Audio in Practice

I must admit that I am primarily an auditory learner. I favor listening to lectures over poring over charts, graphs and images. My interest in creative writing has always leaned heavily towards the spoken word over format, layout and design. Thus I never forayed into the world of advertising (but that’s a topic for another day).

Back in my pre-med days, I knew I could use this to my advantage. So our block set up transcription groups to ease the burden of recording and transcribing those long and winding lecture notes. I must say I experienced first-hand the sleep-inducing  nature of lectures presented by doctors. It is the perfect antidote to insomnia, and my auditory inclination was tested to its limit at that time. Our 7 am Physiology class ran for 2 hours. Lo and behold, those doctors waxed poetic for the entire 2 hours without cracking a single joke or pausing a minute to allow us to ponder and digest the tsunami of information that raged before us and threatened to wipe out our own sanity. And they really do sound like they  have a lifetime membership to and are the lead part in the Pabasa during holy week. It is the perfect example of “auditory fatigue” (Smaldino, 2004). Their pitch, volume and speed never wavered or lost steam. They gratuitously delivered their lectures like the Sermon on the Mount with no regard whatsoever of the audience pulse. I’m assuming I could have just as easily laid out my bed right by the podium, and they probably would not have flinched at all.

I would surmise that this practice of recording entire lectures and seminars is quite popular amongst students as it gives them the opportunity to listen to the material in case they missed it initially or, such as in our case, merely want to review it again at a later time.

But as I was going over the modules for this week and putting together the materials for our first assignment, I realized that audio recordings can also be used in a variety of ways to supplement the teaching process. Audio materials can help create interest and develop the creativity and imagination amongst students. For example, teachers can play a sound file or a voice clip and ask students to visualize and illustrate this later on. this way, students are motivated and made active participants in the learning process which thereby helps improve retention. Moreover, audio helps develop the listening skills of the learner, a basic skill that one should master as it would prove very helpful not only in one’s professional life, but also in personal life. But I also realise that despite the benefits, audio should still be used with caution as audio-based learning would be difficult for students with hearing impairments. Audio is still best used in conjunction with other media to add depth and complexity to the design of teaching. Also, the development or incorporation of audio  into a lesson should be part of a blended learning approach and integrated with other learning experiences.

Given my experience in my pre-med days, this module has also ratified my belief that not all audios are the same. Even auditory learners would struggle if the audio  does not support learning, was of poor quality and was as circuitous and intricate as the roads leading to Baguio. Quality and tone could spell the difference between an actively engaging lesson and a dull, lethargic and auditorily prostrated class. I do think no matter how complicated and technical the subject is, the audio should be upbeat, conversational. Subject matter expertise alone may  not be enough to keep learners motivated and engaged, and in some cases, may not even have a positive impact on student learning, no matter how much the lecturer excels in the process. It is the human element which is extremely important in the learning process. For some learners, this human element could be even more important than technical expertise. It’s akin to going into a restaurant. A person visits a restaurant primarily for the food it serves. This is the technical element. However, the customer expects polite staff, attentive yet non-intrusive service–the human element. If these expectations are  not properly met, the guest would leave the restaurant dissatisfied even if the technical element, which is eating a meal has been met. It’s the same thing for any learner. Students go to school to be educated. Their existence in the classroom does not guarantee that they have learned anything. For some, they may complain that they haven’t learned and that their grades remain as dismal as before because the audio was not clear enough, or the speaker was busted and he/she was staying at the back of the room, or the audio was boring, the font in the powerpoint too small. This becomes a design problem that no form of instructional or instructional design can fix.


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