Sounds Good: Using SoundCloud as a Tool for Feedback in the First-Year Composition Classroom

In the fall of 2012, Sarah Spangler, Megan McKittrick and I began introducing the use of SoundCloud (an audio based social media network) in instructor-student and student-student feedback in English studies classrooms. We were hoping to build on the research that’s already been done on audio feedback by focusing on a technology that might help to create dialogue about student writing instead of just static feedback.

In my own classroom, I used the technology to provide formative feedback (in addition to written feedback) on 2 major projects: a research essay and a visual argument. I also required students to complete 2 peer reviews of each of these projects: one written and one in SoundCloud. One of features of SoundCloud that was really exciting for us in our quest for creating dialogue was the ability to comment (in writing) on specific areas of a sound file.

In order to better utilize the technology, in the Spring of 2013, I implemented requiring each student to respond to one of the peer responses in SoundCloud by answering a specific question that the classmate asked or responding about a specific area the classmate suggested working on. Overall, students across all classes have had a pretty positive response to the use of this technology and it was a positive experience for me and my colleagues as well. However, this project has had its issues. I'll only go over the two that are most relevant our intent and purpose here.

First, the only thing that I changed about the second semester was requiring the additional comment within SoundCloud (I used the same instructional handouts and videos for the “how-to” of SoundCloud); however, I was inundated with frustrated emails from students who were having trouble using the technology at all stages. I’m baffled by this and am wondering if others have had similar experiences in using new technology in the classroom and what was done to solve the problem (I ended up doing a screen capture video that took the students from the class page in Blackboard all the way through).

Second, the dialogue did not happen the way I was hoping (even with the inclusion of the required response in the Spring semester). I was hoping that students would use the technology to continue the conversation about their work; however, they stopped when the requirements stopped. That is, in the Fall of 2012, they only provided the recording, and in the Spring of 2013 they had the recording and one text comment back to a classmate’s review. Despite this, the feedback given in SoundCloud, in my classes at least, tended to give the classmate more guidance and more feedback. They didn’t stop at just answering the questions as they often do in written feedback.

How else might this technology be used in the classroom? How might I improve my own use?

Front Page Photo Credit: Peter Fuchs via Compfight cc



I have spent a few days thinking about the two big issues you see using this technology in your classroom. I have not used sound cloud, but I have seen it used and commented on for blogs/articles where individuals annotate an new song. 

I have found with other technology I have used, everything from googledocs to bitstrips, that different classes seem to have different levels of success and I'm never sure why. In a classroom, I often have students who are tech savvy and willing to help others, but in online and hybrid courses, that becomes more challenging. Because I use so much technology, I am reminded how for granted I take technology as well with the assumption that I am working with digital natives, which does not seem the case.

I also wonder about the assessment of success as something that students continue to use. If students see the value in having done it, is that a success even if they don't continue to comment on the draft? Do they see it as a task that is now completed and they can move on from or will they return to it later? What level class is it and are they doing rewrites where even more feedback might be useful?

I am very interested in learning more about Soundcloud for feedback. I have used Jing to give teacher feedback and have had positive feedback from my students. I have not asked for verbal feedback from them. 

Hi Jamie,

I've had the same experience with certain assignments doing well in one class but not in the next, but I've never had the issue of a set of instructions being effective in one class, but not the next. I suppose I was assuming since these students already had experience with online classes (3/4 of them had me the semester before for Comp I), that they were already comfortable with technology. 

Assessing success is always tricky. It's similar to the idea that you can be engaged in a discussion topic even if you don't post. Other than the issues listed, it seems to be going well. The students that responded to the survey did claim to want both text and audio, but that they preferred the audio to just text feedback. 

This is actually a good idea because you don't have to use any other instruments to record your audio projects. You upload them to SoundCloud and voila, the only thing you wait is the review of your teacher. Thus, your classmates can review too! Also, SoundCloud uses modern technologies that enhances the clarity and quality of your audio. On the other dimension, know how to get SoundCloud followers to ensure your image to improve and uploaded tracks will be played and listened! Easy pizzy, no hassle or waiting in vain! ;)

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