Nov
03
Filed Under (Audio, Marketing) by Jeff Hino on 03-11-2010

After being on a phone call last week with 11,554 other people, I’ll never think of telephones as POTS –Plain Old Telephones–again.
Our exposure to an innovative way to use telephones arose through an e-learning project called “Mastery of Aging Well” produced in collaboration with AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons). In our discussions on how to move this information out to the world—specifically the AARP world—we were informed about a process AARP called TeleTown Hall. Simply put, the technique turns the phone system into a radio talk show, reaching out to hundreds of thousands of people (or more!) with targeted information.
For us, that targeted information was the variety of ways people can “master aging”, and how they can learn more about the topic online and through other available educational materials—and take action in their own lives and in the lives of their aging family members.


On the day of the program, we assembled our team. Our two hosts, Dr. Sharon Johnson from OSU (the author of Mastery of Aging Well) and Allen Douma, M.D. were joined by an AARP moderator, and three off-site screeners. Using a provider (TeleForum by Broadnet) we were able to simultaneously dial up 99,500 Oregon and Utah AARP members using information from an AARP database.

After a brief countdown, the 99,500 phone calls were launched. People who answered were welcomed with a brief pre-recorded invitation to stay on the phone to listen in and participate in the live discussion.

The screener’s job (of which I was one) was to connect to listeners who are calling in with questions for our hosts. Caller information displayed real-time in a web browser page, with their call status indicated. I simply clicked on a waiting caller’s name, welcomed them, and entered brief summary of their question. I could also tag them for follow-up if they just wanted additional information. The hosts/moderator read our screener comments, and chose which callers to connect “live” to the show–I mean phone call.

Of the 99,500 calls placed, 11,544 people joined the call, and another 50,000+ received the pre-recorded message. During the one-hour call, 51 people were screened, and the hosts were able to take 12 questions live.

And it doesn’t end with the phone calls. Three thousand people will receive a follow up letter from AARP including a copy of our Mastery of Aging Well brochure. This technology isn’t cheap: we invested $5,000 of grant money to make it happen for a footprint covering just two states. But for us it was worth it. It gave us a powerful way to have a conversation with our target audience, provide an interactive educational experience, elicit feedback, and market our e-learning materials. Obviously, it could be used for lots more. As TeleForum put it, “All you need to know is what you want to say and the people you want to say it to.”

Oct
04
Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Jeff Hino on 04-10-2010

Galloping down the beach, Charlton Heston suddenly stops his horse and dismounts, staring up in disbelief at an object just coming into view. He begins approaching the object before descending into a fit of rage and screaming: “We finally really did it. You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you. Damn you all to hell!” Zoom out to reveal the charred remnants of the World Wide Web, half-submerged in the shoreline, revealing that the website he was on was actually an application the whole time, and that the paradise that became The Forbidden Zone was once New York City.

http:// on the beach

A disjarring image, but one that the techno-pundits are beginning to warn us might appear around the next corner. “The Web is Dead,” says September’s issue of Wired Magazine, “Long Live the Internet.”

Increasingly  we turn to applications, whether for communication on Skype, or IM, listening to podcasts, tuning your favorite music on Pandora, or watching TV shows on Netflix. Need the weather forecast? Another app. In their Wired article, Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff blame us, the consumer for this massive shift. We are picking apps because they are just better and offer a more comfortable fit to our lives. It is, as Wired observes, becoming “less about browsing and more about getting.”

The Apple iPad led the way, with dozens of new pads and tablets arriving on the market in the months ahead, boosting the clamor for applications even further into the stratosphere. What does this mean for those of us who design, build and deliver e-learning? Are we looking at abandoning the web and embracing the cloud of single-purpose apps? But apps are currently tethered to industrial giants; if we lose the Web will we lose our noncommercial, free-wheeling access to the learning marketplace?

Hard questions, but one thing we can be sure of on the Planet of the Apps: there will be sequels.

Sep
30
Filed Under (e-learning, Science publishing, Uncategorized, Writing for the web) by Chris LaBelle on 30-09-2010

The Fate of the Book
The Chronicle Review, October 1, 2010
Essays by William Germano, Jeffrey R. Di Leo, and Diane Wachtell

In the most recent issue of the Chronicle Review, several authors ask: Is the printed book dead? Three cogent essays survey the vast landscape that is publishing and weigh in on the current health and future possibilities of how we will distill our ideas and craft narrative using the ever-evolving suite of authoring and distribution tools.

