Extension has been doing a lot of video work lately. I know this because our Extension Technology Equipment Loan video kits have been booked pretty regularly all summer and now well into October. By the time you are done planning, shooting and editing your video, uploading it to YouTube may feel like the last step. It's not. One of the most important steps in the video production process is captioning. Adding captions to videos can feel time-consuming and you may be tempted to skip it but there are so many reasons why you shouldn't!

The Importance of Captioning

Adding captions to your videos make them accessible and usable by people of all abilities and all Extension videos must be captioned to be in compliance with The Americans with Disabilities Act. But not only does captioning help people with disabilities, research shows that everyone can benefit from from closed captions. A 2015 study on Student Uses and Perceptions of Closed Captions & Transcriptsconducted by Oregon State University's Ecampus Research Unit, showed:
  • The majority of students without a disability use captions at least some of the time
  • 66% of ESL students find captions "very" or "extremely" helpful
  • Captions help with comprehension, accuracy, engagement and retention.

Additional benefits of closed captioning and transcripts:
  • Improved indexing and searching: Search engines can’t watch a video or listen to audio but closed captions and transcripts make your video text-searchable.
  • View anywhere: Closed captioning allows people to view videos in places where audio is limited (e.g. library, office, bus).

Closed or Open Captions?

Closed captions are most common and utilize the functionality within video players and browsers to display closed captions below the video area. Closed captions can be turned on or off.

Open captions are a permanent part of the video and can’t be turned off. Open captions are usually added in the video editing process and are usually more time-consuming/expensive to produce.

Captioning Options

  1. You can do your own captioning
  2. You can hire a service to caption for you. They usually charge by length of video (approx $3/min). 
  3. The UMN Disability Resource Center is available to help if a person with a disability has specifically requested captioning. 

How to Caption in YouTube

There are three different methods for captioning in YouTube.
  1. Auto-sync is where YouTube creates captions for you which provides a good start if you don’t have a transcript file. You will always have to correct the auto-synched captions. If you don’t believe me, check out Rhett & Link’s caption fail YouTube channel (funny). 
  2. Create a transcript .txt file and upload it to YouTube. It should match the audio exactly.
  3. Create a transcript directly in YouTube. 
Step-by-step instructions for the three methods for captioning in YouTube are on the Accessible U website.

Do you have any tips for captioning videos to share with others? Please leave them in the comments!

Maybe it shouldn’t be a course at all.

You have evidence-based information and resources people want on topics they care deeply about, so they sign up for your course. But without a “carrot” or “stick,” when is the last time you completed an online course (or signed up at all)?

There is a great deal of agreement that online learner engagement and course completion rates are often low, especially in the non-credit setting. While there is a breadth of research on how to engage online learners in traditional online courses, the literature does not address the inherent challenges in assuming online courses are the primary way to provide educational content to specific audiences online who are not seeking credit or certification. It also fails to adequately describe the way people learn online informally in daily life. As a result, when people across Extension asked me (time and time again), “Why won’t people complete my online course?!” my answers came up short.

So this spring, I started working on a theory-building metasynthesis that aims to pick up the conversation here. I’ll jump to my findings here, but to learn more about the study methodology, get a copy of the associated rubric I created, or to generally nerd out with me on this topic, follow up with me during the Program Conference poster session (or any time!).

Online outreach education should be/have:

Learner-focused Content

The information and learning needs of a community should come first, rather than the implementation of the technology or selection of a specific tool or format.

Search & Navigation Friendly

In self-directed, informal learning, discoverability and easy navigation are critical elements to attracting and retaining potential learners.

Flexible Levels of Engagement

It is important to provide opportunities across the engagement spectrum (e.g., passive information acquisition, personal reflection, discussion-based processing, and building or generating something new).

Generally speaking, we Minnesotans don't need courses and workshops like we did “back in the day.” We rely on Google and our social networks when we want to learn a new skill or troubleshoot an issue in our homes, gardens, communities, etc.

How can your program be a part of the new paradigm?

Every once in awhile, I run into a video that refuses to play on my computer or it won’t import properly into a PowerPoint document. A solution that works for me is to convert the video file to an MP4 file format. I use a University supported tool called MediaHub to convert videos to a usable format.

How it works:
  1. Go to MediaHub.umn.edu
  2. Upload one or more video files at once
  3. Select the type of video file you want for playback: IOS/Android/Mobile, PowerPoint or Web. All of these options will produce an MP4 file but in the appropriate size/resolution for your playback choice.
  4. A download link will be emailed to you in a short time. Files are stored for 15 days and not recoverable after that.
You may not use this tool often but it sure is handy when you need it!

A couple of weeks ago, I was part of a brainstorming session where some people couldn’t attend in person. Our in person plan was to bring different colored post-it notes and use an in-room whiteboard. I set out to find us an online solution so everyone could participate.

I’ve used a few sticky note apps in the past, for organizing my own work and for online collaboration so I looked at those apps first. After considering Google Keep, note.ly and Stormboard, I settled on RealtimeBoard for our meeting.

