April 28, 2006 (Reviewed May 3 2019)
eCoaching Tip 11: Sharing Your Virtual Presence with Audio
This e-coaching tip is the first in a set of shorter tips. This tip focuses on just two thoughts — a reaffirmation about the value of being “present” to your students, and two suggestions for getting started using audio in your courses.
I was fortunate this last week — this was back in 2006 — to be talking with colleagues at another university about their programs for teaching awards for online faculty. Apparently in some online master’s programs, the students vote for their favorite online teacher. (A process fraught with its own problems that we won’t go into here!) When asked why these particular teachers get voted as “their favorite” by cohorts year after year, the one teaching strategy that makes the most difference in student satisfaction is the fact that the faculty member is “there” online regularly and frequently. Frequent interactions and the “presence” of the faculty apparently make students feel as if the faculty member really cares about the students and provide a sense of “being there” for them. One of these faculty with a smaller class regularly holds synchronous meetings with the students as well — providing two opportunities each week so students can work around most scheduling conflicts.
Many of our tools for communicating synchronously are still a bit clunky, but they are getting better very quickly, with huge improvements in the last 12-18 months. And we have hugely better and more convenient tools now in 2019. This brings us to the second thought for this week — Expanding your use of Audio.
You and your students are probably already making good use of audio for talking about projects — by using an excellent technology called phones and telephone conferences. We can now hold audio and video conferences virtually seamlessly with our laptops and smartphones.
One of the most frequently-asked questions when using audio is what type of microphone— for capturing your speaking voice and sending it — and what type of speaker and headsets for listening — are recommended. This is an excellent question as good audio makes or breaks audio conversations! The good news again, in 2019, that our smartphones make it extremely easy to send audio and text messages. However, it is important to do so in a quiet environment. We’ll go into more recommendations on this in later messages, but for now, the first question is “What is the first step in adding audio to a course?”
A good first place to start is to add audio to your picture and bio — in your introduction to the students. Our voices are a significant dimension of our personality. Audio adds to the feeling of presence and knowing someone. Think about how CNN uses audio. When their correspondents are in far-flung and sometimes-dangerous places where it is difficult to send video, they use the correspondent’s picture in an inset with the audio — often with a picture of the geography or terrain where the correspondent is. So we hear the correspondent’s voice and our mind almost “fills-in” the missing video.
Other places to begin using audio is in sending announcements or comments. As we get better at this and the technologies get better, the use of audio can save us time as an additional benefit.
The next tip will provide a few more hints about expanding into more media with your courses.
Note: These e-coaching tips were initially developed for faculty in the School of Leadership & Professional Advancement at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. This library of tips has been organized and updated through 2016 in the second edition of the book, The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips coauthored with Rita Marie Conrad. Judith can be reached judith followed by designingforlearning.org