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What is audio feedback?
Spoken-word comments on students assessed work, recorded digitally and made available to each student to help explain how they could improve their work.
There is plenty of indicative evidence that audio feedback is beneficial for learning.
What are the benefits?
Dr Chris Evans at UCLIC routinely gives audio feedback to his students and has researched the impact. He concludes (2010), "...not only does it appear to reduce the time taken ... to record the feedback, but it also appears a more natural and liberating process" and "From the learner's perspective, audio feedback is richer and more authentic than written feedback. It appears to personalize the feedback relationship between tutor and learner, reducing the social space that often divides them."
Compared to written feedback:
- It is more likely to be engaged with. Students are "at least 10 times more likely to open audio files compared to collecting written feedback" (Lunt and Curran, 2010). A significant proportion of students don't – perhaps can't because of illegibility – read written feedback (Crisp, 2007; Higgins et al, 2002; Merry and Orsmond, 2008; Rotherham, 2008; Rust, 2001).
- An observed increase in the amount of feedback given, and a saving of time on the part of the assessor (Evans, 2009).
- It can be flexibly stored.
- Students prefer it (Carruthers et al, 2015).
Compared to in-person feedback:
Compared to feedback in other media:
- It is felt by students to be more vivid "as the expression, nuance, tone and personal input add layers of meaning for the listener" (Carruthers et al, 2015, Davies et al, 2009).
- Relatedly it can give depth to feedback rather than long list of edits without context or priority (Chiang, 2009).
- Pachler and colleagues (2010) and Merry and Orsmond (2008) reported that spoken-word can improve students' range of responses to the messages.
- Pachler and colleagues (2010) noted that creating audio feedback raised tutors' awareness of 'hinge points' in learning, and of contingencies in their feedback.
Does it change the quality of the feedback?
- The feedback is likely to be more substantive - less time is spent making grammatical corrections. It may also be higher level (Chiang, 2009, Milanowski, 2009).
- There is some debate about whether audio feedback should be supplementary to written feedback.
- Merry and Orsmond (2008) found that provided the tutor indicated the points in the submitted text to which comments referred, it wasn't necessary to supplement audio feedback with written feedback. They compared audio and written feedback on 15 Human Biology students' essays, parts of dissertations and written reflections. Counting and categorising feedback comments yielded some statistically significant discrepancies which can be viewed in Figure 1 of their paper. Written feedback contained far more identification of errors but less correcting errors and engaging students in thinking than feedback via audio.
- Emery and Atkinson (2009) report a number of case studies. In one, recorded discussions between two markers were made available to the individual students. In most of the case studies, tutors felt that audio allowed for far more detail and clarity of comment in expression, and students agreed. Merry and Orsmond (2008).
- Carruthers and colleagues (2015) recommended making any marked annotated work available to students but stopped short of actually stipulating that it is necessary. What cannot be replaced is a conversation with the marker to discuss the feedback.
What is the time and effort?
As with any new practice, it is likely to feel effortful at first, but far more natural with practice. Reports on this vary considerably, indicating that it depends on subject area, marker experience, the nature of the assessment task, and the technology used. However:
- Evans (2017) estimated a large time saving which allowed markers to give far more feedback than they could have typed.
- Rotherham (2008) found that he could achieve richer feedback in less time.
- Most authors advise against using a script, encouraging markers to make the most of the natural spoken-word mode by speaking from notes or memory.
- Nie and colleagues (2010) found recording audio using Audacity to be fast, efficient and a good use of time.
- Chiang (2009) reported that tutors found it very easy to use a digital voice recorder to give feedback on the Psychology written work and presentations they were assessing.
- Where work is double marked, audio feedback may take longer. There are also some questions about efficiencies for larger class sizes.
- For group work and feedback for multimodal work (i.e. other than typographic essays) audio feedback may be more efficient (Carruthers et al, 2015).
- Depending on how the feedback is given and which devices students are used, expect some early difficulties. Do give the students prior notice, and do actively invite them to let you know about any technical difficulties.
How do students tend to access it?
A 2015 UK study of business students found that 63% used a laptop, 23% on a desktop, 5% on a smartphone and 2% on a tablet (Carruthers et al, 2015).
- From the University of Leicester, listen to samples 2-5 (look down a few bullet points for Davies, D. Rogerson-Revell, P. & Witthaus, G).
