The University of Southampton

Spinout company created for award-winning software tool

Published: 19 December 2016

An award-winning Southampton software tool to make university lectures more accessible, has been launched as a spinout company to help address government cuts in the Disabled Student Allowance.

Recorded lectures are a valuable resource for students, but finding specific information within videos can be a frustrating task as, unlike textbooks, videos don’t have a contents page, page numbers or sections.

Synote provides a low cost, accurate captioning system that can unlock the value of multimedia by creating synchronised online and paper notes and transcripts.

The web-based annotation tool was developed by Professor Mike Wald and web developer Dr Yunjia Li, from Southampton’s Web and Internet Science (WAIS) research group in Electronics and Computer Science (ECS), to make it easier to access, search and manage multimedia resources.

Synote can be used alongside any lecture recording system and helps students gain maximum benefit from their lectures by flexibly combining, synchronising and searching these recordings, transcripts, slides, images and notes.

Synote Director Mike, who leads the University’s ECS Accessibility Team, said: “Every year in the UK, millions of hours of videos are generated from university lectures but hardly any are captioned. Students’ notes can miss 80 per cent of information delivered at lectures, so Synote’s low cost, accurate captioning system can make university courses more accessible and help boost academic performance benefitting all students, especially disabled and international students.

“It also allows viewers to search videos for any word or phrase and replay the video from that point onwards. Students can print out screenshots with the corresponding transcript and notes, and interactive quizzes and video polls can also be added.”

Synote benefits from more than 20 years speech recognition and captioning research in collaboration with some of the world’s leading companies. It uses automatic speech recognition to generate the captions for lecture videos and enables students to easily collaborate to correct any errors.

Mike said: “Government legislation requires captions to be provided to make lecture videos accessible but the cost of using captioning companies can be prohibitive. Synote can reduce this cost making captioning all lectures possible.”

Fellow Synote Director Yunjia Li has been awarded a Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Fellowship that identifies and supports the founders and leaders of tomorrow’s high-tech companies. Yunjia added: “We’ve already talked to more than 30 universities who agree that Synote could provide a great solution to the problems they share. We’ve started the company so that we can offer Synote to these customers and begin to make a real difference.”

Synote has received three major awards – the Times Higher Education ICT Initiative of the Year, the EUNIS Dorup E-Learning Award, and runner-up in the Individual Award category of the Association for Learning Technology Learning Technologist of the Year Award. Mike was also awarded a prestigious National Teaching Fellowship by the Higher Education Academy for enhancing learning and teaching through Synote.

To find out more about Synote visit

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