Using Google Talk for Audio Feedback


The use of audio feedback for student assessments is not a new concept. I’m not familiar with all the literature but I’ve picked up a quote from Rust in 2001 highlighting the advantages of audio feedback:

While reducing the time you spend, this may actually increase rather than reduce the amount of feedback given…Students frequently say that they get far more information from taped comments, including the tone of one’s voice, than they do from written comments, and they also do not have to try to cope with some of our illegible writing. (Rust, 2001: 22)

I picked this quote up from Bob Rotheram, ‘Indirector’ (Bob explains his title here) of the Sounds Good 2 project.  Bob has been exploring the use of audio feedback for a number of years investigating not only the benefits for students but also finding ways to remove the barriers for teaching staff. There is a very good summary of Bob’s work here. While Bob started using the audio recording software Audacity he felt that to achieve greater adoption he needed a simpler solution and moved to digital recorders/dictaphones. 

An alternative ‘one button’ solution could be to use the new voice features in Google Talk. Google Talk was initially developed as an instant messaging (IM)client, similar to MSN messenger et al., allowing synchronous ‘chat’ communication between users. As with a lot of other IM clients Google has been adding voice features (similar to Skype) allowing users to make calls to other contacts. A great additional feature of Google’s solution is the ability to leave voicemail. The voicemail is recorded in mp3 format (up to 10 minutes in length)and automatically delivered to the recipients inbox as an attachment. To use this feature you have to have a Google account (which is free), but the recipient can have any email address. I’ve prepared a short video showing how the system works:

Before you go rushing off to try this a couple of drawbacks of this system I’ve noted are:

  • you have to record your feedback in one take;
  • once you start recording there is no way of stopping your message from ending up in the recipients inbox; and
  • you do not get a copy of your sent voicemail (a way around this would be to use a program like Audacity to record your message as you delivery it)

An interested twist might be to get students to use this voicemail feature to submit assignment, which might be particularly useful for language courses.


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