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How Audio Feedback Via Social Media Can Drive Engagement and Enhance Instruction

By Henry Kronk
September 04, 2018

While online learning excels in certain areas, it chronically suffers in others. Among the latter, student engagement, personal connection, and student-teacher interaction have been areas of focus for educators and researchers practically since the birth of the digital learning environment. Engagement in all learning environments, furthermore, is a topic of ongoing concern. A recent study conducted by Yueting Xu, a researcher at the School of English and Education, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies in Guanghzhou, China, purports to have found a piece of the puzzle. An instructor of a university level English language course decided that, instead of providing written feedback, she would use a popular social media platform WeChat to record her comments on student assignments verbally.

And like many innovations, the instructor struck upon the method by mistake. Xu refers to her in the study as Rosa.

The Eureka Moment

When asked how Rosa first used it, she replied, “I used it accidentally when one student sent me his group’s PowerPoint slides late at night. I was too tired to type my comments. I thought of a WeChat group. I reviewed his slides on my computer, and I talked into my phone and sent him four messages on the WeChat group. I directed the messages to him with the “@.” It just took me three minutes.”

social media
Alvaro Ibanes, Flickr.

Further questioning from Xu revealed other qualities of the medium.

Researcher: Did you learn about using audio feedback before?

Rosa: No.

Researcher: So you mean you just intuitively used audio feedback?

Rosa: Yes. Exactly. I am not sure whether I did it right, but it was quite convenient.

Through a range of methods, including numerous rounds of interviews with Rosa and her students, in-class observation, and in-depth analysis of the 35 hours of teacher-student dialogue (in transcribed form), Xu sought to investigate whether audio feedback worked and whether or not it had positive qualities.

Merits of Audio Feedback Via Social Media

The answer to the first question have already been discussed. WeChat is widely used throughout China, and Rosa received a response from her learners very quickly. (One might assume that use of WeChat was even more intuitive for the learners than for Rosa.)

Other researchers have also found audio feedback to be more positively received by students. It’s also more time-efficient.

But in the learning process, efficiency should always be secondary to engagement and efficacy. Luckily in the case of Rosa, these three qualities were not mutually exclusive.

Learners responded positively to the audio feedback.

“The audio feedback on WeChat is useful,” reported one learner. “We finally used WeChat for learning – not for chatting or killing time. I listened to every message, and sometimes I listened to some of them more than once. It’s not just listening to the teacher’s voice. I particularly like to hear how the teacher responded to some classmates’ questions. The interactions helped me think.”

As Xu concludes, audio feedback via social media creates much more of a dialogue between student and teacher. And this dialogue leads to a couple outcomes. It creates a greater bond between teacher and learner and it allows, as Xu writes, for “cognitive reinforcement with high levels of student engagement and feedback enactment.”

These findings have implications, arguably, for instruction in any field and at any level. But it should also serve as a lesson for any and every instructor who has taught online.

Whether it’s a MOOC or a small online cohort, the digital format by definition creates barriers between student and teacher. Numerous online instructors have highlighted the more human sensory aspects of learning to overcome these. Whether it’s highlighting voices from diverse backgrounds or live video streaming, many educators have begun to reach learners more and more personally. Audio feedback via social media can enhance the human aspect of online learning to an even greater degree.

Featured Image: Jose Aljovin, Unsplash.


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