- From the Sounds Good project at Leeds Metropolitan, listen to Book_review_feedback.mp3 (this one is scripted and has acquired some of the more formal features of written feedback identified by Davies and colleagues, 2009).
How can I give audio feedback?
If you are explaining marks in relation to criteria, do signpost students to the criteria.
To give a single, summary comment, you could alternatively:
- Create sound files using eg Audacity, and upload as feedback in Moodle Assignment - Moodle now makes this easy to do in bulk rather than laboriously student by student, and it will be linked from UCL MyFeedback.
- Speak directly into Turnitin Assignment's general feedback recorder; however this allows only 3 minutes and is uneditable.
- Record yourself in person discussing the work with the student, then upload those files to a Moodle Assignment (even if students have not submitted anything digital themselves, staff can still upload feedback).
- If you are marking exercises, you could make a screencast recording of yourself live-marking the work.
All of these are free to UCL staff.
There are other technologies for giving contextualised audio comments i.e. attached to individual paragraphs and capable of more specificity. However, these either use proprietary technologies (Adobe Acrobat Professional) which cost money, or they do not work on every platform, or generate very large files.
Dr Chris Evans from UCLIC recommends:
- An external mic is desirable though not essential (avoids picking up sounds from inside your computer).
- Record student ID at the start.
- Save the file first.
- Try recording without editing.
- Leave in some errors - they humanise the asessor.
- Upload at UCL, using its higher upload speeds than you probably have at home.
- Carruthers C, McCarron B, Bolan P, Devine A, McMahon-Beattie U, Burns A. “I like the sound of that” – an evaluation of providing audio feedback via the virtual learning environment for summative assessment. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education. 2015 Apr 3;40(3):352–70.
Chiang, I. A., 2009. Which audio feedback is best?: Optimising audio feedback to maximise student and staff experience. A Word In Your Ear 2009. Sheffield Hallam University, City Campus. 18 December 2009.
Crisp, B., 2007. Is it worth the effort? How feedback influences students' subsequent submission of assessable work. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 32(5), 571-581.
Emery, R. & Atkinson, A. 'Group Assessment Feedback: The Good the Bad and the Ugly'. A Word In Your Ear 2009. Sheffield Hallam University, City Campus. 18th December 2009. Available at: http://research.shu.ac.uk/lti/awordinyourear2009/docs/emery-atkinson-Solent_Audio_Feedback_paper.pdf .
- Evans, C., 2017. Using Audio Feedback to Provide Quicker and More Meaningful Feedback. UCL Arena Exchange Seminar, 13th September 2017, UCL, London.
Evans, C., and Palacios, L., 2010. Using Audio to Enhance Learner Feedback. In: Proceedings of the Education and Management Technology (ICEMT), 2010 International Conference. 2-4 November 201, Cairo. Pp. 148–151. IEEE. http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/5657683/.
- King, D., S. McGugan, and N. Bunyan. 2008. “Does it makes a Difference? Replacing Text with Audio Feedback.” Practice and Evidence of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education 3 (2): 145–163.
Lunt T, Curran J. “Are you listening please?” The advantages of electronic audio feedback compared to written feedback. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education. 2010 Dec;35(7):759–69.
Merry, S. & Orsmond, P., 2008. Students' attitudes to and usage of academic feedback provided via audio files. Bioscience Education Journal, 11. Available at: https://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/EngageinFeedback/Students_attitudes_to_podcasts.pdf .
Milanowski, T., 2009. e-Feedback for formative assessment: can it improve student learning and assessment efficiency? A Word In Your Ear 2009. Sheffield Hallam University, City Campus. 18th December 2009. Available at: http://research.shu.ac.uk/lti/awordinyourear2009/docs/Tony-Milanowski-E-feedback.pdf.
Nie, M. et al., 2010. The role of podcasting in effective curriculum renewal. ALT-J Research in Learning Technology, 18(2), 105 – 118.
Pachler, N., Daly, C., Mor, Y., and Mellar, H., 2010. Formative e-assessment: Practitioner cases. Computers & Education, 54, 715-721.
Rotherham, B., 2008. Using an MP3 recorder to give feedback on student assignments. Available at: http://sites.google.com/site/soundsgooduk/downloads.
Rust, C., 2001. A Briefing on Assessment of Large Groups. Available at:https://nursing-midwifery.tcd.ie/assets/director-staff-edu-dev/pdf/AssessingLargeGroups-ChrisRust.pdf