RealtimeBoard is an endless virtual whiteboard that can be accessed from anywhere. You can:
  • Add files, notes, stickers, icons, draw, comments, images, video
  • Collaborate together at the same time or on your own
Here is an example of our whiteboard (zoomed out):

You can start with a blank board or from a template:

Once you are on your board, use the toolbar to add files, text, notes, boxes, arrows, lines and comments. You can upload documents from your computer, Google Drive, Dropbox, capture a web page, create a chart, add wireframes, icons and images:

I was able to copy/paste an entire column from Excel and it created notes for every single cell. That saved me a bunch of time!

When you add a sticky note, you can change the size, format text, change color, add tags and emojis. You can layer your notes or drag them anywhere on the whiteboard.

You can view a map of your whiteboard and use the zoom tools or your mouse to move to different parts of your board.

Use this app for your projects, visual planning, building wireframes, consensus workshops, presenting, creating infographics, brainstorming and visualizing ideas. I downloaded the app for my iPhone which will be great for times I don't have my computer with me. Check it out for yourself! It’s an awesome tool. Best of all is that it’s free for educational use.

It worked great for our meeting. I'd love to hear how a tool like this could help your work. Share your thoughts in the comments.

Quick Bytes Live! Podcast

#20:  The New Google Sites, Canvas update, and Tech Finds

(recorded July 18, 2017)
Karen and Amy talk over the features and limitations of The New Google Sites, as well as answer a listener question about Canvas. We also share our Tech Finds of the week.
 Links from this episode:
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Earlier this year, the New Google Sites was enabled for our University domain. They are pretty different from what we are used to, and in some cases that is a good thing!

To refresh all of our memories on why we love having Google Sites in the world:

Google Sites' strength is in its collaboration. Multiple people can be in charge of it. You can setup a site for a committee you're on, and everybody can add and maintain stuff. It is common for committee and project work. Below you'll see an example of using it for education--a great way to set it apart from the main website as a self-contained chunk of curriculum. ("Self Contained Chunk" is a very technical term!)

Here are two GREAT examples of pages made with the new Google Sites:

(the first one is just a screenshot since it's only supposed to be for Master Gardeners and you possibly aren't one of those)

Master Gardener "Flowers for Pollinators" teaching package resource site:

OMGosh. SO PRETTY!! And there are embedded google docs and presentations all over the place. It looks great.

Here's the new Google Site for Extension's big web re-design project:

You can see on both of these how you can add a little branding. I show that in the video below too.

Old Google Sites was very unique looking

Just Tell Me What's Different Already!

  • Less distinctively weird looking. More modern.
  • Looks good on mobile
  • Add anything from Google apps (Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Charts, Videos, or Images, Calendars, Maps, and YouTube videos). All of these show a preview of the file, with the full content viewable after a visitor selects the file. The Old Google Sites did something similar but it's just nicer now.
  • You can drag content around and it snaps into place
  • You can publish just to your organization (umn.edu) or the world. The World! Mwahahaha!
  • You can customize the url (a bit)
  • If you want super granular permissioning (like picking what specific people can see specifically), it is possible in the Old Google Sites but I haven't found a way to do that in New Google Sites
  • As far as I can tell, you can't convert an Old Google Site to a New Google Site.

In which I demo making a site in less than 5 minutes

The University’s z.umn.edu URL-shortening service recently added some great new features that you should know about! Back in March 2016, our article How to Shorten a Link (URL) and Track It described what z.umn.edu is and why you would use it. Today I want to highlight what is new in Z and share a short video that shows you how to use the new features.

Transfer Ownership

You now have the ability to transfer ownership of your links to someone else. This feature is great if you are leaving your position or if you no longer need to manage the z-link for a project, event, document, survey, website, etc.
  1. Under My Z-Links, select one or more URLs
  2. Click Give to a different user
  3. Enter the name or Internet ID of the person you want to transfer to
NOTE: The person you are transferring to must accept it. You can revoke access until they accept.

Organize and Share Collections

You can group your URLs into collections to organize them (e.g. projects, events, documents). Collections can be shared with other users to edit, view stats and add URL’s.

Create a collection:
  1. Under My Collections, click Add New Collection
  2. Enter a name and description and click Create Collection
Share a collection:
  1. Under My Collections, click the under the actions column and select Members
  2. Enter a name or Internet ID and click Add member
Transfer a URL to a collection:
  1. Under My Z-Links, find the URL you want to transfer
  2. Under the Collections column drop-down, select a collection

Departmental Accounts

You can use a departmental account to log into z.umn.edu to create and manage URLs. You can also share collections with departmental accounts.


As soon as you create a URL, you can click the Tweet button to quickly share the URL via Twitter.

QR Code

A custom QR code is automatically created with any new z-link. When you create a new URL, you can click the QR Code button to download a QR image to your computer. 
Existing links:
  1. Click the under the actions column
  2. Select Share and QR code
  3. The QR code image is downloaded to your computer


You can still view statistics about your URLs by clicking the under the actions column and selecting stats. The page layout has changed a bit and they’ve added a place to manage the collection for your link, and buttons to tweet and create a QR code.