Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

This content was published: April 17, 2017. Phone numbers, email addresses, and other information may have changed.

Audio Feedback: More Bang for the Buck

Posted by

Personalized audio feedback takes very little time and helps engage online students with course content and instructors.

Audio Feedback: More Bang for the Buck

One of the biggest challenges I face as an English instructor is providing timely, constructive, differentiated feedback to my students. Learning how to compose college-level papers requires a great deal of guidance because writing is a recursive process that does not easily follow a set procedure. To be successful, students have to understand how to provide a context for readers, sense of purpose for the essay, logical organizational structure, and convincing evidence.

In face-to-face classes, negative comments on an assignment can be balanced with a student’s personal connection to the instructor because faculty members have many opportunities to demonstrate authentic care through facial expressions, gestures, tone of voice, and eye contact.

However, online faculty members must work more intentionally to build such rapport, which is extremely important when they need to deliver constructive criticism to students. Instructors who assign research papers need to provide meaningful feedback to students in a relatively short amount of time. How can these delicate but vital relationships be sustained in the ether?

My suggestion is AUDIO FEEDBACK

Although this method takes far less time than writing individual commentary to each and every student, I have to say that students LOVE this type of feedback.

The response has been very receptive. Students can hear the authentic care in my voice, and I am able to contextualize constructive feedback in a way that still recognizes student effort and writing strengths.

Thanks for the feedback about my assignment. I did enjoy your voice memo and love that option.

I have saved every audio feedback she gave me. I love how she encourages to work hard and to write more in them.

I want to let you know that I appreciate all the online support you have given us through emails and voice memos. It has will be useful support throughout the term. I believe I’m doing great in the class so far. I’ve been able to understand and complete every assignment with clarification.

Preparing for the audio comments

Reflect upon the goals of the assignment as well as the goals for your feedback. What are the most important things for students to think, feel, do, or believe after they receive your comments?

Read through the essay and mark where you want to respond. Praise? Confusion? A great sentence? An unclear connection? Make basic comments.

Consider limiting this feedback to a few bullet items, so students are not overwhelmed.

Use the Assignments feedback text box to share advice centered on common themes you have identified in this set of essays. Perhaps you have an explanation about topic sentences or discussion of credible evidence that would benefit many students.

Consider whether certain issues can be addressed with links to specific resources.

Skim the paper again. Review notes.

Put on your headphones and hit RECORD. (In D2L Brightspace, there is a RECORD AUDIO button under the text feedback box.) The internal app provides three minutes of audio.


  • Slowly inhale and then exhale. Smile as you speak. (It makes a difference. I promise.)
  • Greet students by name. This small gesture builds a sense of mutual respect. (If I am unsure about a pronunciation, I use Google, confess to using Google, and then ask the student to correct me if necessary.)
  • Start positive. Tell them what you enjoyed about reading the paper.
    The topic? The tone? The research? The passion?
    Be positive, specific, and truthful.
  • Reference the written feedback in the textbox. Use your voice to contextualize constructive criticism. It is important for students to understand whether the problems with their assignments are “normal.” You might mention whether certain areas needing improvement have been typical concerns for students in past classes or whether some students in the class are working on this same skill. If you have deep concerns that this student does not seem to be on track, express those, and invite the student to schedule a conference or phone call.
  • Direct the student to take specific action moving forward. Do you want them to revise? Apply your criticism to future projects? Spend more time doing X or thinking about Y?
  • Explain the resources you have provided (possibly in course shell or text box) to help students build this skill or accomplish this task.
  • Assure students that you are invested in their success and want to help. Encourage them to contact you as needed. (Remember to smile here, too.)
  • Consider ending with a look forward. Would you like to share that you want to see where the research takes them? You look forward to reading the next paper? You like hearing these ideas?

Although audio feedback was a bit outside my comfort zone, I am now a convert. Please consider adding this valuable tool to your teaching practice.

About Laura Sanders

In addition to teaching as an adjunct for community colleges in Oregon and California, Laura currently serves as teaching learning center coordinator, online English faculty mentor, and community-based learning coordinator at PCC. She has t... more »

Poppe with speech bubble


Sorry, but the comments have been closed. If you see something that doesn't belong, please click the x and report it.

x (Comment #27519) by Michele Marden 5 years ago (Comment #27519)

I really appreciated the tips here! Fits right in with the course Teaching Men of Color in Community College.

x (Comment #29269) by Julianne Johnson 5 years ago (Comment #29269)

What a great tool to bridge the gap between the online course instructor and the student. I ,being a music instructor was so excited to learn of a method where we can encourage the student to continue to grow. Our voices are the keys to the visceral aspect of our craft. Compassionate responses to difficult processes allows the student the opportunity to trust the instructor and the process more .I know that when i hear content repeated back to me or re-iterated in a new way, i will retain the information. Actors use this same method to learn and retain their lines. So an instructor critiquing a paper will highlight and celebrate on target information while giving more resources to guide the student success in other areas where they have fallen short. Teachers of the performing arts should applaud this method.