Improving accessibility in EdTech: Why and how to add subtitles and captions in Moodle

February 21, 2023 By Christin Bohnke

You’ve been there. It’s Friday night and the stress of the week is behind you. You settle on your sofa, ready to finally catch up on True Detective. Snuggled under your blanket, you switch on your TV, keen to lose yourself in the dark underbelly of Louisiana. Matthew McConaughey’s Detective Cohle starts speaking about religious symbols and murderers.

And you don’t understand a word. Dialogue lines fly over your head, you can barely follow the plot. Frustrated, you switch on subtitles. Better!

Millions of us watch our favorite shows with subtitles or closed captions, either because we don’t understand a particular accent, have trouble with the mumbling of a certain actor, or because we watch a show in a foreign language.

However, what is a convenience when streaming films and TV shows, becomes an absolute necessity in online education – particularly for students with hearing impairments or other conditions.

Subtitles and captions in online courses allow students with disabilities, non-native speakers, and those who learn through listening to study more effectively. 

In a survey by Oregon State University, a whopping 98.6 percent of students say captions are helpful and 85% use captions as learning aids when watching educational videos.  

Yet, many instructors shy away from providing subtitles or captions in their Moodle classes, either because they are not aware of the benefits or think that they don’t have the technical expertise.

Luckily, Moodle allows educators to create automated captions and subtitles easily and effectively. Read on to learn more about why these tools are so vital, how they enhance online classes, and how to add automated subtitles and captions to Moodle courses.

What’s the difference between captions and subtitles?

Captions and subtitles provide text on the screen to help audiences and learners follow the content of what is being said. The main difference between the two are intent and audience.

Captions are always in the same language as the original content. An English-language TV show will have English captions. In addition to providing information on what is being said, they also include non-speech elements such as audio effects (think Stranger Things’ wetly squelching tentacles) and music descriptions. Captions are specifically targeted at people who are hearing impaired. Closed captions can be added as needed. In contrast, open captions are embedded into the text and can’t be turned off.

Subtitles don’t have to be in the same language as the original content. They strictly transmit what is being said on the screen. People use subtitles to understand foreign-language content or difficult accents, because they are in a noisy environment or because they have an easier time following along when reading and listening simultaneously. Subtitles usually lack speaker identification and further information and are not an accessibility tool.

Simply put, captions are for accessibility, subtitles for internationalization.

What should you use in your online classroom: captions or subtitles?

The choice is up to you and depends on your target audience. Students who are deaf or hard of hearing benefit most from captions. If you have students who are non-native speakers, subtitles may be more appropriate. In some cases, it may be useful to provide both captions and subtitles for maximum accessibility.

Why use captions or subtitles in your online teaching?

You are most likely teaching a diverse body of learners with a wide range of needs and prerequisites. Adding closed captions or subtitles to your class will allow you to accommodate your students and increase learning outcomes.


This is the big one! Students with a learning disability, impaired hearing, or other conditions depend on subtitles or captions. Certain legislation might require you to provide captions or subtitles as is the case with the Americans with Disabilities Act in the United States.

However, subtitles and captions are not just a tool for students with disabilities. A study by Educause showed that 50% of learners without disabilities also use captions.

Not every student has access to a quiet study space, high-quality audio equipment, and a fast internet connection. Providing subtitles or captions ensures learners can follow the course whatever their background or prerequisites.

Comprehension and retention

Subtitles can help learners retain information better, as they provide an additional way to process the information presented in a video. They also lower the barrier for non-native speakers who might struggle with their listening skills.

Language acquisition

Learn French by watching Call Your Agent. Improve your Korean with Parasite. Listening to content and reading subtitles simultaneously allows audiences to improve their language skills. What holds for the latest K-Drama, also applies to your classroom. In courses with subtitles or captions, non-native learners can practice reading and listening comprehension at the same time.


One of the advantages of online classes is that they can be accessed from anywhere in the world. You might originally have designed your course for learners in the US. By including subtitles in different languages, you open up your class to a global audience who can understand the content regardless of their location or language proficiency.

Best practices for implementing automatic caption and subtitles in your Moodle classes

Adding subtitles or captions to your Moodle classes is easy. Before we show you the tools to make your course more accessible and international, keep the following best practices in mind:

Know your audience and your material

Know whether subtitles or captions are the better solutions for your learners, and identify where in the course these tools are most beneficial. A listening comprehension exercise in a language class might not be the best place for subtitles.

Check for accuracy

Moodle allows you to create subtitles and closed captions automatically. While these tools are generally accurate, the Web Accessibility Initiative emphasizes that whenever possible, automated subtitles and captions should be checked for accuracy to avoid misunderstandings.

Ensure easy access

Make sure your learners know where to find the button to turn on captions or subtitles. You can either include a captioning button or toggle in your video player, make subtitles and captions the default option, or give students keyboard shortcuts, such as the ability to turn captions on and off with a single keystroke. The goal is to lower the barriers to accessing subtitles and captions as far as possible.

Provide alternatives

Subtitles and captions are an effective way to ensure that your course is accessible but they are not a catch-all solution. Consider providing audio descriptions or sign language interpretation to ensure that your content is accessible to a wide range of learners.

How to implement closed captions and subtitles in your Moodle course

A wide range of tools and products make adding subtitles to your course easier than ever before. Read on to learn how to implement them in your Moodle class.


Poodll is a language teaching tool for Moodle that allows educators to create engaging and productive lessons, auto-grade assignments, and add interactive transcripts to their courses – among other things.

With just a few clicks, you can turn subtitled media links and players into interactive subtitle players. If you do not have subtitles already Poodll can auto-create them and  allow you to edit them.

For a step-by-step walkthrough on how to add interactive subtitles to your Moodle classes with Poodll, take a look at this guide.

3Play Media

3 Play Media is a media accessibility company that combines technology and human expertise to make online videos more accessible.

Check out 3Play Media’s how-to guide on how to add transcripts to your Moodle course here.


RevCaptions provides open and closed captioning services to increase the reach and accessibility of videos.

Take a look at RevCaptions’ handy guide on how to add subtitles to Moodle classes here.

Free tools for adding subtitles and captions

If you have some time on your hands, you can also add subtitles and captions to your Moodle course for free.

First, you have to create the subtitles by transcribing the video and adding time-stamps in minutes and seconds. Make sure your file is in the WebVTT caption format. If you have never produced subtitles or don’t know how to create a WebVTT file, follow this step-by-step instruction.

You then upload the file to Moodle. In case you are unsure how to add your captions and subtitles to your Moodle course, the California College of the Arts Library has made this handy video guide.

If you embed a YouTube video in your course, you can also use YouTube’s auto-captions which saves you the work of creating the caption file. However, keep in mind that YouTube’s captions only provide a 60-70% accuracy rate which can lead to funny mistranslations but might also prevent your learners from understanding your course.

No matter which provider you choose or if you decide to create your own captions, adding subtitles and captions to your Moodle course allows you to access a wider audience, ensures that all students can follow your class, and accommodates a wide range of learners. With Moodle’s subtitle and closed caption partners, it has never been easier to provide accessibility and increase the internationalization of your courses.