Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Audio Feedback on Student Assignments in Online Courses


I attended the inaugural Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE) annual conference earlier this month in Banff, Alberta (this was formerly the Canadian Association of Distance Education conference). It was both a spectacular location and a spectacular conference. One talk that I thought would be interesting to the readers of this blog was by Dr. Phil Ice (formerly of University of North Carolina Charlotte now of American Public University System).

Phil and his colleagues investigated the use of the audio commenting tool in Adobe Acrobat Pro to provide audio feedback on student assignments in an online course.

The experimental design and analysis was rigorous with aspects such as alternating between text-based and audio-based feedback types between assignments throughout the term, a question on the final course survey asking for student preference for audio versus text-based feedback, and 27 post-course interviews with students, etc.

The project started off on the right foot when 40% of students spontaneously emailed the instructor about the first occurrence of audio commenting with all of those emails expressing satisfaction with the technique.

On the end-of course survey, the results remained impressive. 26 students preferred audio to text, 4 students indicated no preference and one answer N/A (due to a defective sound card).

The transcript analysis of the 27 post-course interviews with students revealed four themes:
  1. Ability to understand nuances in feedback (70% of students). Humor, tone, encouragements and emphasis were much easier to interpret using the audio feedback.

  2. Feelings of increase involvement (56% of students). The connection between instructor and student seemed to be increased and consequently students were engaged in their online course.

  3. Content retention (44% of students). Students reported that they retained the content of the audio feedback better that text-based feedback.

  4. Instructor caring (30% of students). Students reported that audio feedback was more personal than text and they perceived the instructor as caring more when he left an audio message.

Phil and his colleagues actually did more analysis than I am describing here, but you get the idea. If you would like to see his PowerPoint presentation from Banff you will find it hosted at SlideShare and if you would like to see a recent article on this subject then this is a good one:

Ice, P., Curtis, R., Phillips, P. and Wells, J. (2007). Using Asynchronous Audio Feedback to Enhance Teaching Presence and Students’ Sense of Community. J. of Asynchronous Learning Networks. 11(2).

If you have any similar experiences with using audio feedback in online courses, please let us know by leaving a comment below.

1 comment:

stellalunag said...

I teach developmental writing and college composition at a community college, and I've just started giving audio feedback this semester. Just this week, I returned the first round of papers in an online developmental writing course. Students receive a completed grading rubric with a score as well as an .mp3 file with my recorded feedback.

I didn't know about the audio recording features in Adobe Acrobat Pro. I've been using an open-source program called Audacity to record and export the files into .mp3 format, and then I'm uploading those files into the assignment dropboxes on WebCT. I find that the feedback I give is more thorough than my written feedback.

I have gotten a couple of comments from students saying they really appreciate this form of feedback. I believe it's because my feedback comes across as a bit more human than it does in clipped little typed comments such as "awkward" or "vague," which can seem like a personal assault to a student. I'm going to document my experiments with audio feedback and decide whether it's a worthwhile endeavor.

I should add that I own an iPod video, and I recently bought a Griffin iTalk for about $15 off eBay. I'm able to use the iTalk to digitally record my voice notes, sync them to iTunes, and then export them to Audacity for conversion to .mp3 files. It's a couple of extra steps, but it allows me to sit with a pile of papers and an iPod without having to be tied to a table or desk and a computer. I can also do one or two notes and then toss the whole thing into my bag and return to it later when I have the chance.