eCoaching Tip 15 Audio — Why Should I Bother?

June 2 2006

eCoaching Tip 15:  Audio — Why Should I Bother?

This tip is another in a series of tips about adding audio to your courses.  The last ecoaching tip encouraged you to experiencesome audio content.  Specifically we talked about experiencing the process of listening to a podcast — either on your computer or on your iPod.  If you have not yet downloaded and played a podcast on your computer, you may want to go back to Tip 14 on instructions on how to do that.  Before doing that however, read on here for some reasons for “doing audio.”

In this tip, we will suggest some of the reasons why you may want add audio to your course.  A common theme throughout this series on audio will be how to adapt the use of audio to the online environment — and not use it to re-create a classroom environment.  In other words using audio online is not an opportunity for you to think, “At last, I can lecture online!”  For great teaching and learning, lectures are definitely out; and dialogue and interaction is in!

First of all, let me acknowledge that there are a number of reasons why you may want to take your time about using audio with your students.  Here are some possible reasons.

  1. It takes a “little learning” and set up time for using audio.
  2. Your computer needs to be equipped for audio input and audio output. (Newer computers have these capabilities all built-in.  (Some of the newest computers even have cameras embedded for doing video — so long pajamas!)
  3. Using audio requires that you have a good microphoneeither built-in or attached to your computer. This is for audio input.
  4. Using audio requires that you have speakerseither built-in or attached to your computer. This is for audio output.
  5. Good synchronous audio — talking real time live with your students — also benefit from a comfortable headset. (Again, the newest computers don’t even need these…)
  6. Using audio requires that you find wherethe volume controls are on your computer and adjust it to a comfortable setting. By experimenting with playing a podcast, you learn at least two of the three above items.)
  7. Your students will also need to learn how to use and control audio on their computers.

These reasons are outlined here — not to discourage, but to clarify the steps and the requirements. This list can help to mentally prepare you and help you be realistic about getting started. Just taking it one step at a time will build your confidence and make learning how to do this a pleasant experience.  Like me, you may also find personal advantages.   I am starting to use audio — supplemented with video — to visit with my grandchildren who live many states away;  other colleagues of mine are using these audio and video capabilities to visit with their elderly parents.

To balance the list of reasons not to do audio, here are some great reasons for jumping in and embracing the use of audio in your courses.  This is just to get you started.  The next e-coaching tips will list many more  and talk about the differences that audio  — and sometimes audio and video combined — can make for teaching and learning experiences.

  1. Using audio is so-o-o natural.
  2. Using audio can save you time. It takes less time to provide feedback on papers or on email. This reason alone makes it all worthwhile!
  3. Audio adds personality, feeling and tone to discussions and comments.
  4. Audio makes doing presentations and project reports much easier and again more natural. This means that students can practice the skills of real-time discussions, reporting and presenting.

Synchronous and Asynchronous Audio

The tools that are now available to you within the Horizon-Wimba set of tools make both synchronous and asynchronous audio possible.

Asynchronous Audio

Asynchronous audio can enhance the existing asynchronous tools in Blackboard, such as announcements, discussion boards, email and feedback on projects.  Students can add audio data and information.  Think of how audio can make the process of sending out announcements easy and natural.  And you don’t have to worry about spell-checking audio!  Similarly, think about the getting acquainted part of your courses.   You and your students can write a short paragraph and also send audio greetings and messages.

Synchronous Audio

Most of us depend on synchronous audio  — basically that type of audio supported by phone conversations — for dialoguing one-on-one or one-on-a-small group meeting.   The HorizonWimba  set of tools add the capability  of quick, easy conferencing with your students or a small group or even larger groups of students.  Suddenly it is possible to have “natural” office hours in which you can really dialogue and talk to your students.  But more on these tools later.

What Next?

For those of you who are ready right now to move quickly forward with using voice tools go and check on the Horizon Wimba site and download more of the information there.   One of the links leads to a demonstration of a Voice Board — a discussion board with voice!

More Background and References

Many universities are also finding that asynchronous audio, such as that used on podcasts, is very useful for general communication and outreach.  For example the business school at the University of Florida has a series of podcasts featuring some of their faculty and events.

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