Are Captions in Video Tutorials a Bad Idea?

Proceedings of The 4th International Conference on Research in Education

Year: 2021


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Are Captions in Video Tutorials a Bad Idea?

Yihe Wang and Chris Evans



The use of video tutorials is becoming increasingly prevalent in education. To make them accessible to a wider audience, it has also become common practice to produce the videos with captions that duplicate the words being spoken. When added, captions are presented visually as on-screen text simultaneously with audio information (narration). This is known as redundancy because the same information is communicated twice. Current research in multimedia learning suggests that this redundancy may result in cognitive overload, causing a decrease in memory and understanding. The current study considers evidence for the redundancy principle for captioning which states that for video tutorials, people learn better with captioning turned off. In an experiment, participants were randomly divided into a caption group and a no-caption group. The caption group watched an instructional video with a narrated visual demonstration and captions turned on. The no-caption group watched the same video with captions turned off. After watching the video, learning was assessed through three types of tests: retention, matching and transfer. The results showed evidence that the use of captions resulted in a decrease in understanding for the caption group in at least some circumstances. The study concludes by discussing the circumstances in which captioning may have negative impact and also considers those circumstances in which it may have a positive impact on learning.

keywords: accessibility, cognition, multimedia learning, redundancy effect, subtitles.