From On Air to Online

When you were a kid, what were some of your favorite games and activities? Oftentimes, insight into a child’s future career can be gained by watching how they play.

One of my favorite “toys” as a kid was my family’s handy-dandy cassette recorder. Although now archaic, it was cutting edge in the 70s. My love for recording began at age three, as I unashamedly performed such songs as “Happy Birthday” and “Old Susanna.” As I got older, I started putting together my own radio shows, which I thought were genius works of comedy.

So, how did this childhood interest translate into a career? I became a professional broadcaster.

microphone-audio-computer-sound-recording-55800
This royalty free image comes from pexels.com.

Wait, what?

Yes, it’s true. For the first twenty-plus years of my adult life, I worked in radio. I’ve hosted music shows, served as a reporter and news anchor, conducted interviews, and scripted more commercials than I can count. I have even taught audio production and broadcasting courses at the college level. Those childhood interests really were a forecasting of my future.

Fast forward to my current career as an instructional designer. How does my broadcasting background mesh with eLearning? Surprisingly, in many ways. Here’s what instructional design can learn from the world of broadcasting:

Brevity 

Rule of Radio: Take the First Exit

I was mentored by a talent coach who encouraged me to “Take the First Exit” when communicating an idea on the air. Put simply, don’t overwhelm your audience with verbosity. Take the shortest route to the destination by stating information concisely.

Instructional Design Takeaway: Avoid Unnecessary Content

Cognitive load theory contends that extraneous material can inhibit learning. After all, the human mind can only handle a limited amount of information at once. Clark, Nguyen, and Sweller (2011) argue that eliminating non-essential content from the learning environment will result in faster and better learning.

Priming

Rule of Radio: Prepare Your Audience for What’s Coming Up

Good radio hosts tease what lies ahead. For example, “Stay tuned for your opportunity to win concert tickets right after this song.” This builds anticipation and keeps listeners engaged.

Instructional Design Lesson: Prepare Your Students for Learning

Have a new concept to introduce to the class? Use scaffolding to sufficiently support the learner. According to Chen (2014), this will promote engagement in the task as well as achievement of the learning outcome.

Clarity

Rule of Radio: One Thought Per Break

On-air personalities report the news, share humorous anecdotes, give prizes away, and more. However, they don’t do it all in one announce break. Rambling on and on will cause the listener to tune out.

Instructional Design Lesson: “Chunk” Your Material

Chunking refers to breaking down large amounts of content into smaller “bite-sized” pieces. As you do so, be sure to cut out extraneous information. According to Pappas (2013), staying on topic is one of the most challenging aspects of content chunking.

Looking at the elements above, we see a common thread: avoid information overload. Whether it’s a radio listener or an online learner, simplicity is the key to engaging your audience. Have any of your former jobs prepared you for the world of online learning? Have any of your childhood dreams become reality through instructional design? If so, I’d love to hear about it.

author-michelle

References

Chen, S. (2007). Instructional Design Strategies for Intensive Online Courses: An Objectivist – Constructivist Blended Approach. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 6(1), 72-86.

Clark, R. C., Nguyen, F., & Sweller, J. (2011). Efficiency in Learning: Evidence-Based Guidelines to Manage Cognitive Load. Somerset: Wiley.

Pappas, C. (2016, August 18). 6 eLearning Content Chunking Strategies to Apply In Instructional Design. Retrieved September 06, 2017, from https://elearningindustry.com/elearning-content-chunking-strategies-apply-instructional-design

Wright, B. (2017, August 06). Take the First Exit. Retrieved September 06, 2017, from http://www.hisair.net/brian-wright-take-first-exit/.

 

 

Form an Online Connection: Part 1

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.

Speak up.

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:

Transcript-Form an Online Connection Part 1

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.

References

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.

author-michelle