with learning disabilities (ages 14 to 19) to either special education classrooms using the SLS intervention or comparison classrooms (special or general education). The study found that students in the SLS intervention condition scored significantly higher than students in the comparison condition on the reading comprehension achievement post-tests.

Captions increase focus

As mentioned before, closed captions are not only beneficial to those who have special needs but to all. Indeed video content is at the same time dynamic and engaging but focus is easily lost when one has to follow both images and dialog.

Research around how people use closed captioning with e-learning videos or TV-watching actually demonstrates that the main reasons people use captions have nothing to do with hearing disabilities. A 2006 UK study of television viewers found that 80 percent of the TV viewers who regularly used captioning had no hearing impairment. Results showed that 7.5 million people in the UK (18% of the population) used closed captions: of that 7.5 million, only 1.5 million were deaf or hard of hearing. The rest declared to researchers that the captions helped them focus on and better understand the shows they were watching.

If that is the case with programs chosen for entertainment, it’s clear that when we consider video content for learning purpose it is even more important to ensure not only accessibility but facilitate better understanding and information retention.

Captions help those that have a different native language

Another important aspect to be considered by L&D specialists is that with businesses going global and offices no longer being geographically confined to a specific area, a big chunk of employees will not be native English speakers. Regardless of how well they master the language, odds are that they will still miss some of the nuances, idioms or words that come from various dialects.

There is a very old Latin proverb that says “verba volant, scripta manent” – spoken words fly away, written words actually stay. With captions it’s a lot easier to ‘catch’ phrases and words in their correct form and search for their real meaning so no part of the content is lost.

This not only improves the viewer’s command of the language but also ensures better understanding of what is being taught in those modules by making it clearer and more easily followed. It’s important to note that one important learning style is the verbal one in which both the spoken and written word is paramount.

To sum up

So just to sum up, here are some of the benefits of using closed captions in videos:

  • The content becomes accessible to all users making it more inclusive;
  • Video that contains full names, brand names, or technical terminology provides clarity for the viewer;
  • Closed captions help maintain concentration, which can provide a better experience for viewers with learning disabilities or attention deficits;
  • Online videos with subtitles get higher user engagement and a more enjoyable user experience;
  • Captions allow viewers to watch videos in sound-sensitive environments, like offices and libraries;
  • Closed captions help with comprehension of dialog that is spoken very quickly, with accents, mumbling, or background noise;
  • Viewers who know English as a second language benefit from closed captions, because they make it easier to follow along with the speech.
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Author: Raluca C

Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.