Whether you're a student who's trying to master a difficult subject or you're a teacher who's concerned about your students' success, converting a lecture to a text format may be the path to get there. Transcribing lectures can help students improve their retention of information. If you're committed to transcribing lectures you host or attend, you have multiple ways to go about it.
If the lecture you're going to be recording is your own, perhaps the most often-recommended option is Dragon Dictation, available as an app for most devices as well as a software package for desktop computers. Dragon has a solid reputation for recording with relative accuracy -- but that's probably because you'll spend about 10 minutes speaking a script the app gives you, in order for it to learn your voice. If you're not the teacher or lecturer, however, this might not be the best option. While real-time apps are still a bit elusive, Dragon translates speech into text fairly quickly. Other similar apps are available for mobile devices, though many will only record short notes or small bits of audio data at one time.
Another software option is InqScribe, available for Windows and Mac computers. Unlike the Dragon apps, the software requires you to first record your audio file using an audio or video recording device, or to record using your computer's camera or audio recorder. With the media recorded, you'll simply drag and drop the file into InqScribe's translation window. Play the video or audio file, and the words will appear on the right hand side of the screen slightly after they're spoken. One possible limitation: if you're using audio-only files and don't have accompanying video, you'll only see a blank screen in the video file window, instead of the audio waveforms that some audio editors might use to more easily edit the audio. On the positive side, once you've transcribed the video or audio files, you'll be able to export them to a video editor for use as subtitles in a video project.
Another option: record the lecture as a video file, and then upload it to YouTube. The video sharing website has an automatic captioning service available in English as well as a handful of other languages. YouTube admits on its website that some subtitles may not come out perfectly -- but that's why you're allowed to edit the captions as you see fit.
Possibly the most expensive option is to hire a transcription service. Record the lecture using any number of recorders on your mobile phone or computer, and then turn the media files over to a professional transcriber, who will convert the material into a text format. Most cities will have multiple local transcription service companies; check your local business listings. Since you're paying a person to spend his time listening to your lecture, you'll pay a premium for the service -- but you'll generally be guaranteed accuracy. If you're someone who has trouble hearing -- or you have a deaf or hard of hearing student who requires a transcript of your lecture -- this may be the best option for you, since it will help you get the most accurate text.
- Faculty Focus: Multimedia Lectures: Tools for Improving Accessibility and Learning
- Chronicle of Higher Education: 5 Easy Speech-to-Text Solutions
- The New York Times: Make a Note of It: Speech Recognition Apps Are Getting Better
- YouTube: Automatic Captions
- Language Documentation & Conservation: InqScribe
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