Some quotes from these essays:

The overarching goals of publishing have been “universal access to knowledge and building knowledge as a self-correcting, collective exercise.”

“The real reason that academe has been slow to embrace digitization—is cultural, not material: an attitude rooted in the belief that the printed book is intrinsic to scholarship.”

“The story of electronic literature and scholarship has yet to be written in full, but before long the growth in digital scholarship will put an end to the myth of the book in higher education.”

Today, there is a symbiotic relationship between the book and the digital publication: “The way the electronic triumvirate engages with the publishing industry is by selling old-media products via new media.” Hence, discussions about revenue structures abound.

Is the printed book truly on its way out—residual collateral of cost efficiencies and technological advancement? Has the tipping point already occurred or, as one author suggests, will new publication approaches evolve to a point where the book will be relegated to furniture? What discipline or disciplines will champion the story of digital scholarship? What are your thoughts?

Sep
29
Filed Under (e-learning, instructional design) by Chris LaBelle on 29-09-2010

For those developing E-learning deliverables, this is THE question. Essentially, it’s all about project scope and assuming that your most conservative estimate is still probably too low—there’s always something else that will need to be added, modified or enhanced. However, you need to size the project using hours, so you reference past projects relative to the requirements of this new deliverable. But are there any industry standards or benchmarks you can point to?

Chapman Alliance recently released their data-heavy survey results that provide benchmarks for E-learning development. Their executive summary of the survey states, “Research Participants: 249 companies organizations, representing 3,947 learning development professionals, who have created content consumed by 19,875,946 learners.” Their results?

In short, e-learning still takes a considerable investment of time to create. The most basic content, which might be thought of as “PowerPoint plus” is listed at 49:1. That means 49 hours of work for every one hour of e-learning product. The other side of the scale is highly complex e-learning output listed at 716:1—think instructional video game for this category.

Industry-defined benchmarks remind us that e-learning involves multiple layers of production and iteration. Integrating text, navigation, usability, functionality, learning objectives, and multimedia into an e-learning project, and doing so in a systematic way, takes time. Ultimately, both the process and the output remind us that in most cases e-learning is categorized more readily as instructional software compared to other forms of web-based communication.

As the report suggests, interactivity is perhaps the most determinant characteristic of complexity and consequently has the largest impact defining benchmarks. What do you think; do these numbers seem accurate to you?

On a recent flight to Madrid, I sat next to a glassblower from the Portland area and we talked shop. After hours of discussing the intricacies of blowing and shaping glass, I tried to explain to him where my work as an instructional designer and technologist finds overlap with his occupation.

I learned that working with glass requires an eye for the artistic and a concern for the technical. Glass can be stretched, colored, tempered and rendered opaque; yielding common tableware or a postmodern work of art. However, for most glassblowers, artistic concerns often take back seat to the exigency of making a living. So, the glassblower’s primary focus on any given day is to create objects that meet customers’ requirements: price, time frame, color, size and other form-related variables that can be manipulated. While cable TV often portrays the art of glassblowing in showy and captivating clips demonstrating dramatic movement of metal rods shaping molten glass, much of the work of the glassblower is in fact invisible to the customer. In fact, much of the behind-the-scenes process has little to do with the act of shaping glass. The more he talked, the more I realized how much instructional design resembles glassblowing.

1. Like glassblowing, instructional design is systematic. According to my glassblower friend, the customer sees the plate, vase or sculpture and marvels at its beauty while grumbling about price. Like instructional design, much of the cost around producing a deliverable is buried in the process of qualifying what approach to use, the audience’s needs, the scope and complexity of the project, ensuring accessibility and usability, and so on. Business maxims about 9 parts planning and one part execution are as true about glassblowing as they are about course design and production. To some, glassblowing might resemble a systems approach to design (Dick and Carey’s model in particular)—interrelated parts working together towards a predefined goal.

2. Glassblowers generally start their project by determining their patron’s constraints. Time, cost and complexity are most frequently the core considerations that define project specifics. If nothing else, these factors help keep the utility of the produced item at the forefront, prevent scope creep, and help establish project expectations early in the process. While there are glassblowers who spend more of their time creating art, this is the exception in the industry, and for most, constitutes a small portion of time on the job compared to those projects that allow one to pay the bills. Instructional designers also live in a world where constraints matter. Does a customer bring $300 or $300,000 to the project? Do they need it next week or next year? Is the course one hour long or one hundred hours long? Many businesses over the last decade have utilized e-learning as a means to cut costs of travel and this factor also feeds into a systems-based approach to instructional design. Are high-level stakeholders primarily motivated by cost cutting or by instructional concerns? The reality is that both viewpoints tug on a project and help shape its limits, tone, and utility.

