Audio Projects (e.g. podcast)
Asking students to develop an audio project is perhaps a less obvious strategy for some disciplines. Audio project work can, however, be used to target both discipline-specific learning outcomes and transferable skills in an engaging way.
Drawing on an example from our Archaeology department, Heritage Practice masters students were tasked (as a group) with developing an audio guide for a remote archaeological site. This required students to engage with the subject matter on a number of levels; they had to:
- Thoroughly research the archaeology and historical background of the site,
- Write an accessible script that was nevertheless appropriately academically rigorous,
- Record and produce the audio material and
- Decide on (and implement) a practical solution for the distribution of the audio materials (and other supporting content) to the general public.
In terms of the voice script, emphasis was put on accessibility. The audio narrative needed to be readily understood by a non-archaeologist while maintaining appropriate academic rigour (in terms of accuracy and evidencing). The students were also encouraged to be creative when developing their narrative, the audio needed to be engaging/entertaining as well as informative. Students included sound effects, music and also chose to write and record some of their script as characters from the relevant time periods of the site.
Learning outcomes, aside from the more discipline-specific experiences gained from undertaking a ‘live’ heritage project, included communication and presentation skills as well as transferable skills, developed as a consequence of having to digitally produce and distribute audio content.
Supporting Audio Projects
Asking students to produce audio output does, of course, need to be appropriately supported. It is a lot more achievable than you might think however.
The E-Learning Development Team have developed student targeted work-sheets (with accompanying audio assets) for Audacity. Audacity is a free, open source multi-track audio recording and editing application available for Windows, OSX and Linux and was chosen based on its functionality, relative ease of use and because it is free.
There are many other (free and commercial) applications that could be used for editing audio, including audio editing apps for mobile operating systems such as iOS and Windows. Although we have elected to support Audacity, if a student wants to use an alternative application that they are already familiar with (or is specifically tailored to their device such as an iPad for example) then, as long as you are only interested in the output, there is no reason to force students to use Audacity.
The work-sheets (and associated assets) developed for Audacity are designed to walk students through all the basic recording and editing tasks they are likely to need for undertaking audio/podcast project work (including basic recording considerations, audio trimming, multitrack sequencing and audio quality/restoration issues etc).
Coming Soon – Downloadable worksheets and associated asset packages.
When delivered as a workshop, lead and supported by a member of the E-Learning Development Team, the session is best scheduled in a two-hour slot (it will take a minimum one hour depending on size of cohort). This would typically be formatted such that students work independently through the work-sheets for the majority of the session. We do however tend to include a ten (to fifteen) minute preface/contextualisation/orientation at the start of the session plus a ten minute wrap up at the end. While working through the worksheets, students can call on the expert present to help as needed.
If you would like the E-Learning Development Team to deliver an audio development workshop, with sufficient advance warning, we can tailor the session to meet the needs of your project. You could, course, use the materials provided here to deliver the workshop your self once you are familiar enough with the tools.
For further information, or to arrange workshop(s) for your students, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Audio Workshops – Additional considerations
It’s worth observing, if scheduling an editing workshop with the E-Learning Development Team, that students will likely need to bring their own headphones (the ELDT have only a limited number of sets – circa six USB sets with microphone arms – that can be used during the session).
Although Audacity is generally available on supported PCs (such as those in labs) it can be a good idea to ask students to bring their own device to the session (preferably a lap-top) as these devices will often have a microphone built in to them and is likely to be the device they will complete the actual project on.
In the absence of a microphone enabled device, students can borrow a microphone from AV Services (AV Centre Booking Guidance). Most smart phones will have audio recording capabilities that students can leverage too.
Example modules with student-generated audio output:
(Not including music/audio technology/sound design modules [etc] from Music/Electronics/TFTV departments)
- Heritage Practice (Archaeology – Sara Perry)
- Whole School Issues (Education – Paula Mountford)