Monday, July 4, 2011

giving students audio feedback

My coworkers believe, and I agree, and it's often more beneficial to sit down with a student and their paper and to talk about their writing, face to face, than it is just to "talk" in the form of comments in the margins of their paper. (Yes, that's assuming that you cannot do both things.) So, I'd like to do a better job of regularly holding individual or very-small-group writing conferences with my students. These conferences might happen when there's a draft to discuss, after a completed version of a paper has been graded, and/or at any point in between.

This summer, I've learned about some software/services -- they're made by various companies, so I won't single any of them out here -- that combine screen capture and audio recording abilities. They'd be useful for instructors: if I had a student's paper in electronic form, then I could put it on the screen, record myself making comments about various parts of the paper (while using the cursor to highlight those parts), and save all of that into a file that that student could access. The lower-tech version is simply to record comments and send those to the student -- I know some instructors who used to do this with cassette recorders.

What are some of the possible benefits and/or pitfalls with this method of giving students feedback? What are your experiences, and your students' experiences? Does it, as some have claimed, make grading faster than the "write or type your comments onto the paper" method? Does it lead to students who take more of your feedback more seriously?


  1. Alessandra TanesiniJuly 5, 2011 at 12:01 AM

    I would like to experiment with this. Could you suggest where to start? what software to use?

  2. I would first ask students if they would listen to these comments. Or do a trial run and try to see what they think.

  3. My question is, is the "better" of face-to-face discussion of a paper a result of the comments being oral or a result of the face-to-face interaction.

    It seems to me that a recorded set of comments is more like written comments than like a face to face interaction. In particular, a face to face interaction enables interaction: the student can ask questions, you can make an evaluation (based on the student's body language) of whether they understand the comments you are making and provide clarification, you can work TOGETHER on the comments.

    This is a lot of work. It reminds me of the Oxford and Cambridge tutorials (which are usually 1 on 1 sessions in which essays are discussed) a system that would be costly to reproduce.


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