Sound (Audio) Design To Enhance Online Learning

Sound (Audio) Design To Enhance Online Learning

Unit Goals:
Teaching the technical aspects and design advantages of using audio in an online learning environment:

• Identify the role of a sound designer in a learning context.
• Explain how sound has the potential to enhance the online learning environment.
• Demonstrate how an instructor can incorporate sound design options online by learning the software and hardware essential in the creation of an audio podcast.

Provide learning activities that allow the learners to:

• Learn recording techniques for capturing original sounds.
• Edit sounds with available software technology.
• Learn a scripting procedure that helps organize the essential steps in planning and implementing a podcast.
• Create an audio podcast that narrates and provides sound effects, and an environment based on the creation of an instructional learning podcast; i.e., a narrator walking though a museum and describing the painters and paintings involved.

Learning Outcomes:

Identify how and why to add sound in an online learning environment.

* The learning outcomes involve a unit of instruction that will allow for the understanding of sound design and audio podcasting in an educational context. This unit is one of several geared towards instructional designers, technology trainers and media developers interested in the creation of online multimedia production in the online learning environment.


This Unit of instruction will be available to the learner for approximately two weeks to complete in an online environment. The learner will need to adequately spend time with the required readings, download and familiarize themselves with the software and hardware, and finally record and edit a final file for an original podcast.

Target Audience:

This course may also be of interest to learners who are studying multimedia production for web based and various media formats. This course and unit will be of interest to instructional designers; people working with web based assistive technologies, sound designers, and media developers.

Prerequisites required:

• Knowledge of Basic computer skills.
• Multimedia production tool experience would be an asset (GargeBand, iMovie, etc.)
• Familiarity with Learning Management Systems would be an asset.
• Knowledge and skills surrounding instructional design theory would be an asset.
This can assist in the learning context of audio in direct association with curriculum and the needs of the learner.
• Musical background could assist in final productions, but is not essential in dealing with audio.
• Possible knowledge in audio editing and hardware systems. The unit will give examples of free, or cost-effective options for “do it yourself” production.

Software required:

• Audio Editing Program – A free audio editor and the one being used in the tutorials is
Audacity: This program is offered in similar online programs, like
• An internet browser for accessing, a Learning Management System, or the hosting of audio in an online learning environment. The unit will prepare students for creating an audio podcast that is not specific to a single LMS, and that could be used directly through a web page, or a program like iTunes.

Hardware required:

• Desktop or laptop computer (Mac, or PC),
• USB Microphone,
• Griffin iMic USB Audio Interface – if computer has no line in or out for audio, then an iMic will need to be purchased.
• External speakers, or headphones are best for audio editing in an isolated environment.

Provided Media Library Resources:

• One of the best resources for listening to various podcasts is by accessing iTunes though iTunes allows students to access all types of genre specific examples and listen to free podcasts in an academic environment, with examples from iTunes U offered by Stanford University:

• Website resources for the creation of podcasts will be offered with the following site:
• Internet research will be encouraged for podcasting articles and it’s recommended that student search using for resources on some of the “best of” procedures by various media developers.

Format/Learning Activity Description:

I would like the unit to be made available to the students through an LMS*.
The unit will take advantage of the following available tools in i.e, Blackboard.
• Discussions
• Learning Modules
• Web Links
• Media Library

*This unit is designed with web friendly materials and is not reliant on one specific LMS, but will need the ability to have an LMS that supports student’s uploading attachments.

• Absorb, Do, Connect Activities in detail:


• Discussions: Students and the instructor will have introductions in the online chat to learn about each other’s experience and expectation of the unit.
• Presentations: The basics for Sound Design in the learning environment will be available by the instructor in PDF format. The students can read through different definitions of what a sound designer does. Including: This link is a great introduction to the broad aspects of sound in multimedia design.
• Viewing and listening to audio Podcasting examples from iTunes. Links to the
Stanford iTunes U podcasts will be required listening to give the context of audio in the learning environment:
• Screen casting demonstrations of the instructor creating an audio podcast using Audacity. The presentation will be designed in Camtasia:
• The screen casting tutorials will introduce student’s to the evaluation criteria of the instructor based on the following points:
o Proper recording techniques that have standard recording levels.
o An audio edit that removes any dialogue mistakes, pops or crackles that distort the audio and help focus on narrative.
o Proper compression and publishing of a web ready format like an .mp3 file.
• Students in the course will have the opportunity to listen to podcasts created by the instructor, so that they can see the possibilities of podcasts embedded as .mp3 files on the web and not specific to an external player such as iTunes.


• Use a discovery activity that involves downloading and listening to audio Podcasting in iTunes. Learners know are actively engaged in the technology and the design of podcasting.
• Students will start to research a topic of choice and begin creating a script for their audio podcast. This script requires the students to:
o name their topic
o write out all narrator dialogue
o write out all dialogue for any character actor(s)
o list any music or sound effects that will be needed
o list any hardware or special effect items that will be needed for their recording.

• Downloading the Audacity audio editor and working with the interface. The learner can get comfortable with the software by using a test file provided by the instructor.
• The learner can follow along with screen capture tutorials provided by the instructor online for using Audacity as a recorder and editor.

Connect :

• Ponder activity – A 2-page reflection paper will be written to explain how the student feels about podcasting being applied to online course work. Student’s can now answer the “How” and “Why” of audio application to their learning environment.
• Discussions could be made available to the students surrounding Learning unit activities that keep them engaged in the process. Some of my favorite questions around podcasting come from the “Teaching Digital Video Production” textbook by Pete Fraser and Barney Oram. The questions in the text are written towards video availability in podcasting, but they can still be modified to discuss audio in the learning environment. These questions help the learner focus on the How and Why I mentioned above: “How is the podcast constructed and what conventions does it use?
How do these compare with real media examples of similar products? Draw as many comparisons as possible.”


• The instructor can evaluate and provide feedback on the scripting of the student’s podcast before the actual recording takes place. This can help the student streamline and omit any unnecessary steps with technology and design that could cause delays and confusion in production.
• Final podcast file(s) – This has two areas for evaluation: The student can post their original Audacity session file for the instructor. This allows for the instructor to view the levels and the set up of the audio file inside the editor.
• The student will post their final mp3 audio podcast for the class to hear inside the LMS, i.e, Blackboard.
• The reflection paper is important t the assessment process because regardless of technical competency in the unit exercises, it will show that the learner is able to grasp the possibilities and process of podcsating for online earners. It is not unlikely that the podcast attempts be flawed in a technical or scripting manner, but the fact that the process has been taught in the unit will allow the student’s to have a development model they can carry into their work.

Lesson Evaluation:

• The instructor can provide feedback on how well an individual has worked on research and planning in their scripting.
• The learner can provide audio samples (podcast) that they have recorded and edited for evaluation by the instructor and peers. The learner will be evaluated by the instructor by:

o Original Scripted Idea
o Recording Technique
o Editing
o Publishing for the Web

The evaluation criteria for assessment will see that the students have created an original podcast idea that serves as a model for a mock instructional learning podcast:

• Proper recording techniques that have standard recording levels,
• An audio edit that removes any dialogue mistakes, pops or crackles that distort the audio and help focus on narrative.
• Proper compression and publishing of a web ready format like an .mp3 file.

– John


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