Ask any online student what they like about eLearning and they are likely to respond “the flexibility and convenience to study as it fits my schedule.” Ask them what they dislike and you may hear “the lack of personal connection.”
While students enjoy online learning, they sometimes feel isolated and detached from their instructor and peers. This is why instructors must look for ways to connect with online students. One way to connect is vocally.
Instructors can record audio messages to add a personal touch to the course. By posting a sincere, warm-hearted greeting, a professor can help online students feel welcomed. I have taught online speech courses for several years and have found that it is common for students to be terrified of public speaking. They are often extremely nervous about the class, so my goal with this message is to lessen that anxiety right off the bat:
Audio can also be used to provide assignment feedback. Because written words can be misinterpreted, hearing the instructor offer constructive criticism gives clarity and promotes learning.
Wolff-Hilliard & Baethe (2013) conducted a study comparing the use of text feedback, audio feedback, and video feedback. They found that appealing to multiple senses not only helped students to meaningfully connect with the instructor, it also aids the understanding of course content.
Use a free tool.
Numerous free online tools can help you record audio for your course. Audacity is a free, easy-to-learn audio recording software that can be downloaded from the web. It not only allows recording but also editing of audio files. Evernote is free, downloadable software that allows users to record a “voice memo” and send it via email.
As a professional announcer, I have the benefit of owning a home studio. But you do not have to be a seasoned broadcaster in order to effectively incorporate this form of technology into an online course.
Here are a few tips on what to do and how to do it:
Provide a recorded introduction for each week that gives an overview of the learning to take place.
- Don’t “wing it” and don’t read it.
- Take time to prepare. Script out what you would typically say in a face-to-face course when introducing the week’s lesson.
- Although you will be using your script, you want to sound conversational—read through it several times prior to recording and work at achieving a natural vocal tone.
Provide verbal evaluations of student work.
- It is important to give affirmation and encouragement—allow your recorded comments to supplement your written feedback.
- Be specific; tell the student not only what is “wrong” with their work, but also what is “right” with their work.
The main thing to keep in mind is to be conversational.
- Audio comments should be brief and engaging.
- Use good vocal variety and strive to sound authentic, not rehearsed.
- A simple trick for adding natural warmth to your voice is to smile as you speak.
- Also, don’t be afraid to incorporate facial expressions and gestures. Although they can’t be seen in an audio recording, they can be heard. The more animated the speaker, the better the vocal delivery and overall sound.
Using your voice to connect with students in the online environment is just one way to add a personal touch. In my next post, “Form an Online Connection, Part 2,” I will help you discover how you can make eye contact with your online students. How does that work? Stay tuned.
Bhat, S., Chinprutthiwong, P., Perry, M., & International Educational Data Mining, S. (2015). Seeing the Instructor in Two Video Styles: Preferences and Patterns.
Boling, E., Hough, M., Krinsky, H., Saleem, H., & Stevens, M. (2012). Cutting the distance in distance education: Perspectives on what promotes positive, online learning experiences. The Internet And Higher Education, 15 (Special issue of the American Educational Research Association’s online teaching and learning special interest group), 118-126. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2011.11.006
El Mansour, B., & Mupinga, D. M. (2007). Students’ Positive and Negative Experiences in Hybrid and Online Classes. College Student Journal, 41(1), 242-248.
Wolff-Hilliard, D. d., & Baethe, B. b. (2013). Using Digital and Audio Annotations to Reinvent Critical Feedback with Online Adult Students. Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 80(2), 40-44.