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May 2011

The Power of Combining Educational Videos with Subtitles

They say that every cloud has a silver lining, however sometimes it is not always obvious at first glance. And sometimes it can take as long as four years for that silver lining to become obvious. And this is one such situation that I going to share with you.

As the founder of Zane Education, it just on 10 years ago that I made a successful offer to buy a company called Zane Publishing Inc., a company that had previously been one of the leading educational software publishers, developing over 260 CD-ROM titles to provide teaching and testing for 260 topics  for the K-12 curriculum.

The reason for wanting to buy Zane Publishing was simple.  I could envision a time when being able to deliver so much wonderful curriculum-based educational content online would be invaluable. So here we are several years later having produced – and now delivering on the Zane Education website – over 1,000 online educational videos, with each of the 260 topics across 11 subjects, being provided with online interactive quizzes containing over 23,000 questions that continue the learning process by explaining why each answer is correct or incorrect.

The fact that every video was captioned, or provided subtitles – now being called by some as SMS or ‘same language subtitles’ – was purely coincidental because that was the original format provided by the original software. Some have described this style of presentation dated or old-fashion, however we understood that by presenting the videos in this format we provided each child with the option to watch, listen to, or read each presentation, and in doing so, catering for a range of learning styles and abilities. But I will be the first to admit that I never fully appreciated the true value of what we had.

The fact that all of our educational video content is developed specifically to meet the requirements of the curriculum – and not simply video of a general educational nature, and because we are able to provide such a valuable form of online testing – again specifically developed originally to help continue the learning process, we are well aware that our service offers a significantly better educational solution than  those other websites simply providing collections of video of just a general educational nature. So in providing a service that truly has a potential global audience, we recently made the decision to launch a fund-raising that would bring in equity investors to give us the financial strength to market our online subscription service, much more effectively.

An exercise such as a fund raising requires the writing or updating of an effective business plan that is based upon thorough research and fact.  However because I do not feel I am not a natural writer, I have always hated the process of trying to empty everything that is within my head to describe “the vision” on paper. But it was as I started to research ‘the numbers’ and the role and true potential of online education video, I started to quickly discover the vast amount of research that has been successful over the last 30 years in establishing the link between the use of video subtitles, captions or ‘same language subtitling’, and the improvement of reading skills and literacy levels – yes, the silver lining that I had completely overlooked.

As my research continued I became more and more excited. I discovered the research work done by Dr. Alice Killackey and the Availll Institute. Their research and subsequent pilot programmes revealed the potential to improve the reading of a child by as much as one year, in as little as six weeks. However with the resources at their disposal, they were confined to using a couple of Hollywood produced children’s movies as the basis for their reading program.

We then discovered the extensive research work completed by Dr. Brij Kothari and the remarkable success he has been recognised for by those including ex-President Bill Clinton, in helping to improve the literacy levels of literally thousands of children in India. But once again this was a situation where his work was based upon using subtitled Karaoke video.

So much of the research that I discovered provided evidence to explain why Finland – that uses captions and subtitles extensively on it’s TV programming – remains year after year at the top of the list of OECD countries with the greatest literacy levels, while countries like the United States remain well down the list at 15th position with very average literacy levels.

By the time my research came to an end, it hit me like a thunderclap that, for all the successful work completed by the likes of Alice Killackey, Doctor Kothari, Greg McCall and other highly respected individuals, Zane Education was the ONLY online educational video subscription service positioned in the market with it’s subtitled video assets, to enable children and students all over the world to learn and study each subject at home or in the classroom, AND AT THE SAME TIME  improve their reading skills and literacy levels.

And yet this was still not the end of the revelation, because when you provide a student of any age or nationality, with the ability to see each word and how it is written and spelt, to listen to that word’s correct pronunciation and hear how it is spoken, and further to undertsand the context within which it is being used, what better online study tool could you provide to an ESL student learning English as a Second Language.

AND what better way for a foreign student to improve their ESL studies and their learning of English as a Second Language AT THE SAME TIME they are in the classroom learning all of the other curriculum-based lessons. Such is the power of online education video with subtitles or captions.

Don’t forget to take a look at the remainder of our website here at Zane Education and see the range of subjects we teach using subtitled education videos, or otherwise referred to as video with captioning, or Same Language Subtitles.

For those interested in research work linking the used of same language subtitles and captions please see the following links:

Using Subtitled Music Video for Reading Growth
Close Captioned TV: A Resource for ESL Literacy Education
Effects of Subtitled Video on Vocabulary
Read Captions Across America

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13 years ago

Fabulous! What a wonderful resource for deaf and hard of hearing people, and ESL students. Keep up the good work.