The power of voice – Providing audio feedback to students

Embed from Getty Images
Tone, intonation, emphasis, expression –  these are all extremely important elements of communication that can be lost in the written word. In fact some have argued that the way that you say something expresses more meaning than the words that you use (Mehrabian 1972). If how we say something adds extra meaning, then why is so much of our feedback to students in written form?

I have been working with colleagues this week who are using recorded audio feedback for students, and the students love it! They express that they feel more connected to the lecturer, that they understand the feedback better and that they feel more supported. In summary, that they value the feedback more. This anecdotal evidence is supported by research done in several studies (Attenborough et al 2012, Merry and Osmond 2008, Brearley and Cullen 2012).

Sounds great, but I don’t have the time!

Time is commonly cited as a reason for not using audio feedback, however users have fed back in studies that it can actually speed the process up.  Rotherham (2007) and Cullen (2011) both found that audio feedback could be as efficient or even more efficient than written feedback. Anecdotally, lecturers I have worked with have also claimed that it saves them time and that they are able to provide students with much richer feedback.

Give it a go!

If you’d like to have a go at providing audio feedback, have a look at these tips:

  1. Decide why you want to use audio feedback – when introducing any new technology it’s always a good idea to spend some time thinking about why you are doing it. What are you hoping to achieve and how will you measure the impact/success?
  2. Choose your tech – make sure the technology is easy to use and produces a file type that is accessible on multiple devices, a mp3 or mp4 can be played on most devices.
  3. Practice using the technology – once you have selected the technology that you want to use, have a play with it and make sure you are comfortable using it. This will help to build your confidence when using it with your students.
  4. Don’t bother to edit –  speak to the student as if they are in the room, like it is a conversation you are having with them. It doesn’t need to be perfect so don’t worry about editing it out, it’s not going to be broadcast anywhere.
  5. Name your files- if you are recording the audio files outside of a built-in coursework tool, make sure you name each file consistently and use the student name or ID. This will make it much easier when you come to distribute feedback to students.
  6. Consider file sizes  – you want to make sure you’ll be able to easily upload and store the feedback files and you also want to make sure the files are accessible to students, particularly if they are likely to be trying to access the files over mobile internet. Try to limit your recordings to around 3-4 minutes to keep the file size small.
  7. Don’t forget to tell the students  – make sure they know how to access the feedback in the new format, what they can expect and why you are doing it.


Turnitin: If you are using Turnitin for your assignments, then you can easily record audio feedback using the built-in tool. Feedback can be recorded using Turnitin’s Grademark App for iPads (reviewed by David Hopkins in his excellent blog, Don’t waste your time).  If you are going to be recording using your PC or laptop, consider investing in a headset with mic, as this will greatly improve the audio quality of your recording.

If you are not using Turnitin, you can still easily record audio feedback using your iPhone or iPad. Have a look on the app store for recorders. My new favourite app for audio feedback is voice record Pro, freely available on iTunes and compatible with iPhones and iPads. It’s really easy to use and the recordings can be emailed or saved to various locations, including Google Drive, DropBox and OneDrive – have a look at this review by Dave Yearwood on Faculty Focus.

Your recordings could be shared with the students by email or uploaded as feedback files in your VLE.


Attenborough, J., Gulati, S. & Abbott, S. (2012). Audio feedback on student assignments: boon or burden?. Learning at City Journal [online] Vol. 2, Available at [Accessed 18 December 2014]

Brearley,F. Q. & Cullen, W.R. (2012) Providing Students with Formative Audio Feedback. Bioscience Education, Vol. 20, 22-36. DOI: 10.11120/beej.2012.20000022

Mehrabian, A. (1971). Silent messages, Wadsworth, California: Belmont

Merry, S. & Osmond, P. (2008). Students’ attitudes to and usage of Academic Feedback Provided Via Audio Files. Bioeducation eJournal [online]. Vol. 11, Available at [Accessed 18 December 2014]

Rotherham, B. (2007) ‘Using an MP3 recorder to give feedback on student assignments’, Educational Developments, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp.7–10.


One thought on “The power of voice – Providing audio feedback to students

  1. Pingback: #290 Marking with Turnitin [2/4]: Audio feedback & general comments – #1minuteCPD

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s