Can digital audio be used to give students quicker, better feedback on their work? That was the central question for the ‘Sounds Good’ project.
We were based at Leeds Metropolitan University and operated between January 2008 and February 2009. Originally intended as a six-month pilot project, funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), we started with a team of about 15 teachers in a range of disciplines exploring the use of digital audio to give feedback on students' coursework. Could it save staff time? Would the feedback to students be improved?
The early results were very encouraging and further JISC support enabled the project to be extended till February 2009. In this second phase, the Leeds Met team expanded. In addition, three other higher education institutions joined us, beginning to use digital audio for feedback. They were York St John University, Newman University College, Birmingham and the University of Northampton. Taking the two phases together, 38 lecturers gave audio feedback to over 1,200 students at all levels from first-year undergraduate and foundation degree to doctoral. Overall, it worked very well and delivered an excellent return on JISC's modest investment.
Sounds Good has now ended but audio feedback work continues, unfunded, in a growing number of institutions. With the experience of leading the project, I think most higher education teachers should give audio feedback an extended trial. It probably won't be the magic bullet for their assessment woes but it is likely to be worth adopting with at least some of their students. Have a look at some of the documents in the Downloads section to see what we learned. The final report and the practice tips on audio feedback are good places to start.
This is the second Sounds Good website. Our earlier one is here. Why did we move? We were trying to make the site more interactive, especially to make it easier to post to the blog and to comment.
Even though the site is no longer being developed, I hope its continued existence helps spread the word about the power of the spoken word.
Bob Rotheram (now retired)
National Teaching Fellow
Leeds Metropolitan University, UK