3. Glassblowing is technical. Sketching, painting, shaping clay are artistic expressions that are generally accessible to the novice, albeit there are technical aspects found in each art form. Blowing glass requires access to a furnace and knowledge of how to inflate molten glass into shapes that depend on the molten glass viscosity. In short, the skill of the gaffer or glassmith is one that demands attention to the technical. Instructional designers must also be intimately familiar with how the various parts of a course fit together: process, production, editing, evaluation, distribution—and competency in each area should be developed enough to allow one to complete each step of the process with little or no assistance when the project demands it. And so, it might be fair to say that both the glassblower and the instructional designer are misunderstood: The glassblower does inflate molten glass and the instructional designer does design. But, both share a title that captures only a single piece of their occupational focus.

There is tremendous variety in what defines a glassblower. Some work in factories, others for cable TV. Some craft art and others are all about utility. At the end of the day, process and technical considerations are what all glassblowers have in common. While my new-found glassblower friend might find my analogy full of hot air, I still think back to our shared conversation and see the similarities between the life of the glassblower and the instructional designer. Like glassblowing, instructional design is both a science and an art. Moore, Bates and Grundlind  believe that instructional design is both a science and an art (2002): “a science because it is rooted in learning theories and an art because the designing of instructional materials is a highly creative process.”

Dick, Walter, and Carey, Lou. (1990). The systematic design of instruction. Glenview, Illinois: Scott, Foresman/Little, Brown Higher Education.

Moore, Dermot, Bates, Annemarie, and Grundling, Jean. (2002). Instructional design. In Mishra, Arun K. and Bartram, John (Ed.) Skills development through distance education [on-line]. Available: http://www.col.org/skills/.

Several months back, I posted a comparison of the iPad, iPod and Kindle from the perspective of e-reader functionality. Now, I’d like to provide some input about the iPad relative to what I  see as its true product category: the family room web device. Alas, I’ve already revealed the true nature of my feelings for this iconic tool now that I’ve assigned it to a floor plan and more specifically to a room where one generally relaxes and interacts with content in a more passive manner. Associating the iPad with content consumption as opposed to production is probably not a stretch as I’m guessing that even the most enthusiastic iPad user would concede the device falls short in terms of input. So, I’m hard pressed to imagine the iPad finding its way into the home office when it is obviously so comfortable in the family room.

If nothing else, the iPad has generated some interesting discussions around the state of mobile computing. Case in point: I’ve had discussions about the iPad with my barber, my children, colleagues, Luddites and complete strangers. My barber and several strangers have sworn to me in hushed tone that the iPad has ushered in a new wave of accessibility for elderly readers who use the pincher functionality to increase font size on the fly and relieve strained eyes that have suffered under “pinch-less” monitors for years. Forget increasing font size or display size, from their standpoint, “pinch-to-expand” is the new killer feature that will revolutionize modern mobile computing.

All of the OSU college students I’ve spoken to about the iPad believe the device is “OK,” but not worthy of the cost since most of them already have a mobile phone with Internet access. Hence, the reoccurring statement from many of the student types, “It’s basically a large iPhone.” Steve Job’s recent comment that the iPhone came out of development efforts on the iPad reinforces the connection between the two and form factor similarity.  While the lineage of the iPad is established, its utility to the average user is still less clear in my mind.

My own view after seeing it for the first time in March was that it was the ultimate family room device—a tablet device that was more robust than a mobile phone and less obtrusive than a laptop, which could fulfill the typical family room computing tasks: web surfing, email, very light word processing and gaming. To test my hypothesis and provide more substance to my barber banter, I brought an iPad home last week and let my wife and two boys (10 and 5) try it out. The iPad was placed into “circulation” alongside of our laptop and my iPhone—the results?

My wife found the iPad virtual keyboard a challenge. Many of the educational games my boys play are Flash powered. With no Flash support on the iPad, their interest in the device dropped significantly. The virtual keyboard was also not extremely intuitive for them. These two constraints pushed them back to the laptop until we were able to load some iPad apps. Cogs HD, ACrawler, TM Zero were well designed, but the selection for iPad-formatted content is still somewhat limited and one would be hard pressed to describe the iPad as a true gaming device, especially for a younger audience.

