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Centre for Higher Education Practice

Co-authors: Stephen McClean, Alison M. Gallagher, Catherine J. Hack and W. Paul Hagan School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Ulster, Coleraine, BT52 1SA email: For further information and an e-copy of this poster please visit:

Project Overview
Four members of staff within the School of Biomedical Sciences at Ulster were provided with MP3 voice recorders, headsets and microphones and / or desk based microphones to record audio feedback on student work. Software such as Audacity and Camtasia were evaluated for capturing the audio on PC as were the Wimba voice authoring tools in Blackboard Learn. Modes of delivery of audio files such as by email, delivery via the VLE and podcasting were also explored. Student and staff perceptions of the feedback are provided below as four short case studies.
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Case Study 1:
Module: BMS105 Introductory Chemistry Level: Year one, semester one The Practice: Students were provided verbal feedback in class on practical work undertaken as part of the module and laboratory workbooks were annotated with brief feedback. An MP3 file of generic feedback was provided to students, summarising the practical and issues encountered. This was emailed to the students and also provided as a podcast using FeedBurner. Evaluation: 86% of students surveyed (n=43) said they listened to MP3 files sent by email. 50% of students listened to the podcast files but only 2 students said they actually subscribed to the podcast using iTunes. Some claimed they did not know how to subscribe to podcasts; some said they did not use iTunes or a compatible device. For year one students the preferred mode of feedback was written followed by verbal in class and then finally audio feedback (Figure 1a). Those who availed of feedback found it useful (Figure 1b). Staff perspective: “Only generic feedback is possible with 140+ students. MP3 audio might be better received if it was the sole means of providing feedback. Further training on use of iTunes and subscribing to podcasts is required if podcasting is to be used in the future.” (SMcC)

Staff perspective: “I found the dictaphone much easier to use than the (Audacity) software package. I was able to generate short feedback for 62 students within about 2 hours - normally typing this up takes 2 people this time (i.e. total of 4 hours work). I send out individualised emails to students which in the end took me 4-5 hours to do!! Next time I would send out the feedback as a batch using a mail merge technology.” (AMG)

Case study 3:
Module: BMS804 Ethics and Research Governance Level: MSc, semester two The Practice: The module is designed such that the first assignment is a short piece of work, from which the students get rapid feedback in time to improve for a more substantive piece of work that they submit for their second assignment. Audio feedback was generated using a headset and Camtasia software Evaluation: As shown in Figure 2; students responded positively to audio feedback evaluating its usefulness in line with the Ulster Principles of Assessment and Feedback for Learning. Staff perspective: “Audio feedback allowed me to provide quite detailed feedback in a short period of time. I recorded approximately 3 minutes of audio (more for weaker students), then as the software played back I marked off the rubric, sheet and delivered both pieces of feedback to the students via Blackboard Learn.” (CJH)

Case Study 4:
Module: PHA717 Analysis of Medicines and Medicinal Natural Products Level: MSc, semester two The Practice: MP3 audio files were recorded on student work using an MP3 voice recorder Evaluation: Students felt that the feedback was more personal, more so than reviewing written comments on their original submission. They said: ‘It was possible to listen to the feedback more than once and that made it easier to understand’ ‘MP3 Feedback feels more personal, and felt like the lecturer was speaking to me. Written feedback sometimes appears to come from a well used set of stock comments’ Staff perspective: “Overall I found that time spent offering audio feedback was equal to, or slightly exceeded, more conventional written feedback although the positive student comments on the quality and impact of audio feedback reinforces the value of this technology.” (WPH) Resources
Staff have also used the Wimba Voice tools in Blackboard Learn and many have concluded that this is a very straightforward way to get started with audio feedback. All that is required is an inexpensive headset consisting of headphones and a microphone. The Wimba voice tools take care of the recording aspect and delivering the feedback to the student. A further 8 staff members in the School plan to use audio feedback in the future.

Case Study 2:
Module: NUT507 Human Nutrition Research Project – Poster Presentations Level: Final Year, semester two The Practice: Staff who were assessing students were encouraged to provide verbal feedback. Any additional written comments they provided were then relayed to the student as a short audio file recorded using a hand held MP3 voice recorder by the module co-ordinator and then emailed individually to the students. The marks were released 48 hours later Evaluation: Positive comments were received from the students group such as: “audio feedback was more personal, you could hear your voice and tones and it was a much nicer way to get my feedback” “thanks for getting me my feedback so quickly it meant a lot that you took time to provide this”