Bridge The Accessibility Gap In Video Learning With Panopto + Canvas

Bridging The Accessibility Gap In Video Learning

Over the past decade, the use of video in and outside the classroom has surged. Lecture capture has become nearly as ubiquitous as the LMS in colleges and universities. The flipped classroom has become a mainstay of modern pedagogy. And distance education enrollment has grown consistently for the last fourteen years.

While video-based blended learning can expand access to education, it also introduces new requirements for accessibility. Just as institutions ensure that physical classrooms are wheelchair-accessible, textbooks are available in alternative formats, and note-taking support is available in class, online digital media also needs to provide accommodations for students with disabilities.

A number of recent high-profile lawsuits have brought this issue to a head. In several cases, the institution’s failure to caption online lecture videos placed them in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). These lawsuits have made digital media accessibility a top priority at institutions across the country and reinforced the need for video platform vendors to make accessibility a core capability of their products.

Supporting Video Captioning at Scale

Delivering an accessible online video solution begins with adherence to universal design principles. Universal design combines accessibility standards with usability best practices to create technology that is adaptable to users’ preferences and accessible through assistive technologies. For example, video platforms must support keyboard accessibility and screen readers, provide variable-speed playback and audio-only podcasts, and comply with other principles of the web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG).

Where video platforms differ from other websites and online solutions is in the need to provide captions that are time stamped and synchronized with recordings. For students who are deaf or hard of hearing, and students with language processing disorders, captions make it possible to follow the dialogue and the action of the video simultaneously. For students whose first language isn’t English, captions can aid in the understanding of key concepts. And for all students, captions can clarify the dialog when technical terms are used, the audio is muffled or too quiet, or the viewing environment is noisy.

The question, then, is how to caption academic videos at scale. This has historically been challenging due to the the cost or time required to generate ADA-compliant captions, which have stringent requirements. These include 99 percent-accurate spelling, proper punctuation, the preservation of slang and accents, and the inclusion of non-speech sounds such as ‘[MUSIC]’ and ‘[LAUGHTER]’, as well as a number of requirements related to the size, positioning, and length of captions.

To address these challenges, Panopto has worked closely with academic institutions over the last decade to understand their accessibility requirements and build a video platform that reduces the cost and complexity of captioning at scale. Our approach combines machine-generated captions, affordable human-generated captions, and integration with learning management systems:

Machine-generated captions: Every new recording and existing video uploaded to Panopto is captioned using automatic speech recognition (ASR). These machine-generated captions, which are typically 70-80% accurate based on audio quality, provide a starting point for ADA-compliant captions. They are time-synchronized with the audio in the recording and can be updated using our web-based video editor. Some universities enlist the help of student assistants to edit these captions for high-priority courses as well as those courses for which captions have explicitly been requested.

One-click and automated captioning requests: Within Panopto, authorized users can request ADA Section 508-compliant captions for any video with one click. These users can also specify folders for which all new videos are automatically captioned. Captioning requests are typically routed directly to Panopto through our 1st-party captioning service. The captioning service costs as little as $1.00 per minute including a service level agreement (SLA) for turnaround time, ADA-compliant accuracy, and a support team that can answer questions and respond to tickets. Panopto also partners with third-party captioning vendors, including cielo24, 3Play Media, Automatic Sync Technologies (AST), and These partners enable our customers to negotiate customized volume discounts, legal agreements, and additional services, such as captioning approval workflows and departmental billing chargebacks.

Supporting accessible media playback within Canvas: Panopto and Instructure engineering have worked together on a unique integration with Canvas that simplifies video management and sharing for academic institutions. Through this integration, Panopto’s accessible media players can be accessed directly from within Canvas. Specifically, our interactive video player can be launched from a Videos tab within the Canvas interface, and our embeddable video player can be hosted on any editable Canvas page such as Announcements, Syllabus, Discussions, and more. Within the video players, users can toggle captions on and off, configure the size and color of captions, adjust playback speed of a video, navigate the player with just a keyboard, and use screen readers that are designed to read text in the video player interface aloud.

As lecture capture, the flipped classroom, distance learning, and video-based student assignments have become an integral part of the higher ed learning experience, the accessibility of online videos has become an increasingly critical priority for institutions and video platform vendors. Institutions should create proactive policies for captioning videos in a scalable manner and partner with vendors who simplify and reduce the costs of captioning. At Panopto, we’ve worked with nearly 1,000 institutions worldwide to understand their accessibility needs and deliver video solutions that make captioning easy. We’re proud to partner with Canvas to help make video-based learning content more accessible within the industry’s leading LMS.

Want to know more about Panopto and Canvas? Watch for our upcoming partner webinar, coming September 5th


Keep learning,

Ari Bixhorn
Vice President, Panopto