The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost is one of the most famous poems in the English language. It reminds readers to be independent thinkers and make courageous choices. Many of you will recognize the lines from the last stanza of this poem: 

I shall be telling this with a sigh 
Somewhere ages and ages hence: 
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— 
I took the one less traveled by, 
And that has made all the difference. 

But imagine with us, for a moment, if the first time you heard this poem, you heard it with something around 95% accuracy? That’s close to 100%, so it couldn’t make that much of a difference...right? Well, let’s take a look at what happens when we change just two letters in this poem: 

I shall be telling this with a sigh 
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two toads diverged in a wood, and I— 
I took the one Jess traveled by, 
And that has made all the difference. 

All of a sudden we see some major issues. 

We’re in a forest and we see two toads. So far, so good. Then these two amphibians decide to part ways. And we decide to follow...the toad that Jess traveled by? What does it mean to travel by a toad? Who is Jess? And why would following Jess’s toad make any sort of difference whatsoever? (And, we might wonder, why in the world is this strange toad poem so popular?) 

This stanza contains 35 words. Changing just two of those words results in 94.3% word accuracy. 

Without any context, 94.3% transcription accuracy seems pretty decent. However, when we start to look at how dramatically those 5.7 percentage points can skew the entire meaning of something, suddenly 94.3% isn’t even close to being good enough. 

If 94.3% accuracy completely changes the meaning of this relatively straightforward poem, just think of how badly it could obscure the meaning of a college lecture on something as complicated as electrochemistry or architecture? 

There are many students who rely on the support of transcription services in order to be successful. But how can we expect them to be successful if they’re trying to decipher what it means to “follow the toad Jess traveled by” instead of pondering the profundity of courageous and independent decision-making? 

Accuracy in Our Everyday Lives 

Let’s think about another example from everyday life. 

This time we’ll visit your local grocery store. At the deli counter, you ask for your favorite pasta salad. You watch the counter attendant weigh your food and hand it to you. You put the pasta salad in your cart and are shocked when you glance at the label. The pasta salad is more expensive than usual…and it’s not a result of inflation. The scale wasn’t accurate and you paid way more than you should have. Continuing on your shopping trip, you stop in the snack food aisle and grab a new bag of chips. You have a nut allergy and read the label, confirming it’s safe for you to eat. But what if the packaging company had adopted a “close enough” policy in their manufacturing or labeling? What if they had actually mislabeled the bag of chips you bought in the store? In this case, a mislabeled bag could result in a health scare or even a trip to the emergency room. 

No matter the situation or setting, accuracy is essential. 

We know from our own life experiences that it’s frustrating to feel like you’ve paid more than you should have to due to an error or when the services you rely on fail to meet your needs. We all have general expectations for accuracy in our everyday lives and feel frustrated when our goals are hindered by a lack of it. 

Now, imagine if that frustrating experience and a lack of accuracy in the world around you wasn’t just an exception but rather your everyday norm.

Hearing from Students 

These feelings are common for many college students who rely on accurate transcriptions in the classroom. In a research article by Gernsbacher, over 100 empirical studies confirmed the numerous benefits of accurately captioned videos for students. These accurate video captions can benefit all learners, and yet some of the methods for captioning and interpretation can often fail to meet expectations. 

Let’s read some quotes from some deaf or hard-of-hearing students to learn from their experiences. These students spoke with the National Deaf Center to give us powerful glimpses into their worlds. 

In one video, a student talks about the importance of captions and ensuring clarity within accessibility resources: 

One of the most frustrating, challenging barriers to is lack of captioning on videos like YouTube and social media content. Without it, I’m left out. In the classroom I’ll tell the professor when videos are not captioned. I remind them to please provide the accommodations I’ve requested as a deaf or hard of hearing student. When videos have no captions it means I have to try and watch the interpreter and the video. I want interpreting and CART, plus captions on all videos, so I can access content clearly. Not only for me, but for equity to all deaf and hard of hearing students. 

Another student, Christopher, shared about how his experience in the classroom was vastly different than his classmates. For example, his professor was sharing detailed pictures of architecture on a PowerPoint presentation and pointing out different features of that architecture. However, Christopher had to watch a delayed interpreter instead of being able to focus on the architectural details the professor was trying to showcase. 

How can students like Christopher learn the intricacies of building and design like this? 

Solutions with Limits 

You might have noticed that the first student requested interpreters as well as a service called CART. Let’s talk about that option for a moment. CART stands for Communication Access Realtime Translation. CART professionals listen to presentations, lectures, or other audio in real-time and use software to produce near-live captions for those in the audience. 

This can be a powerful accessibility solution for some situations. But we think it falls short in a classroom situation for three main reasons. First, while fast, there is still some delay in the transcriptions. Remember Christopher’s struggle with trying to watch the interpreter while also watching the powerpoint? This would cause similar difficulties for students. 

Second, this could be a great resource for one-time conferences or meetings. But because it would require either a live person to be in every classroom every day, providing this service for all courses and for all students, or a CART captioner to be able to dial in virtually and provide the service, which has its own technical challenges, and is not realistic or sustainable. 

Third, CART captioners are required to be able to produce 180 words per minute with 96% accuracy. As we saw in the Robert Frost example in the beginning of this article, this level of accuracy may seem close, but in an academic setting “close” is just not close enough. 

So what are we left with? Students who have to choose between watching an interpreter or tracking with a PowerPoint. Students who are trying to do their best with 96% accurate CART captions. Universities are trying to figure out how they can support students while not breaking their budget. 

The Most Accurate Echo 

We believe students (and universities!) deserve better. 

It’s challenging enough to learn the intricacies of poetry, economics, and architecture without having to sort through nonsense words and poor translations or deal with frustrating delays. 

We knew there had to be a solution that provided much needed accuracy and true accessibility while also being a feasible, long-term solution for universities. 

Echo Labs is pioneering new cutting-edge CASPER AI technology that enables us to provide over 99% guaranteed accuracy on all transcriptions at the lowest rates on the market. While other AI transcription services guarantee 80-95% accuracy, there is now a much better option that can lead to much greater student success. This is a game-changer for universities and can be life-changing for students who rely on these services. 

Imagine something with us for a second. 

Imagine if Christopher could go back and watch the lecture with accurate captions so he could catch all of the details in the PowerPoint presentation. Imagine if the first student could get his wish and have all university content accurately transcribed and never again feel left behind. Imagine how much beauty and progress could be born into the world if all students were given the tools needed for clarity instead of having to stumble over the meaning of nonsense words in famous poetry. 

Imagine if accessibility was truly, well…accessible. 

We like imagining that kind of world. 

Let’s chat soon and get CASPER in the hands of every student who needs it. In the words of the great poet Frost—to those students, it will make all the difference.