Zoom Live Transcription vs. Otter

Video captioning technology for education is evolving rapidly. At UCSF, there are multiple options for implementing captions in your online classroom and Zoom meetings. This article highlights the differences between the two recommended options for academic faculty and staff: Otter and Zoom Live Transcription.

Otter is a cloud-based, live transcription and captioning service that integrates with Zoom. It provides a robust set of features for offering live transcription and closed captions during a Zoom meeting, in addition to editing, sharing, dictation and transcription of previously recorded audio and video files.

Zoom Live Transcription is a feature built-in to all meetings that are hosted by UCSF Zoom users, and provides live closed captioning capabilities, along with the ability to view and download transcripts after the meeting is complete. During a meeting where Zoom Live Transcription is turned on, all participants have the option to save the transcript up till that point in the conversation from within their Zoom window. 

Zoom and Otter captoins side-by-side Learn more about Privacy and Otter

Both Otter and Zoom use highly-accurate AI (artificial intelligence) to transcribe speech in real time.

The question on everyone's mind is, "Which one should I use?" Please review the graphic and FAQ below to find answers to this question, and then contact the appropriate support group if you need additional assistance!

Zoom vs Otter comparison graphic

Learn more about Privacy and Otter

Who has access?

Zoom: All UCSF faculty, students and staff have access to use the built-in "Zoom Live Transcription" tools. The Zoom meeting host can enable this feature for all meeting participants at any time.

Otter: Only UCSF academic faculty and support staff have access to licensed Otter accounts. Contact a designated license manager to request an account. If you are eligible, and after your account is set up, Otter transcription features are available in all Zoom meetings that you host.

Which one should I use?

Non-academic users: Use the built-in Zoom Live Transcription tools. The tools are free, and easy to use. You can even view and download a transcript within the Zoom window before the meeting ends.

Academic faculty and support staff: If you are academic faculty or staff, you can use one, or both, depending on the needs of your students.

  • Use the built-in Zoom Live Transcription features if you only want to display closed captions within the Zoom window during a meeting. It is much easier to enable closed captions with the Zoom built-in feature than with Otter.
  • Use Otter if want more functionality, including a larger display for the live transcript during your Zoom session (in a separate window), and better control over editing and sharing transcripts after the meeting is complete.
  • Use Otter if you want to transcribe video and audio files that were previously recorded.
  • Use both if you want to show closed captions in the Zoom window during a meeting, but also want to edit and share the transcript later. Just be sure to explain this to your participants at the beginning of the meeting to avoid confusion.
What are the main differences between the two?


  • Free to all UCSF Zoom users
  • Approved for P1, P2, P3 and P4 data sharing
  • Enable closed captions with just a few clicks
  • Additional functionality is limited


  • Requires a license (academic only)
  • Approved for P1 and P2 data sharing
  • Access all previous transcripts in Otter account web portal
  • Multiple options for editing, sharing, and exporting transcripts
  • Add custom terms and speaker names to help AI accurately build transcripts
  • Transcribe previously recorded audio and video files
NOTE: More information about P1-P4 data designations is available here.
What is difference between "transcription" and "captions?"

These two terms are often used interchangeably, and the lines between each can blur when a service provider offers both capabilities, but they are not the same thing. In fact, when we say "Zoom Live Transcription" we are usually referring to the closed captioning functionality in Zoom.

  • Transcription: The text version of speech displayed in separate document or window.
  • Captions: The text version of speech displayed within a video, and often superimposed over the video as it plays.
  • Closed captions: The text version of speech displayed within a video, and often superimposed over the video as it plays, that can be toggled on/off by the viewer.
  • Subtitles: Captions that have been translated into another language.

Otter's strength is transcription, and Zoom's strength is closed captioning!

Additional info can be found here, and here.

How do I get more help?
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