Audio feedback and human touch?

This posting was triggered by Jim asking me how I use voice recording to provide audio rather than written feedback on student assignments (in week 2). I’ve been doing this for about 6 years now and the feedback from students is overwhelmingly positive – I’ll describe this in more detail later on. I think voice recording is particularly relevant in online teaching because it adds an element of presence – the so-called human touch, which is often lacking in an online environment. So here goes:

Voice recording tools: I use a digital recorder, an Olympus WS-311M, which has an in-built microphone and USB port for easy uploading to a PC/VLE); my colleague prefers her mobile phone. PCs/Macs with voice recording functionality can also be used for recording audio feedback; software and apps include Audacity, Vocaroo, Audioboo and Voxopop (just Google them).

  • How? The procedure we have found to be most practical is the following. After reading through the assignment, inappropriate parts are annotated with the corresponding correction symbol (for language problems), and numbers are added to help the student identify which part the tutor is later referring to in the audio feedback (AF). Each recording then starts by the tutor personally greeting the student, followed by a brief, task-related, encouraging comment. The tutor then outlines how the feedback is organized (depends on the marking rubric) and talks the student through the assignment i.e. tips as to how the he/she could improve content, language, and organization are given, referring to the symbols, numbered parts or paragraphs to help the student pinpoint the part being discussed. As in normal speech, incomplete sentences, repetitions, slips of tongue, fillers such as ehs & uhms and pauses occur and can be ignored. The intention is to be as spontaneous and natural as possible, simulating a face-to-face situation. A final, positive, constructive remark concludes the recording. Audio files (with the consent of the students) are then uploaded to the VLE together with the annotated assignments for students to access. After listening to the feedback, they edit their assignments accordingly and re-submit for final assessment, thus hopefully benefiting and learning from the feedback received.
  • Why? Compared to written feedback, students value the fact that audio feedback is more detailed, more personal and thus more helpful. Our other usages of audio feedback are to comment on tasks and reflections students submit in connection with their SDL, to provide pronunciation feedback on spoken tasks done during online phases, and to record our reflections on end-of-course evaluations.

Screencasting: The other audiovisual tool I use to provide feedback is Jing ( Jing is free screencasting software which enables you to make a short video (maximum 5 mins/no editing whilst recording possible) of what is on your computer screen.

  • How? We have been using Jing to provide digitised group feedback to our students on language errors (documented in a Word file) from their online forum postings. This means that students are able to watch a video of the tutor talking them through and simultaneously onscreen correcting the errors in the opened Word document. The link to this screencast (saved on the Jing server) is embedded in the course outline on the VLE for the students to access whenever and as often as it suits them; it can also be mailed to them. We have also used screencasting to show students how to use technology and to virtually introduce an ESP course that started with an online rather than a F2F session.
  • Why? Our rationale for using screencasting is three-fold. Firstly, providing feedback in the form of a screencast that can be viewed during an online phase frees up valuable F2F time for other activities. Secondly, explaining while visually highlighting and correcting errors on-screen helps students to understand the feedback more easily than just posting a copy of the answers. Finally, screencasting allows students to watch the feedback again. Here’s a great video tutorial on how to use Jing:

All in all, I feel that by using voice recording and screencasting tools, we can now provide more personal, more meaningful and more effective instruction in an acoustically and/or visually supported manner. Intonation and voice tone both help to convey feelings, which in turn really help to create tutor presence and build rapport (the human touch). Finally, since students can decide when, where and how often they listen/watch, an element of choice is added, an important step towards promoting learner autonomy.

What do you think? Would voice recording/screencasting be feasible in your teaching situation? I’d be very interested to hear from anyone who has some experience of providing audio and/or video feedback.

6 thoughts on “Audio feedback and human touch?

  1. Thanks, Greg – have just read her posting and wasn’t really surprised to read that her students also really appreciate audio feedback 😊 Won’t be joining this week’s round-up in about an hour’s time – I’m already falling asleep( it’s midnight in Vienna) – but am looking forward to watching the recording. Have fun together!

  2. Love Jing..I too have had some great feedback regarding audio/screencasting feedback for papers. I think that this shows that no only do you want to connect with your student – but the feedback is more meaningful – you can decipher tone which you can’t do with text feedback. Thanks for posting =)

  3. Veronica,

    I really like the idea of doing audio responses to papers. I think this would be much less time consuming than marking each paper and it certainly adds a new dimension to the feedback process.

  4. Veronica,

    I think that having audio feedback to papers sounds like a great idea. I had not thought of doing this before but I can see where it would certainly add another dimension to the feedback the student receives and add more of a human touch. I can also see where perhaps this could make the grading/feedback process a little quicker and smoother than marking on each paper. Also I think it allows for some ideas to be more easily translated. I’m going to have to try this.

  5. I’m sure you’ll find it very effective and definitely more enjoyable than writing your feedback, Sara. l’m looking forward to hearing how you get on!

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