Online Blogucation

Hearing from your students

If you take an instructor who’s been teaching in a traditional classroom and you move them to an online environment, a typical complaint is that they feel disconnected from their students. And in many cases this is literally because they don’t hear from their students in the same way that they do in a traditional classroom. Using voice tools with students can help bridge this gap. Fortunately there are many Web 2.0 tools that allow this, and it’s really easy for students to create their own audio content.

Below are three sample tools you could use to get started: Jing, Voki and VoiceThread. There’s nothing magical about these tools (there are many others), but they are easy to use and free, so they could be a good place to get started. For each tool, there’s a sample assignment given where students record some content.

Jing is a screencasting software where you can record while capturing what you’re doing on your computer screen. This sample assignment is a peer review assignment where a student is giving feedback on another student’s poster. 

Voki allows you to create an animated avatar where you can then record up to 1 minute of spoken text (it’s also nice that you can use a phone or text-to-voice option if you don’t have a microphone). This example is a Spanish language assignment, where the instructor posts the assignment using a Voki, and the student posts their assignment using Voki as well. (The recording of the unsinkable Molly Brown above is also recorded using Voki, and is an example where students could write and record a narrative as a historic person.)  

VoiceThread is a recorded discussion area, where people can comment through voice or text around images or a recording that’s created by the instructor. This example is a triangle scavenger hunt where students are encouraged to find examples of triangles in everyday life. If you click the avatar that looks like the hamburger on the right, it’s a cute student example and you can also see the student draw on the screen over the image.  

The kinds of assignments that would work with this include introductions, speaking practice, presentations, projects, peer review, and other creative projects (for example, I have my students create a commercial around class material).

Some best practices for requiring this kind of work include:

  • tell them up front about any software or technical requirements (especially if they will need to buy anything, like a microphone)
  • provide a low stakes practice assignment early in the semester and/or scaffold around a larger assignment throughout the term
  • provide clear directions on the assignment and technology requirements
  • specify what technical support you will offer and what they will need to find elsewhere (like FAQ/help pages on the tool’s website)
  • and finally, think through the submission and grading requirements (i.e., these tools all  provide output in different formats- file, URL link, or embed code, etc., so how will the students submit them to you?)

So I’ll leave you with some food for thought… Think of an assignment that you assess in a traditional way, and then brainstorm ways where you could transform that into a student audio assignment. And have fun!

– Gail E. Krovitz, Ph.D. –

Director of Academic Training & Consulting

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