Academic Transcription

Dec - 08

Academic Transcription

Why Academic Transcription is a Great Idea for Students, Faculty, and Schools

“There never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do once you find them.” Wise words from Jim Croce, which most definitely apply to the college experience. Time flies by for students and educators alike, particularly during the exhaustive process of preparing dissertations or lecture material. But you need not look to save time in a bottle when it can be saved just as easily through academic transcription.


Research for major papers quite often involves conducting interviews. While the hour or so spent with the interview subject can be enjoyable, the prospect of typing up that interview (and dozens of others) is far less appealing. Just as an exercise, record yourself speaking for a minute. Then, transcribe that minute. You’ll probably be in the neighborhood of six to eight minutes of typing. Project that over an hour-long interview, and you’re talking six to eight hours. And over a dozen interviews? You might as well start planning now to stay in school a couple weeks past graduation… or at least skip Spring Weekend and a few other fun activities. An experienced transcriptionist takes three to four hours to do the same hour of audio, which makes him or her able to turn around your project in half the time, allowing you to focus on the other elements of your dissertation and get to the final draft process much quicker. And an added benefit is that transcriptionists proof their work before submitting it, so if formatting and grammar are not your strong suits, it’s like a 2-in-1 proposition—part of your dissertation will already be proofread before it gets to that last draft. Even if you hadn’t originally been considering transcribing your interviews, preferring instead to keep them as audio files to refer to when needed, consider how frustrating it could be after weeks of interviews to go back looking for that one great quote that you know somebody said somewhere in one of those interviews. With transcribed files, you have the option of doing a simple search function in Word to find those keywords. Without them? Well… you’re back to wasting a lot of time. And maybe it’s even a case where quickly scanning the transcripts might stimulate a thought that takes your dissertation in a new, improved direction— something you might have missed during the conversation and wouldn’t have discovered unless you sat through each of the audio files again. After all, a good interviewer is not necessarily taking feverish notes throughout;they’re engaged with their subject. An academic transcription is the most complete set of notes you could ever ask for, all the while allowing you to focus on the person with whom you’re speaking.


Similar to the interviewer-interviewee dynamic above, the instructor-student dynamic is most effective when students are fully engaged in the class. With heads bent over desks and hands frantically scrawling notes or fingers frenetically typing away, there’s little time for back-and-forth discussions. Moreover, crucial words of wisdom are bound to get missed. An electronic copy of the day’s lecture posted online is an effective way to make sure that students can review the material—and have it available as a refresher prior to exams—without missing out on the opportunities of the in-class experience. And not having to do the actual transcription yourself frees you up for spending that out-of-class time engaged in your own research or extending your office hours to have more personal interaction with your students. Having the lesson available in written form is also a benefit to those educators whose schools pride themselves on having a multicultural community. Students who do not speak English as their first language have the opportunity to go through the lesson again at their own pace, filling in the blanks that might have occurred while they listened to it the first time. And students who are hard-of-hearing? Your class has been opened up to this demographic as well. And lastly, students who for whatever reason simply can’t make it to the day’s lecture can keep up with the class. Regardless of whether they were sick or out of town, with quick transcription turnaround times, they can be caught up before the next lesson—perhaps even as early as the day after the missed lecture.


Many universities have begun to offer online courses and programs to supplement their existing on-campus degree programs. In so doing, the universities are able effectively able to expand their student base while minimizing the additional cost. The University of Massachusetts offers an online program (UMassOnline) that in 10 consecutive years from 2001 to 2011 saw double digit growth in both enrollment and revenue. [Source: One World Class UMass Online]. With fast turnaround times for transcription, your online students can keep up with your on-campus students over the course of the semester. And at the end of the semester, you’ll have an entire course’s worth of lectures on file that can become the backbone of a stand-alone, at-your-own-pace online course offering. Other facets of the college experience can be shared. Guest lectures, commencement speeches, group forums, presentations, and so on are worth documenting and sharing—to attract applicants, to stay connected with alumni, to inspire community members and potential donors to become invested in your school. The sharing can take place on both an intra-university and interuniversity basis as well, as innovative ideas that spring from department meetings or forums can more easily be distributed to other departments within the university, or to similar departments in other universities.

Academic transcription also helps universities develop archives that can honor their past while serving to instruct their present and guide their future. Think of universities like Harvard and Yale—while their history is a storied one, much of it is just that: stories. Imagine the wealth of university knowledge that could be accessible to a Crimson or Eli student with a simple mouse click had quick and affordable transcription been available throughout the last 250 years. Imagine what your students will have access to in 100 years if you start documenting today!

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