YouTube is one good option for creating automatic captions and editing them to make sure they are accurate. Information about captioning in Panopto and other tools is also available. Please note that questions about how Champlain complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act, legal requirements for accessibility, and student accommodations should go to the Office of Accessibility. The CLT provides how-to materials on accessibility-related topics for faculty convenience, but we cannot answer questions about the law or your students. Unfortunately, the CLT does not provide captioning services. 

Using YouTube Videos that Are Already Captioned

Many faculty use YouTube videos in their teaching, and fortunately, a lot of YouTube videos already have some degree of captioning. However, it’s still necessary to check. Legally, any content that has aired on TV in the United States is supposed to be captioned on YouTube, but this is not widely enforced. User-created content is not subject to any captioning requirements. However, when a language is set, YouTube generates automatic captions that are sometimes very accurate (and sometimes–for example, if the main speaker talks very quickly, speaks with an accent or dialect that is notably different from “newscaster” English, or uses a lot of technical terms–not accurate at all).

Identifying Captioned Videos

Any YouTube video with any kind of captioning will have a small “CC” logo on the player bar towards the right. Clicking this will turn on captions. You should test any videos you plan to use to make sure they have accurate captions.

Screenshot of a YouTube video showing a Canvas course, inset window of the speaker, captions in white text on a black background, and the player bar. The CC icon appears with a red line under it, showing that captions are turned on.
YouTube video with captions turned on (note the red line under “CC” indicating that captions will be displayed)

When using content that has aired on TV, it’s helpful to source it from the network’s (or producer’s) official channel; these sources will be accurately captioned. Reputable educational YouTube channels like TED (which has excellent transcription and captioning on its own website), Khan Academy, Crash Course, and others have professional corrected captions, as do many other “verified” channels.

In short, if you are using someone else’s videos on YouTube, identify the most “official” available source and check to make sure captions are available. In most cases, if the video does not have captions, you will need to identify an alternate source.

Captioning Videos You Created Using YouTube

YouTube has greatly improved its automatic captioning AI, but the captions are still imperfect (for example, they cannot accurately identify sentence breaks, capitalize proper nouns, etc). In their raw form, they may look unprofessional, but they will get you about 90% of the way there. You can use YouTube to create mostly-accurate captions for your own videos and then polish them. In this video, we quickly demonstrate how to navigate this process, with step-by-step written instructions below. You can also consult YouTube’s official captioning instructions.

 Step 1: Make sure you are logged into your Champlain account

As of 2020, Champlain faculty Google accounts (your account) include a YouTube account, so you can upload videos and share with your students using your official identity.

Step 2: Visit

Note: if you are using a mobile device, you will need to download the YouTube app and navigate the upload process using the app. If you have not yet set up your channel and/or you want to upload videos longer than 15 minutes, consult YouTube’s guidance.

From the YouTube Studio, you can upload existing videos you have created on your computer using the “Create” button on the upper right. To learn more about uploading and setting up your videos, including privacy settings, see YouTube’s documentation linked above.

Step 3: Set your video’s language

Once you have started the upload process, you will be given many options for adjusting the metadata and settings for your video. For captioning, the essential setting is the language. In the options you’re offered after starting the upload, you’ll need to scroll down and select “more options” to get to the language settings. You can also access these settings after the video is uploaded by going to your library, selecting the video, and choosing the “More Options” tab.

The language settings look like this. Select English (United States) and the certification option for “never aired on TV”.

Screenshot of settings titled "Original video language, subtitles, and CC", showing a dropdown menu for language and another for caption certification, as well as an option to upload subtitles

In this example, you can see that captions already exist (“English by YouTube (automatic)”). The screenshot was taken from an older video’s settings, so the captions have been generated. This takes time, so when you upload your video, you will not see that, and it may not appear for a half hour or more after your upload completes, depending on the length of your video. Once the automatic captions are created, you will be able to see the CC icon in the player bar of your video on YouTube, as shown further up this article.

Step 4: Correct Your Captions

In most cases, YouTube’s AI captioning gets the general gist, but not punctuation, proper nouns, or technical terms. Depending on the length of your video, content, speaker’s accent, and your tolerance for missing punctuation, correcting your captions may be quick or time-consuming.*

To edit your captions, wait until the auto-captions are finished, then find the video in your library (using the YouTube Studio view). Access the video’s settings/details as described above. Click the word “subtitles”. This will take you to a list of all captions that exist for the video, including the automatic captions. They look like this:

Screenshot of the listing for automatic English captions in the subtitles for a YouTube video. Text at the right indicates that the captions are published, and a link at the far right reads "duplicate and edit".

Click “Duplicate and Edit”. You can choose to edit the text as a whole, or “Assign Timings” to break it apart into the captions that will appear on screen at any given time.

Screenshot of the captions editor, showing the auto-generated text at left, the video player at right, and a visual rendering of the sound with captions aligned below.

You can now edit the captions as desired. Press play on the inset video screen to listen along as you edit and skip back if necessary. You’ll notice that all capitalization and almost all punctuation is not rendered (so precise correctness will take time). Your main goal, however, should be to make the content itself fully understandable and correct. Your priorities should be:

  • Identifying and fixing any errors that make the content difficult or impossible to understand
  • Fixing proper names and technical terms
  • Correcting any homonyms that may make the captions slightly confusing
  • Adding, in brackets, a note of any other relevant sounds – for example [spooky music plays] or [child cries]

Step 5: Save and Publish

Make sure you save your work as a draft if you want to return to it later! When you’re ready, publish it. Your corrected captions will override the original automatic captions. You can now direct your students to the video on YouTube, and they will be able to turn captions on if desired.

If you are storing your video elsewhere and you simply needed a captions file, you can download the captions by clicking the three-dot menu at the right in the row for the desired captions on the Subtitles page (pictured above – the menu will appear to the right of “Duplicate and Edit” when you hover over the row). Three format options are available, so make sure you select the one you need for your desired purpose.

Other Captioning Options

You can also caption via Panopto or using a third-party AI tool like Google Meet also produces captions similar to YouTube’s that will automatically be associated with recordings saved in Google Drive, but they are not as easy to edit.

Thank you for working to make your classes more accessible for your students!

* Bias in digital speech recognition is recognized and has not been fully addressed through refining captioning tools; learn more here.

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