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Bob Rotheram :: Blog :: What’s it like?

July 14, 2008


I’ve been looking at the comments sent in by the Sounds Good team about their experience of using audio for feedback. I haven’t got all the information yet, but the picture is fairly clear. What do they think of it?

The staff team are, on balance, strongly in favour of audio feedback; most have clearly said that they intend to continue using it. Several people commented that they were able to give more, and higher-quality, feedback using audio. The extra feedback might include examples to illustrate the point being made or to show how the work might be improved. A language tutor said, “it’s an interesting and personal way to do the feedback for language students.” Some remarked positively on the fact that they used more natural language when speaking, rather than writing, their feedback. One noted that students found her voice and tone reassuring and comforting. Another, citing widening participation initiatives, thought that audio feedback is “an ideal medium to assist in the development of skills and confidence of students.” Yet another now plans to extend his use of audio beyond feedback, to provide more detailed guidance for students, for example on assessment tasks. In only one instance – where the marker gave brief feedback, and was in any case a quick typist and writer – does it seem likely that the project member will not continue with audio feedback.

The great majority of the team found it either ‘very easy’ or ‘fairly easy’ to record their audio feedback and prepare it for sending to students. Everyone in the project team was supplied with an Edirol R-09 handheld recorder and nine out of eleven who commented explicitly found it ‘very easy’ to use. A few also tried recording via various combinations of Audacity, WIMBA Voice Tools and (one person) on an Apple Mac computer. Opinions on these tools suggest that, apart from the Apple Mac, they were not quite so easy to use.

Staff reservations about audio feedback were mainly to do with the practical difficulties they encountered. Some of the problems were: learning to use the recording devices; finding a quiet place in which to record; getting used to hearing their own voices; the time needed to rename audio files; feedback sometimes not reaching students; students having difficulty in accessing the audio files. Three module leaders expressed doubts about scaling up audio feedback to larger groups of students. It is no doubt significant that these three were among those who had not managed to save time by giving audio feedback.

Even though the team’s experience has been very positive overall, it should not surprise us that they were not unanimous about the use of audio for feedback. It was, after all, a new type of activity, performed under pressure. However, the reservations could mainly be regarded as resulting from ‘teething problems’.

Perhaps the last word, for now, should go to the module leader who acknowledged that at first he “over-egged the pudding” by opting for a very labour-intensive approach to providing audio comments for his large group. Despite his unnecessarily hard work, he said:

“I think the experience has been really positive. … I’ve got plans to roll this out to other modules now, providing we can get round the technological and logistical demands it places on us. … It’s a trial that has worked well.”

(Posted by Bob Rotheram, Project Manager, Sounds Good)

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Posted by Bob Rotheram

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