[author: Erin Agidius]
Recording and transcribing interviews can be extremely useful for investigators and Title IX coordinators—if you plan and prepare properly. Some practitioners swear by the recording, others swear by it. Rather than taking a position on whether you should record/transcribe, this tip of the week discusses the pros and cons and how to maximize the effectiveness of recording/transcription if you choose to do so. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting out with interview recording and transcription, these tips will pave the way for success.
Let’s evaluate the pros and cons of interview recording and transcription.
Time: Record and transcribe interviews could Save time and increase efficiency. Have you ever calculated how long it takes to summarize an hour-long interview? For example, an average page of raw notes means about 25-30 minutes of turnaround time for “cleaning up” (e.g. formatting, coherence, corrections, etc.). Of course, transcribing a recording by hand also takes a lot of time, but there are shortcuts for this, which are discussed below.
staffing: If you generally rely on a two-investigator model, recording interviews in the event of staff shortages or understaffing will prevent further delays in your investigative schedule. It is difficult to find mutually agreeable times for two schedules (investigator and party/witness). However, when you add a third person (a second investigator or clerk) it can become downright difficult to align schedules. Recording allows for accountability approaching that of a two-examiner model without introducing scheduling delays.
accountability: If there is a discrepancy in the summary or a question about the tone or possible bias of the investigator(s), the Title IX Coordinator or Appeals Officer may review the recording and make a decision. This could avoid the widespread accusation that the investigator’s records are somehow inaccurate.
Training: Although we can continually review our recordings to learn how to ask questions better or improve our opening speech, the recordings can also serve as a training resource for other investigators to demonstrate skills and techniques, such as B. confronting a party or reminding an adviser role.
savings measures: Making a recording and using a transcription service can be much less expensive than hiring two investigators and far less expensive than going to court.
Of course, recording and transcription is only sometimes the solution. Otherwise everyone would be recording and this tip of the week would be useless. Some disadvantages can make you hesitate when deciding whether to record and transcribe your interviews.
Time: No, you do not see double. Unless you have the financial means to pay for a transcription service, correcting an automatically generated transcript can be as time-consuming (if not more) than cleaning up typical investigator meeting notes.
budget: The level of accuracy of your transcript may depend on your financial capabilities. When you rely on free or built-in transcription services, the end product has significantly more inaccuracies than a purchased service that includes human transcription. While it’s probably worth paying for human transcription services to minimize the time spent cleaning up the “end product,” the cost can be high. Transcription can also be frustrating when an investigation involves a lot of technical jargon or participants have heavy accents that transcriptionists may find difficult to decipher.
Record keeping: Title IX contains requirements for record retention, but also your institution, your board of directors, And Condition.  Additionally, these can vary based on the status of the people involved (e.g., employee or student) or the type of record (e.g., human resources, investigative, or financial), further complicating tracking different file retention requirements . The requirements may not match, which means you have to choose the one that is the most comprehensive. Before beginning this process, it is strongly recommended that you consult with your General Counsel to fully understand the implications. Note, however, that interview notes, recordings, or transcriptions are likely to have the same retention requirements, so this isn’t really a detriment to the recording, per se.
storage capacity: Depending on how you choose to record, your final product may contain individual audio, video, and document files. Do your systems have the storage capacity to retain the relevant records for the seven years required by Title IX? This period may be longer if you are struggling with other record retention requirements, particularly if you do not have a system in place to delete those electronic records.
Technical failures: This has happened to many of us. We are dependent on a recording device and the recording fails or the recording is corrupted in some way. That’s frustrating and means we’re still taking notes alongside recording, so recording may not mitigate the need to take good notes.
HOW TO BEGIN:
If you’ve weighed all the pros and cons and have concluded that recording and transcribing interviews is the right choice for your institution, here are some tips to get you started.
- Be prepared. The best plan for success in recording and transcribing interviews is preparation. Think about possible challenges and plan your way. You can’t predict every obstacle, but you can think through the ones that seem most likely to you:
- How will you record? Zoom, Teams, another software, app, or device?
- What challenges might you face when recording interviews in person or remotely? (For example, can a mic pick up all the voices at a table in a room versus a laptop mic on a person being interviewed remotely)? How can the transcriber know who is speaking when there are many people in the room?
- Should the technology fail, what is your plan? It’s often handy to have a backup technology or device on hand.
- Practice. Before you jump into a real interview, do a few dry runs. Use commonly used words in conversations that artificial intelligence might have a challenge to transcribe. Record for ten minutes to see how your recording methods handle multiple voices, accents, and words. What are the challenges and how do you improve your strategy? For example, you may learn that it’s best to include in your opening talking points information about how only one person should speak at a time to encourage audio capture and accurate transcription.
- get permission. While permitting the recording of interviews may or may not be required by law in your state, it is definitely a good practice. You can get permission before recording and confirm it when recording. Additionally, you can use a consent form that individuals sign (or submit if electronic) prior to the meeting. Consider how this might best work within your existing protocols.
- Proceedings. Outline an internal process or checklist for conducting recorded interviews. Consider posting an external document stating that you will be keeping recordings and answering some of the most likely questions.
- verification time. Regardless of whether you can afford human transcription services, you must allow time to review the “end product.” Human transcription services still make mistakes, and nothing can replace the memory and case knowledge of the investigator present at the interview. The time required depends on various factors. So be prepared for adjustments.
Recording and transcribing interviews can increase your efficiency, reduce your investigative times, and add a layer of accuracy, accountability, and transparency to your process.
 34 CFR §106.45(b)(10)