Teaching & Learning


Download a best practice guide on how to subtitle your video-based teaching materials

6 March 2018

Neil Roberts, the guide’s creator, explains the benefits of making your online materials inclusive.

screenshot of subtitles

Ensuring that all video-based teaching materials are suitably sub-titled is essential for students with some disabilities. It is a legal requirement for departments to ensure their teaching materials are accessible for this reason, but subtitling provides benefits for all students, for example:

  • Students who are not native English speakers have additional support in understanding video materials
  • Those who are using mobile devices to study and cannot use headphones.

Providing accessible materials is also part of the UCL E-Learning Baseline, that all Moodle based courses must adhere to: 

So what’s the best way to subtitle?

When a student with hearing loss at the UCL Ear Institute needed some videos subtitled, Neil Roberts (Learning Technologist and Communications Officer) quickly realised that there were many resources and ways to subtitle but little guidance available. 

He realised there was a lack of information on how lecturers could go about doing this themselves, which inspired him to ensure that the correct information was available for the department, and to clarify many of the trickier aspects.

He collaborated with Chris Holland in UCL’s Copyright team. Chris helped clarify a clause in the Copyright, Design and Patents act 1988 that allows for subtitling to be made to any video as long as certain requirements are met and it is for the use of a person with a disability only. Together they produced a workflow chart that helps you identify when you can and cannot subtitle a video that doesn’t belong to you (see the PDF guide available below).

Rolling out the production of accessible video in the department

Neil produced a PDF guide for staff which will soon be available on the UCL Library copyright pages but he understood this would not be enough for the department to adopt it as practice.

He also:

  • Presented at the Departmental Teaching Committee
  • Ran a workshop for staff to go through the PDF and answer their questions
  • Worked with his Head of Department to ensure it became part of the departmental policy.

Dr Hannah Cooper, Lecturer, Ear Institute, and participant at Neil’s workshop said:

“The workshop I attended was a really useful introduction to subtitling and I was unaware that it was something I could do myself relatively easily. The handout allowed me to find appropriate software and guided me through the steps for subtitling my own videos in a very straightforward manner. This allowed me to produce video content which is accessible to students with hearing loss and will also be helpful for students with English as an additional language.”

Neil’s practical guide will take you through:

  • step-by-step how to add subtitles to video;
  • best tools and resources to use;
  • when you can and can’t subtitle videos for copyright reasons; and, 
  • what external agencies you could use for larger projects 

Chris Holland, Copyright Support Officer, UCL Library Services, commented:

“This is an admirably succinct and practical guide to creating accessible videos. The flowchart is particularly good at explaining clearly the potential copyright issues.”