For a while, some moves by the open education community was lost in translation and limited to English. But this past week, one of the biggest massive open online course (MOOC) providers Coursera teamed up with a nonprofit crowd-sourced subtitling platform called Amara. That means Coursera courses could become even more widely available to students and learners in other countries. Khan Academy is already using the service. Here’s a roundup of the reports on the development.
Bianca Da Silva writes on CollegeClasses.com:
In an effort to allow more students the opportunity to be able to access and understand the courses available through Coursera and the Khan Academy, these two organizations are now partnering with Amara, which is a crowd source subtitling platform which works with volunteers from all over the world who translate content from one language to another. While universities are offering their courses to platforms such as Coursera, these are often in English and this means that only a limited number of students can benefit from them; with the assistance of translators, however, there is no telling how many will be able to take advantage of these online offerings.
Amara was established in 2010, and yet it now boasts having added 200,000 subtitles in around 100 different languages to various online videos. A prime example of the abilities of Amara is the fact that volunteers were able to translate the Kony 2012 video into 30 different languages in only two days; a substantial achievement for just about any organization. With potential such as this, the platform will turn any course into one that is easy to understand by anyone, anywhere in the world.
According to the cofounder of Coursera, Andrew Ng, Amara has been able to assist the organization in delivering “educational videos to hundreds of thousands of students around the world”. Since the number of students enrolled with Coursera recently hit the 1 million mark, this is set to provide many with the opportunity to access courses that would have otherwise been unavailable to them. So far, a few of the lectures have already been translated into over 10 languages, and this number is set to skyrocket soon.
James Marshall Crotty at Forbes.com writes:
Amara has also collaborated with PBS, TED Talks and Netflix (featured in a previous Crotty post) to give individuals, communities, and larger organizations the power to overcome accessibility and language barriers for online video. The TED collaboration is particularly impressive. TED has an 11,000-person volunteer translation army that runs exclusively on Amara and translates every single TED talk into 40+ languages. In addition, the PBS Newshour translation team achieved fast turnarounds on transcripts, captioning and translations of videos from the Republican National Convention.
These partnerships are allowing Amara to secure market share within a growing industry. According to independent market research firm Common Sense Advisory, the overall market for translation and interpretation services hit $33.5 billion this year, up from $26 billion in 2009. While the market for translating online video in particular makes up a smaller unquantified subset of the larger industry that provides translation services in all contexts, consumption of online videos continues to increase rapidly. 181 million Americans watched 37 billion online videos in April 2012, according to web measurer comScore. Moreover, the average user spent almost seven more hours watching online video compared to a year before.
Amara is not the only organization to realize the potential for crowd-sourced subtitles. DotSUB is older and offers similar functionality, though TED Talks switched from dotSUB to Amara earlier this year. According to Amara’s Segall, “Amara’s tools are more cutting edge and user-friendly” than dotSUB. In addition, the Amara subtitle interface is simple enough for amateur volunteers to use. That’s not to say there haven’t been hiccups or disgruntlement with Amara software. And some TED translators still prefer the dotSUB model.
Other transcription startups include Cogi, Koemei, and Pods in Print. According to Segall, “such startups use an Amazon mechanical-turk strategy to quickly transcribe audio with human work or use a combination of voice recognition and human cleanup.” However, says Segall, these services tend to have a lower quality, even though Amara collaborates with them… If you would like to volunteer to make educational videos accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing or who want to watch a video in another language, please visit Amara’s volunteer page.
Janko Roettgers writes on GigaOm:
Coursera isn’t Amara’s first partner in the field of online education: The service, which was previously known as Universal Subtitles, launched a partnership with the Khan Academy last summer. The partnership with Coursera could take crowd-captioned education to the next level: Coursera has more than one million registered students, and it announced in July that its courses are already taken in 190 different countries.
Closed captioning has been getting more attention lately because of pressure from both disability advocates and regulators. Broadcasters and others distributing TV content online will have to start providing captions by the end of next month, the FCC recently decided. Video sites like Coursera aren’t bound to this mandate, but there are other benefits: Providing captions could not only help with the company’s international expansion, but also increase discoverability through search engines.
Amara started out as a project of the Participatory Culture Foundation, and has received $1 million in funding from the Mozilla Foundation and the Knight Foundation. The site offers tools for crowdsourced captioning, and its enterprise solutions have been used by companies like PBS and Netflix. Amara said on Monday that its tools have been used for more than 200,000 subtitles in the last year alone.