We live in a text-heavy world. Emails pile up in our inbox that beg to be read. Many of us are often scanning news articles, webpages, and Google search results, or else we are contributing to our own documents or other projects. And even when we get up and walk around, our phones will ping us with incoming emails and text messages.
With all the text that students are exposed to every day, instructors sometimes find that students are only scanning their course instructions, readings, and assignments. They can miss key details that hurt their performance, or they ask a lot of questions that have already been addressed in the provided course materials.
One way to capture students’ attention is to record audio files with key information, instructions, or clarifications about confusing concepts. Just a few minutes of audio can provide students with a better understanding of your expectations and point them in the right direction. Also, some students benefit from being exposed to things multiple ways and so having both text and audio instructions can help solidify concepts for them.
Audio content is especially helpful in online courses because students get a better sense of the instructor’s personality and dedication. Just this small gesture can help students feel more connected to the instructor, more supported, and increase their investment in the course.
Dr. Liz Langemak in the English Department uses audio to introduce her online students to the course and also includes audio introductions for each weekly unit. According to Dr. Langemak,
Online courses naturally draw a “curtain” between professor and student, and hearing a person’s voice (with all of its quirks and imperfections, as it would sound in a traditional classroom) can draw this curtain back a bit and help students to feel a course is more alive. The weekly audio introductions I record rarely offer information that isn’t available elsewhere in the course, but offer reminders about the most crucial upcoming assignments or redirection based on performance trends I see in the previous week. In my most recent (non-scientific) mid-semester survey of students, 57% of respondents said they were listening to the tracks every week, while 37% said they listened sometimes, so it’s not a perfect tool for reaching all students but it is a great way to give driven students an extra tool to help them succeed.
Click on the play button below to listen to Dr. Langemak’s audio introduction to her online English 150 course:
Free Audio Recording Tools
There are many free, easy-to-use tools for recording audio files. Here are three that are great for getting started:
SoundCloud is an online service that allows you to record audio from your computer directly to the web. You need to create an account to begin, but if you have a Google account, this process can take just a second.
If you have a microphone connected to your computer, you can begin recording audio by clicking on the “Upload” button to the top right of the screen. Then choose to “Start a new recording.”
Once you have finished recording a version that you like, you will have the option to give it a title and make it public or private. Even if the file is set to private, you will still be able to share a link to the recording with your students or embed the file in your Blackboard course.
Here is the embedded version of a sample course introduction that was created on SoundCloud:[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/101456020%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-7m6kF" params="" width=" 100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]
If you don’t know how to embed files in Blackboard, Sherri goes over that process in this video.
SoundCloud is completely free for storing up to 2 hours of content, so while it’s great for recording short intros and clarifications, it’s not ideal for recording long audio lectures. Though, it is possible to pay for a pro account and gain more storage space.
Voice Record Pro App
If you have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, the free Voice Record Pro app is great tool for recording audio content.
What makes this app stand out from other voice recorders is that you can covert the file to mp3 format from within the app and export this file to a variety of services, including Dropbox, SkyDrive, and Google Drive, or just send it by email. You can also pause and resume your recording and do some minor editing using the app!
Once you have the file in mp3 format, it is extremely easy to embed it into your Blackboard course. Simply navigate to where you’d like to insert the file in your course, click on the “Build Content” button, and select “Audio.” Then, click “Browse My Computer” to find the mp3 file that you created with the app and click submit.
Your audio file will then be embedded in your Blackboard course like in the screenshot below.
Audacity is free, open source software for recording and editing audio files. While it is a little more complicated than the previous two audio options, it’s easy to use once you become familiar with it. Audacity is a great option for someone that wants to make longer recordings or create more polished versions of their recorded content.
This PDF guide walks through the steps for using Audacity and saving your files as an mp3 that can be embedded into Blackboard.
If you need help recording audio for your classes, contact the ID Team. We can get you set up with any of the tools mentioned here or offer you other solutions that may work better for you!