Lecture transcription systems in resource–scarce environments
De Villiers, Pieter Theunis
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Classroom note taking is a fundamental task performed by learners on a daily basis. These notes provide learners with valuable offline study material, especially in the case of more difficult subjects. The use of class notes has been found to not only provide students with a better learning experience, but also leads to an overall higher academic performance. In a previous study, an increase of 10.5% in student grades was observed after these students had been provided with multimedia class notes. This is not surprising, as other studies have found that the rate of successful transfer of information to humans increases when provided with both visual and audio information. Note taking might seem like an easy task; however, students with hearing impairments, visual impairments, physical impairments, learning disabilities or even non-native listeners find this task very difficult to impossible. It has also been reported that even non-disabled students find note taking time consuming and that it requires a great deal of mental effort while also trying to pay full attention to the lecturer. This is illustrated by a study where it was found that college students were only able to record ~40% of the data presented by the lecturer. It is thus reasonable to expect an automatic way of generating class notes to be beneficial to all learners. Lecture transcription (LT) systems are used in educational environments to assist learners by providing them with real-time in-class transcriptions or recordings and transcriptions for offline use. Such systems have already been successfully implemented in the developed world where all required resources were easily obtained. These systems are typically trained on hundreds to thousands of hours of speech while their language models are trained on millions or even hundreds of millions of words. These amounts of data are generally not available in the developing world. In this dissertation, a number of approaches toward the development of LT systems in resource-scarce environments are investigated. We focus on different approaches to obtaining sufficient amounts of well transcribed data for building acoustic models, using corpora with few transcriptions and of variable quality. One approach investigates the use of alignment using a dynamic programming phone string alignment procedure to harvest as much usable data as possible from approximately transcribed speech data. We find that target-language acoustic models are optimal for this purpose, but encouraging results are also found when using models from another language for alignment. Another approach entails using unsupervised training methods where an initial low accuracy recognizer is used to transcribe a set of untranscribed data. Using this poorly transcribed data, correctly recognized portions are extracted based on a word confidence threshold. The initial system is retrained along with the newly recognized data in order to increase its overall accuracy. The initial acoustic models are trained using as little as 11 minutes of transcribed speech. After several iterations of unsupervised training, a noticeable increase in accuracy was observed (47.79% WER to 33.44% WER). Similar results were however found (35.97% WER) after using a large speaker-independent corpus to train the initial system. Usable LMs were also created using as few as 17955 words from transcribed lectures; however, this resulted in large out-of-vocabulary rates. This problem was solved by means of LM interpolation. LM interpolation was found to be very beneficial in cases where subject specific data (such as lecture slides and books) was available. We also introduce our NWU LT system, which was developed for use in learning environments and was designed using a client/server based architecture. Based on the results found in this study we are confident that usable models for use in LT systems can be developed in resource-scarce environments.
- Engineering