The University of Antwerp

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Examining the future of subtitled lectures at the University of Antwerp

Resource Details

  • Written by

    Ieva Miseviciute

  • Read time

    3 min

With the growing number of opportunities to study abroad, many universities are considering using English as an instructional language. Since limited proficiency in English might be a drawback, Ph.D. student Yanou Van Gauwbergen from the University of Antwerp dedicates his doctoral research to investigating whether live subtitling can help overcome the language barrier. He addresses his research query by using Tobii Pro Glasses 3 to see through the eyes of students.

University of Antwerp
Ph.D. candidate Yanou Van Gauwbergen studies the effect of intralingual live subtitling on perception, performance, and cognitive load in EMI (English as a Medium of Instruction) lectures.

Yanou and his supervisors, prof. Dr. Isabelle S. Robert and prof. Dr. Iris Schrijver, research goal is to understand the effect of intralingual live subtitling on students’ perception, performance, and cognitive load in lectures taught in English. In their most recent study, the researchers looked into student attention allocation and cognitive load during English-spoken and subtitled lectures. To this end, they equipped the classroom with eight pairs of Tobii Pro Glasses 3, which students wore during the lectures.

The study took place during Research Skills lectures in English to students of Applied Linguistics, of whom the majority have Dutch as their first language. The live subtitling was produced via respeaking¹ and automatic speech recognition-generated subtitles, alternating the two modes weekly over the total length of the study. The subtitles were provided in 20-minute intervals, allowing the comparison of subtitled and unsubtitled conditions. The researchers also took academic motivation and language proficiency into account, as these variables might account for individual differences.

University of Antwerp
The classroom setup and an example of the live gaze view with the Tobii Pro Glasses 3.

The researchers analyzed the eye tracking data using Tobii Pro Lab software which showed that students paid minimal attention to the subtitles. This was unrelated to cognitive load since cognitive load was not enhanced by exposure to subtitles. Students reported that they found the delay in respeaking distracting and generally preferred automatic speech recognition-generated subtitles. It is important to note that the English proficiency of the study participants was high, which may explain why they did not find the subtitles useful.

Both Tobii Pro Glasses and Tobii Pro Lab are user-friendly. The result output files are easy to read and understand.
Yanou Van Gauwbergen, Ph.D. candidate, University of Antwerp

The next step in the research will be to examine the effect of the subtitles on students with differing English proficiency levels. This would help to show whether subtitles could have demonstrable benefits when students with different English proficiency attend lectures.

Using Tobii Pro Glasses 3 in this study allowed the researchers to compare students’ self-perceptions with objective results: for example, perceived cognitive load vs. measured cognitive load through objective indicators, or perceived attention allocation to the subtitles vs. measured attention allocation through objective indicators.

Yanou shared a few tips for setting up classroom study with an eye tracker:

  • Strategically distribute eye tracking glasses among the students in the classroom to ensure everyone has a clear view of the learning environment.
  • To use multiple glasses simultaneously, connect the glasses to a laptop using a cable to avoid interference.
  • Make your laptop “Tobii proof” by installing the relevant software ensuring your laptop is compatible with the glasses.

Related information

Learn more about their research.


¹Respeaker is someone who repeats the words of a speaker, including punctuation marks, to a speech recognition software that converts the repeated words into written text, so into subtitles.

Resource Details

  • Written by

    Ieva Miseviciute

  • Read time

    3 min

    Resource type

    • Customer story

    Tagged products

    • Eye trackers

    Tagged solutions

    • Scientific research

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  • Tobii employee

    Ieva Miseviciute, Ph.D.


    As a science writer, I get to read peer-reviewed publications and write about the use of eye tracking in scientific research. I love discovering the new ways in which eye tracking advances our understanding of human cognition.

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