The use of e-learning has accelerated massively over the last few years. Forbes reports that in 2025, the worldwide e-learning market is projected to be worth $325 billion, more than doubling from $165 billion just a decade ago in 2015. Covid aided this growth, with restrictions meaning many courses needed to be delivered online. But improvements in technology have also led many to see online learning as the better option. This increased interest is particularly apparent in the corporate sector, where e-learning is expected to grow from $14.23 billion in 2017 to reach $49.87 billion by 2026, a CAGR of 15% during the forecast period.
With such a wide range of learners having differing needs, incorporating subtitles or closed captions into your e-learning videos can be highly beneficial. Below we explain how.
A quick side note
Before we start, here’s a quick side note on the difference between subtitles and closed captions: The purpose of closed captions is to allow deaf and hard-of-hearing people to experience the video. Therefore, they will include all background sounds and changes in speakers. Subtitles presume that the viewer can hear the audio, so do not describe these background sounds or notifications for speaker changes.
Adding high-quality subtitles or closed captions to your e-learning videos enables you to offer your courses to a wider demographic. As well as assisting deaf or hearing-of-hearing learners, they are highly valuable to non-native speakers. Of course, if you are targeting a specific non-English speaking market, you can translate your subtitles to localise your videos and make them even more accessible for the audience.
For training providers or companies, making your videos more available to a wider audience leads to increased viewing or sign up for your courses and, therefore, a better ROI.
Improving understanding and engagement
Whether the speaker has a strong accent or the recording quality is low, there are a few reasons why the audio in your video could be difficult to understand. When this is the case, subtitles become very helpful. They provide your viewers with a much better experience, meaning they do not have to go over the material time and again to determine the message and can engage better with the course.
Subtitles ensure the ideas conveyed throughout your course are clear and easier to retain. For example, if the speaker uses a homonym, there is no confusion about its meaning. If a new, unfamiliar or technical word is used, seeing it written on the screen helps the learner take it in and have a more meaningful learning experience. Having the correct spelling in front of them also supports any further research they wish to do.
With better understanding provided via subtitles, learners do not have to waste time going over the same material multiple times to obtain the necessary knowledge, saving them time and, again, improving their learning experience.
Sometimes you can’t have the volume on when listening to a video; perhaps you’re in a public place, on a bus or in a library and don’t have access to headphones. Subtitles mean that users don’t have to wait until later, and they can listen as and when they choose.
Google is another ‘user’ that can’t access audio. So, if you want to boost the ranking and visibility of your content, including subtitles will allow crawlers to index your material and rank it accordingly on its search engine results.
Having a written version of your course is highly valuable. These subtitles can be used to create course manuals, guides, blogs or even social media posts, extending your reach and maximising your ROI. They also provide a handy reference guide for teachers or instructors when reviewing what material has been delivered.
Meeting compliance standards
Whether you’re a company where specific training standards have to be met, or you’re an academic institution that needs to comply with disability accessibility, having subtitles or closed captions will help ensure that your e-learning course meets the required standards.
For example, having subtitles means that your video is covered by the Equality Act 2010, BS8878 and WCAG Standards. This is critical for universities and higher education, as they are legally obliged to make courses accessible. For the USA, the same level of compliance comes under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Subtitles offer considerable benefits to any e-learning video for the learner and the training institution or company delivering the material. However, engaging with a professional provider who creates high-quality subtitling is vital to ensure these benefits are provided.