Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon

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Parking, Mafia humor and your online class

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"Gangster" by Eugene Wineblat - Portraits. CC BY-ND 2.0 retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/jazz_defo/4256563042/

“Gangster” by Eugene Wineblat – Portraits. CC BY-ND 2.0

I’d like to use an issue that erupted a brouhaha on the Sylvania campus group mail over the past week to talk about an easy and powerful way you can improve your online class. If you don’t subscribe to the Sylvania email group, you might be unaware that there has been a lively interaction between faculty and staff over proposed changes to parking lot 11 here at Sylvania campus. Mafia humor was used in the communication and though not intended personally, was interpreted as such and thus parking was perturbed.

In response, our comedian colleague quickly presented his regrets:
“Apparently my slight attempt at humor has annoyed (name removed) . I regret that. It wasn’t meant to be a serious comment. I hope that at least some people were amused.

Email can be very poor at conveying “tone of voice” and “body language,” which can cause unintended consequences, as it seems to have here. I think that if this interaction have happened in person, it would have gone considerably better.”
Though the humorous party was accused of ‘pre-school name calling’, I honestly thought the original email thread was kind of funny. But then, the humor wasn’t in any way aimed at me, so I didn’t really have any reason to take it personally as others might have. In following up with the instructor, he also mentioned that it was never his intention to call anyone “Mafia”, he was just playing around with the concept in order to do something amusing.

So let’s take a moment to think about this exchange, and how it applies to feedback in your online class. When we engage as students, some of our most powerful learning moments come when we receive guiding personal feedback from our instructors. Sometimes that feedback (especially when possibly negative or even when constructively critical) while it might help us grow, receiving it can also really sting in the process. I think it’s a very human response for many of us to bring levity to difficult moments that may lead to conflict or feelings of ill-will. Let’s face it though, if you’re stuck with communicating via text, humor can go terribly wrong.

Thankfully, Desire2Learn gives you the option as an instructor to give audio feedback to your students when reviewing their work. Why would you want to change your practice and start giving audio feedback?

Take a look at this study that looked at the effect of using asynchronous audio feedback to enhance teaching presence and students’ sense of community in online classes. In summary, students who received audio feedback reported the following in follow-up interviews:

  • Audio feedback was perceived to be more effective than text-based feedback for conveying nuance
  • Audio feedback was associated with feelings of increased involvement and enhanced learning community interactions
  • Audio feedback was associated with increased retention of content
  • Audio feedback was associated with the perception that instructors cared more about the student.

Additionally, Document analysis revealed that students were three times more likely to apply content for which audio commenting was provided in class projects than was the case for content for which text based commenting was provided. Audio commenting was also found to significantly increase the level at which students applied such content. (Ice, et. al. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ842694.pdf 20140210)

And if you’re wondering if this will take more time to do, excellent news! This study also compared the amount of time spent by faculty using text vs audio feedback and found that audio feedback took about a quarter of the time. Students also received nearly three times as many words in feedback when it was delivered in audio form. Although more research is needed to validate quality, the majority positive response from students receiving audio vs text feedback suggests that more may be better here.

Feedback volume

Time required for feedback

It seems giving audio feedback is better for your students AND it saves you time. I love a win/win! Want to use this practice in your online class? Here are step by step directions on using the audio tool (courtesy of University of Wisconsin System), here’s a video that shows you how to use the audio tool (courtesy of Minnesota State Moorhead Instructional Tech) and if you would like additional assistance, contact your campus instructional technology specialist.

About Monica Marlo

Multimedia Ed-Tech one up for PCC faculty. Immedgineer- Immersive Education Engineer. Multi-disciplinary, a blended use of analog and digital interactive storytelling tools to immerse a learner toward measurable objectives. (eg: 3D virtual ... more »