Monday, October 22, 2012

Speed up your feedback

One of the great things about using online tools in your web-enhanced, hybrid, or online course is that you can provide much more individual and group feedback to students.

Frequent feedback helps students correct misconceptions, learn new skills, get coaching on critical thinking, and become more connected to you, the course, and the subject.  Such feedback speeds up learning, allowing more progress in the time frame of a typical course than would otherwise be possible.  It is customized to some degree and thus more effective than not providing frequent feedback.

However, one of the worst things about giving individual and group feedback frequently is that it takes time.  And, as we know, time is something we are finding less and less of these days in the academy.  Increased expectations in record keeping and reporting, a rapidly expanding knowledge base in our disciplines to keep up with, and more time mentoring and managing the growing adjunct faculty pool, all make it harder to devote more time to interacting with students.

How can we improve the balance so that frequent, constructive feedback to students can grow rather than diminish?

One method that I've found to give me more time to give more helpful online feedback to my students is by using speech recognition software.

In the olden days, I tried this and the results were hilarious but ineffective.  Everything I said came out in a knee-slapping stream of nonsense.  In fact, I often laughed out loud, which produced even more "speech recognized" narrative.  So I gave up on it.

But the technology as progressed rapidly.  Now it is very accurate and efficient. With just a little practice— And training of the software — you can speak your feedback into any program quickly and easily.

There is satisfactory speech-recognition software built into many operating systems or other software without any extra expense. However, I have found that using a dedicated speech-recognition program provides improved accuracy and a whole toolbox of nifty features that make the whole experience more flexible, enjoyable, and fast.

I use speech recognition software when I am answering my daily emails. I find that I can get through my emails from students much more quickly using the speech-recognition approach. Not only that, I find that my answers to students are longer and more detailed — and thus hopefully more helpful to them.

I use speech recognition software when I am grading online assignments. When giving feedback on a project, for example, I can very quickly include a number of detailed comments. When keyboarding manually, the number and length of my comments is greatly reduced by both fatigue and the limits of time available.

I find that students really appreciate both the personal attention that such comments represent and the specific help and advice contained within these comments. They feel like they are making rapid progress… because they are.

Many colleges now provide individual installations of speech recognition software such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking . This is the software that I use and find it to work very well for me.

I know that it is always daunting to face learning how to use a new technology, but this one is amazingly easy. And even if you have to pay for it yourself, it's not very expensive. And you will find it to be worth every penny — and then some.