Producing audio feedback – design principles


It is what we make it – Designing, implementing and evaluating audio feedback

The academic is a designer. Like other designers, the academic analyses, designs, develops, implements and evaluates what they do. Known as the ADDIE framework, this can be applied to giving feedback too.

Analyse the context

Think about,

  • Impact – when exactly will the feedback have most effect?

  • Just in time – who are the students and what do they need to think about at this point?

  • Making it count – what, if nothing else, do they need to hear right now?

  • Connected learning – how does this connect to other modules, now and later?

  • Motivation – why will the students want to listen and learn?


Think about,

  • Design specification – know specifically what you are trying to achieve with audio

  • Timing – know what impact you aim to maket, and when

  • Detail – know what to include or what not to include, e.g. too much detail in spoken form

  • Make it personal – voice, tone, intimacy – know how the special personal ingredients will work for you

  • Make it more personal – focus on how the spoken voice helps you to refer specifically to each student’s work

  • Consistency and flow – know how it combines with other teaching activity or feedback and how they work together to address the intended learning outcomes

  • Ask – “If I could have just five minutes with this person, what would I say to them?”

Develop for context

This is mostly about the academic’s context. Think about,

  • Real time – time-based media are simple – ‘saying is making’

  • ‘Press the red button’ ethos – keep it technically simple – we are not ‘the BBC’ (see Digital Voices publication for more on this)

  • Presence – be direct, be close, let them know you care

  • Think about the message…

    • Keep it brief, clear and focused*

    • Keep it manageable for you and for your student

* note: some innovators disagree with the brevity point and believe audio feedback creates an opportunity to provide a lot of detail. As a designer, you need to think this through for yourself based on your understanding of your context. You could talk to your students to find out what will work for them.

Implementing the feedback model

Implementation has technical and pedagogical implications. Think about,

  • Who actually gives the feedback – usually the academic, but also consider peer feedback models or employers for work-related learning, etc. You can use a self-assessment method to: an ‘audio postcard to my future self’.

  • How the audio feedback is made and distributed (e.g. PC with Audacity, smart device with an audio recording app like Voice Record, screencasting software like Screencast-o-matic, etc)

  • Tools

  • people use audio recorders, smart phones and tablets, laptops and PCs, USB headsets
  • VLE tools and space or standalone audio approaches for flexibility and authenticity to capture learning in particular situations
  • software and apps


Your model needs to be evaluated. Ask,

  • Did this achieve what you set out to do (see Design)

    • Ask students, review access data, check whether feed forward actions were executed by students.

    • Ask yourself- did it feel right, was it expedient, could I convey what was needed clearly in an appropriate way.

  • Evaluate… and improve. Amend the design specification for the next iteration.