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The use of computers in distance education can have many unexpected benefits. One of these benefits is the opportunity for tutors to provide audio (spoken) feedback to learners on their assignments. There are some commercial tools available for this (such as Adobe Acrobat), and also some free tools such as VoiceThread (http://voicethread.com

This is what one Canadian educator, Terry Anderson, had to say about the use of a voice tool in giving feedback on his students’ assignments, in his blog, Virtual Canuck:

I have nearly completed this term’s paper and report marking using Adobe Acrobat to add voice comments and annotations. In a word, the results are terrific!!

First, it saved me time. I am not a fast typer and using voice, meant I didn’t even have to spell check!! My comments were much longer than text annotations and I was able to give examples, suggestions etc. that I could have done in text, but likely would not have due to time constraints.

Second, I was able to express more affect by chuckling, expressing uncertainty and in other ways adding a personal touch to the marking.

Three, I was still able to add text comments and a marking rubric at the end using a text annotation tool that floated over the text and allowed me to annotate without disturbing the text, as it would if I made tracked changes using Word (I could of course, have used Word’s comment feature with similar results).

Four, initial feedback from students seem very positive.

From: http://terrya.edublogs.org/2008/12/14/marking-with-voice-tools/

Students' responses to feedback given via podcasts

In a study done by France and Ribchester (2008) Students were asked for their opinions on the use of podcasts for feedback on their assignments and their comments indicated that they felt the impact of the spoken word far more strongly than the written word. For the most part, students indicated that they appreciated the spoken feedback.

One student commented that podcasts helped in understanding what to focus on most in the feedback: 'You can get "the tone of voice with the words so you could understand the importance of the different bits of feedback".'

The value of using podcasts for assignment feedback is borne out by ongoing research at the University of Leicester in which students have indicated that hearing the tutor's voice personalises the feedback more. This makes it easier for tutors to empathise with students and to show support if the students are struggling.  


Have you tried using podcasts to give feedback on your learners' assignments? If not, what do you think might be the benefits in your situation? Do you foresee any barriers?

References/ Additional Resources

France, D. & Ribchester, C., 2008. Podcasts and Feedback. In G. Salmon & P. Edirisingha, ed. Podcasting for Learning in Universities. Maidenhead: Open University Press. Ch. 7.