Using Audio in a Distance Learning Course
Audio technologies are accessible to most people, and are generally easy to use. In addition, students can often use audio technologies anytime and almost anywhere. These benefits make audio a flexible tool for presenting class materials. You can have your students use audio to complete assignments such as recording an interview, reading in a foreign language, or playing a musical piece. Plan to include the information in an alternative format if you have students with hearing disabilities.
If the students in your distance learning class will be interacting with course materials at the same time, you can use teleconferencing to facilitate group discussion and collaboration. Telephone conferencing provides opportunities to discuss issues in-depth, clarify ideas, offer feedback, brainstorm, set course pace, and develop cooperative problem solving.
Telephone conference systems are not hard to use. Several departments on campus have the equipment, including Classroom Support Services and Educational Outreach. In alternative you can lease time on a commercial system. The real challenge in using telephone conferencing is to schedule a time when everyone can participate. You can help achieve this by making it clear at the beginning of the course that students are required to be available for telephone group discussion at a given time every week, for example.
Voice mail is a convenient way for students to get a message to you, and can supplement other technologies in a course. Nearly everyone has easy access to a telephone, and voicemail messages can be picked up anytime. Keep in mind that there is usually a limit to the length of the messages, and that a toll-free number must be provided for those who are calling long distance.
Providing your audio information on tapes or compact discs allows students without Web access to listen to recordings. Tapes and CDs are easy for most students to use, and most students have access to CD players and tape players. However, it is difficult to modify the recordings once they have been distributed, and you may need to factor in time for mailing. Students can also send in audio recordings of their work.
Audio over the Web
You may provide audio clips via your course Web page. Distributing them via the Web allows you to modify the recordings without having to worry about re-distributing them. Audio takes less computer memory and often less time to create than video. However, you need to be sure that all of your students have access to computers with Internet access the necessary requirements for playing sound.