Friday, March 15, 2013

Smooth Audio Feedback - I could use your help

Audio I'm currently working on Phase 2 of my HEA audio feedback project. So far I have mostly managed to confirm the conclusions of earlier work - that students love audio feedback, resulting in increased engagement with feedback, but that it does not automatically reduce academic workload and if badly implemented, can increase workload sharply. I've also managed to figure out how pedagogically broken Turnitin GradeMark is, since it only allows feedback to be delivered after students have received their marks.

Phase 2 of the project involves working with two groups of students in order to confirm and expand the pilot scale findings from Phase 1 (A trial of the TurnitIn GradeMark system in a mixed information economy. (2012) figshare. One of these groups contains 170 students, and so far it's taking me 5 minutes to complete delivery of each message - that's over 14 hours (in case you were wondering - 14 hours is a long time for these sorts of calculation :-)

What is abundantly clear from this is that, in addition to good pedagogic design, workflow is of primary importance in making audio feedback viable. With that in mind, I've been occupying my spare cognitive capacity during those 14 hours by optimizing the workflow for audio feedback delivery - with an additional twist: when the HEA grant runs out, I will have no budget to spend on this. Here's where I'm at. So far, I've been using SoundCloud as a recorder/host/player for the Phase 2 audio files (mp3 format). This gives me access to a few nice features, such as short links to the files I can include in notification emails and some primitive analytics, which is useful for confirming that almost all the students play their audio feedback (in a few cases, as many as 10 times!). But SoundCloud has a few problems. The processing time on 60 second files is variable, sometimes almost instant, occasionally as long as 3-4 minutes. That's not on when you're struggling to get through 170. The other problem is that the upgraded version of SoundCloud I need to use costs money. Not a lot, but enough to make it non-viable for sustained use and scale-up. So I've been thinking about solutions to these problems, and I think I've found a free solution that works better for me - but I need your help in testing it. Here's my revised workflow:
  1. Record a short feedback mp3 (using whatever software you prefer, e.g. Audacity, GarageBand, etc).
  2. Upload the files to a public folder on Dropbox, giving free public hosting.
  3. Convert the Dropbox link to a link for inclusion in notification emails - giving me better analytics than SoundCloud does.
So far this has worked well on all the systems I have tested it on, the overall processing time is no longer that SoundCloud, and it's all free. But I would welcome your help in testing this more widely across a range of system. Does the following link show as an audio player in your browser?

Update: OK, thanks to everyone who sent feedback, you can stop now. Seems to work well across all systems and browsers, including mobile devices. Which is nice. Here's what the analytics look like:



  1. No download for me - it plays in my browser (Chrome 25 on OS X 10.8.2).