Benefits and Disadvantages of Audio-Only Instructions

Designing instruction for audio was quite a bit different, because I had to be conscious about the tone of my voice and ensure the room was free of background noises which could create distractions when recording the instruction sequence. The audio file needed to be cleaned up to remove stutters, unnecessary breathing sounds, clicking noises, and to normalize sound quality so that one section did not sound significantly louder than another.

Chunking, which is something I try to do in every instructional sequence, became even more important to ensure that I maintained the learner’s attention. Additionally, segues were needed to lead into and out of each chunk of instruction so that the learner knew a transition was occurring. It was necessary to think about how and where transitions were going to occur and how I was going to signal the move to a new audio file to the learner.

I’m not sure that you could say creating an audio instruction was more efficient. If anything, it took twice as long as creating a text instruction, because I had to start by writing out a script which was basically a text-based instruction. The script then had to be recorded, and the recording files tweaked and cleaned. Finally, the whole thing had to be put into some format appropriate for presentation to the learner.

That said, audio instruction files uploaded to a site like iTunes University could be downloaded by learners and used on a phone, iPod, or other audio-capable device. The mobility of use and hands-free listening just might make this form of instruction more efficient to learners. Learners can listen to the instruction anywhere, or they can attempt to do the task they are being instructed about while listening at the same time. Certainly that makes this form of instruction beneficial and even more accessible for most learners.

This course is really the first time I’ve thought about individual mediums such as audio and images in isolation. I have often considered the benefits of adding additional media to an instruction, such as adding images to a text-based instruction or recording an audio-video instruction rather than using text and still images only. Having to work with single mediums allows me to see the benefits and limitations of individual mediums and forces me to think more deeply about why I might select a particular medium, in isolation or in combination with other media, to aid my learners when designing instruction.

Of course, audio, just like any other medium, has both benefits and limitations. Benefits include the portability of the medium and the ability to listen to the instruction and follow it at the same time, because your hands are free. A limitation includes inaccessibility to individuals with hearing impairments, as well as problems with adequate presentation in some format. Using Dreamweaver, I found it impossible to embed the media files directly into the webpage, despite downloading a Javascript plug-in that was supposed to allow this. The player displayed but the media simply didn’t play. I am not sure what is wrong with my version of Dreamweaver but this is not the first problem I’ve had this semester attempting something that should have worked and didn’t. I ended up simply using hyperlinks to the media, which permitted playing within the browser, but the only way I could figure out how to permit file downloading was to instruct the learner how to right-click the play button and choose “Save File As”. At any rate, I believe the benefits outweigh the limitations, and see myself using this medium in isolation a lot more frequently.

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