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UC Berkeley Press Release

Expanded captioning services available for UC Berkeley students

– Berkeley - Expanded captioning services are available this fall for hearing-impaired students at the University of California, Berkeley.

In addition to providing live remote real-time captioning services for five fall courses, UC Berkeley also has captioning available for webcasts and videotapes. The services are meant to provide easier, faster classroom and educational materials for hearing-impaired students.

Students in those courses have online access to a password-protected site that provides the real-time captions while they attend class. In the classroom, the professor wears a microphone and broadcasts the lecture, while a transcriber, located in Maryland, calls in and listens to an audio feed, typing in the caption text, which appears immediately on students' computer screens. Within 24 hours, an edited version of the transcript is available.

UC Berkeley has been offering real-time captioning of some classes since spring 2002 as part of a joint project with closed-captioning specialists Automatic Sync Technologies and Viable Technologies Inc., an education transcription company. Viewers use RealOne Player, a Web-based tool to hear audio and see video, to view the captioned material.

"It's been very effective," said Ed Rogers, director of UC Berkeley's Disabled Students Program.

The five courses now offering real-time streaming captioning are: Nutrition Science 10, Psychology 2, Physics 8, Anthropology 2A and Anthropology 3. Classes are selected based on student demand.

The webcast and videotape transcription services began in 2003.

The transcription services should be of use to many people, not just students with impaired hearing. They could assist students with learning disabilities, for example, by allowing them to go back and review the text of a lecture.

Educational Technology Services (ETS), a campus resource that provides support services for undergraduate and graduate classes including course Web sites, classroom technology, audio and video, and webcasting, is currently testing a method that would allow users to search and index the transcripts.

"I certainly hope to see it expand," said Richard Bloom, a technology specialist with ETS. "I think it has great implications for not only the deaf and hard of hearing community, but also the general population. It's quite a study tool, and the technology is just getting better and better."

The Disabled Student Program covers the cost of the classroom captioning, and ETS and individual departments pay for the webcast and videotape captioning.

Rogers also hailed the webcast and videotape captioning services.

"It appears that we're the only university in the nation doing this," Rogers said. "It's not just for students. When the (UC) president or someone sends a video to the staff, or the campus produces a video, we can do captioning. We can pioneer this and make it an everyday thing."

ETS provided captions for eight videotapes for an Asian American Studies course last year.