Students taking part in Sounds Good were overwhelmingly positive about receiving audio feedback on their coursework. They frequently remarked approvingly about its personal nature and the detail provided, saying it showed that the lecturer had carefully considered their work. There was particular approval if the feedback was received quickly. Some students appreciated the advantage of replaying the feedback. Others noted that audio made it easier to grasp what the lecturer felt was most important, or that it helped them to understand better why they had received a particular mark. Students whose first language is not English were pleased that it gave additional practice with their listening skills. A dyslexic student said that it was easier to listen than to read.
On the other hand, some students had reservations. A minority said that they preferred written feedback; a few asked for both audio and written comments on their work. Some noted that it was quicker to skim-read a piece of text than to listen to an audio recording to find the passage of particular interest. Understandably, the reservations were more common when the only feedback provided was audio to the whole group, i.e. when students did not receive any feedback – audio or written – on their individual work. However, in one of the two instances where this happened, the module leader noted that if he had not supplied the audio feedback for the group, the students would have had to rely on their own notes of what he said in class – the audio feedback was extra.
A few words of caution seem justified. First, although students were overwhelmingly positive about audio feedback, some of the positive responses may, in part, be due to the novelty of audio. Second, how seriously should we take student reservations about it being harder to skim an audio recording than a piece of text? Many lecturers complain that students pay little attention to written feedback. Perhaps, therefore, it may be seen as an advantage that students find it harder to skim audio feedback! Third, if staff make more use of recorded audio, it should not be at the expense of face-to-face time with students – a concern expressed by some Sounds Good students who received assessment guidance as well as feedback via digital audio.
(Posted by Bob Rotheram, Project Manager, Sounds Good)