Online school challenges UI transcription software


Photo Courtesy of ClassTranscribe

A world map with the IP locations of all the users of ClassTranscribe in the world is pictured above. Users include international students scattered around the globe.

By Chieh Hsu, Staff Writer

Due to COVID-19, a majority of classes have moved to online operations with professors choosing to upload lecture videos instead of hosting in-person classes. In Computer Science and Engineering, instructors are using a software called ClassTranscribe developed by University professors to advance the online learning experience.

“My project allows students to easily go from one video to the next,” Lawrence Angrave, teaching professor and co-developer of ClassTranscribe, said. “It also allows students to search across the whole course.” 

This semester due to COVID-19, Professor Angrave encountered IT challenges when ClassTranscribe had to expand suddenly to support thousands of students.

“Fortunately, we now have the deep experience and know-how from NCSA to help build and scale this system,”Angrave said. 

According to Angrave, the project provides good captions and makes video-learning much more active. Using crowdsourcing and machine learning techniques, the app is constantly improving its transcription with more than 1,938 hours worth of transcribed subtitles, he said.  

“It started over five years ago when I had a student walk into my office and said ‘I want to be able to search lecture videos and find content because often I don’t learn it the first time,’ so we started our early prototype,” Angrave said. “Fast forward to today, our project is supported by Microsoft and National Center for Supercomputing Applications and growing with more and more courses each semester.”

Apart from being user-friendly for the students, Angrave’s team also strives to make online teaching easier for other instructors. 

“Each semester we have more faculty contact me saying ‘how do I get my videos onto ClassTranscribe?’” said Angrave. ”Then we can set out to help them so it doesn’t take any time on their part. We’ve made it very easy for faculty to use.”

As of now, 44 classes across five colleges in the University and a sophomore course at Grand Valley State University are using ClassTranscribe. 

Next semester, Angrave and his team will be able to “make books from videos.” Using an editing environment that allows its user to start with a 10 minute or two-hour video and turn their transcriptions and images into a PDF or EPUB file.

Despite being passionate about online learning, there are certain elements of in-person education that are still irreplaceable.

“I miss the actual energy of student interactions,” Angrave said. “I miss having lively office hours. I miss having lively lectures. It is hard to capture that when there is technology, distance and time between you.”

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