Audio feedback and student digital competencies

It’s been a while since I’ve posted to my blog.  This is partly due to doing an online staff development course which took up quite a bit of time over a 7 week period and spending more time on Twitter.  There have been things that I’ve almost written about on my blog, but I’ve just not got round to it, perhaps because I end up thinking too much instead of  just writing up what I’m thinking.  Anyway I’m back up and blogging and I need to thank Anne Marie Cunningham for encouraging me to blog about a meeting I attended today on podcasting.

The meeting I went along to was the Podcasting for Pedagogic Purposes special interest group event at Glasgow Caledonian University.  It was a good meeting kicked off by Peter Robinson from Oxford giving an overview of putting Oxford on iTunesU.  It seemed to me (and others I chatted to) that this exercise was more of a marketing exercise on Oxford’s part as we didn’t hear anything about student uptake and responses to the podcasts which were being uploaded to iTunesU and the institutional VLE.

It was interesting to hear about what other institutions were doing with podcasting and in particular how they were involving students in creating podcasts and using audio/podcasts to give feedback to students.  Various examples of how audio feedback might be used were given, for example feedback

  • on a module to a whole class
  • to groups of students doing group assignments and
  • to individual students posted in the VLE and added to the students e-portfolio.

I hadn’t come across audio feedback before and I would be interested to hear if it’s being used in any medical schools and how it’s being received by students.  One of the sessions today was on student voices and involved 5 students sharing their experiences of receiving assessment feedback by podcast as well as their experiences of making both audio and video podcasts.  These students were quite enthusiastic about receiving audio feedback, with some of them saying it was very valuable and excellent.  They said it was best when tutors were direct and to the point, rambling on for 15 minutes was not helpful.  One of the students had a preference for traditional written feedback, saying they felt this was more authoritative and that audio feedback could be too sugar coated.  In contrast another student felt that audio feedback was more personal and it was good to hear positive comments along with any areas which the student needed to address and improve.  A meeting on audio feedback is being planned later this year and I will share information on the details of this once I have them.

Whilst the students were positive about receiving audio feedback they were less enthusiastic about creating podcasts.  They felt that they lacked the IT skills to make a podcast and would have liked to have received some training before being set the exercise.  One of the students who was more technically competent raised how he found the exercise frustrating because he was working with other students who had lower levels of expertise and different expectations of what they could produce.  Another student raised the issue of not being familiar with the software they were to use to create the podcast.  I asked whether they had looked on the web or YouTube for screencasts on how to use the software, they hadn’t and tutors hadn’t highlighted that these resources might be available.  I was surprised they hadn’t done a search themselves.  Similar issues with students not having the skills to create podcasts were highlighted by Joe Maguire from the University of Glasgow who gave an excellent presentation on embedding podcasting in the curriculum.

Hearing about the Glasgow experience and the views of the student panel have made me think about whether we wrongly assume that most of our students are reasonably tech savvy and digitally competent?  Should we be doing more to identify and address the IT/digital training needs of our students.  What do you think?


  1. Interesting to hear about the sessions you attended. The Audio Feedback Conference will be held at Sheffield Hallam on 18th December and I will put a website up at as soon as I have a minute. I’m looking for contributions in the form of short papers, poster (plenty please!), workshops, and case study audio posters: i.e. 2-5 min audio reports.
    iTunes U – good points. Yes, the message is very much marketing for the moment, but I suspect the overhead is going to be difficult for most UK F/HEIs. network feels much more responsive to our needs to me.
    Ask Leeds Uni about health and audio feedback. I bet they are. We are promoting it heavily in our health faculty – I’ll pass your interest on.
    Audio feedback – yes, selective and powerful, rather than extensive and monotonous, and probably in combination with assessment grids to get a good balance, is what I recommend.
    I chatted to that student on the train with a pref for written – it turns out that he had not personally used the audio (and that is the issue – embedding it properly pedagogocally and technically).
    Range of digital fluency is an issue – need to work harder at fostering peer responsibility/bartering in group work.
    In my experience students are less digitally fluent than staff!!! They are often more likely to be complacent and uncritical of the technology and this can lead to not applying it effectively or being stranded in applying it in an academic or professional context.

  2. Andrew – many thanks for confirming the date of the Audio Feedback Conference.
    I plan to take a look at the website as this sounded like an interesting project. Have also been thinking of being in touch with people in the Medical School at Leeds so must follow this up to hear how they’ve been using audio feedback.
    Your experience of students seems to confirm the view that I’m forming that they aren’t as digitally fluent as many of us assume them to be. I looked out a paper this morning from the Postgraduate Medical Journal by Sanders and Schroter from Leeds Medical School, which concluded that whilst both staff and students had an overall high awareness of Web 2.0 technologies the potential for Web 2.0 in undergraduate and postgraduate medical education would only be achieved if there was increased training in how to use these approaches. Looks like we need to be addressing student training needs and not just those of staff.

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