Overall, my impression of the iPad changed after this testing period. It was obvious to me that my wife and children prefer using a laptop when at home or tethered to a wireless network. I also found the virtual keyboard a bit tedious and for some reason (even with two right thumbs), felt the iPhone keypad was more intuitive. On the positive side, I found the iPad’s speed impressive. Like the iPhone, the ergonomics in general are sublime and set the bar for other mobile devices. Magazines like Wired are seeing their iPad subscription base close in on their print-based numbers and this might be an indicator of a new growing demographic of well-heeled magazine mavens who will provide needed consumer viability around attempts to coalesce marketing, content and high-end digital manipulatives around a magazine’s brand and readership interests. In short, the iPad may become one of the crucial pieces needed to change one segment of the online reading experience. However, it’s premature to assume examples like Wired suggest a more broad scale adoption of more augmented reality or digitally enhanced subscription-based magazines is feasible or achievable in the near future. A recent post by Advertising Age unpacks some of the magazine specific enhancements found in these examples and the Atlantic also published a telling article entitled “Is the iPad Saving Magazines Yet?

I’m certain that these examples showcase the potential of online magazines and demonstrate some of the pieces we’ll see in the years to come: more integrated video, 3-D models, the inclusion of social media, content formatted more specifically for mobile or tablet devices. In the meantime, our family is perfectly content passing the laptop around the family room and pulling the iPhone out of dad’s pocket when needed.

A recent reference in the New York Times indicates the U.S. Army is close to declaring war on PowerPoint. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who heads U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, told the Times, “It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control. Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.” For many, PowerPoint has become “a way of knowing.” But is knowledge always best represented by a linear sequence of bullets? Are there alternatives?
No PowerPoint
The concept of a nonlinear presentation tool has been has been around for a while. Rather than lead your audience in a step-like manner, why not give them more control over the sequence of your presentation? If the group is interested in one or two aspects of your presentation, why should you lead them through four or five others? A nonlinear approach gives you the potential to respond to audience needs by altering your presentation to match those needs. With a nonlinear approach, you can assess audience clues, cues, and questions to move the presentation into more fertile and relevant topics.

I attended a very effective presentation on nonlinear storytelling that took it a step further and used audience response system clickers to query the audience on which path they wanted to take through the presentation.

How do you create a nonlinear presentation? In earlier blogs we have discussed Pachyderm, a nonlinear multimedia authoring tool. This open source web-based application allows a non-programmer to create media-rich flash presentations that incorporate text, graphics, videos, audio, and external links using a simple template-driven approach. Pachyderm is first and foremost a tool for creating interactive presentations for individual viewing on a browser, but if carefully designed, it could be a means to create nonlinear presentations for smaller groups. The newly released version 2.1.1 offers a toggle to increase font size for accessibility issues and could offer a solution for more intimate small group presentations.

Buzz has been growing about Prezi, a cloud-based nonlinear presentation design tool that offers a striking new paradigm for creating and delivering presentations. Rather than a linear sequence, Prezi acts more like a Google map of your information, letting you fly over an information landscape at will, zooming in to objects of interest—text, images, videos, links, etc—to pick up additional details. Prezi offers free access to public and educator versions, with 100MB of storage space. Additional features available are for an annual fee.

Prezi Map

A Prezi map.

In my first attempt at using Prezi, I found that I had merely taken a linear presentation and forced it into a nonlinear template. The result was disappointing. The power of Prezi’s nonlinear delivery was lost: zooming into information became just another transition effect linking my fixed linear slides. I realize now that using a tool like Prezi–like Pachyderm–requires rethinking how you plan and organize your thoughts. For example, rather than an outline, create a concept map. Use that to create a map that you can fly over, zooming in to key concepts and media at will, and in any sequence.

Here’s a showcase of Prezi examples. One that grabbed me is “The Future of Video” created by Jody Radzik from the Institute for the Future.

Note that Microsoft has just completed a beta test for an add-on for PowerPoint called pptPlex that provides similar nonlinear capacity (PC only).

Planning a nonlinear presentation using these tools or others will challenge you to rethink how you organize your information, and to just “let go” and give the audience more control over your presentation.

I am not dismissing traditional linear presentations with PowerPoint, Keynote, or other tools; I am challenging myself and others to consider an alternative when the topic lends itself to a new, fresh approach. If you give it a try, let us know how it works for you.

Feb
16
Filed Under (e-learning, instructional design, New Media) by Dave King on 16-02-2010

Although it is true that much of our e-learning thinking these days revolves around money, our work is not only about the money. Through this troubled economic time, we must maintain some attention to our ultimate goals: effective teaching and learner success.

For more than a decade, online and distance learning experts have been quoting studies from literally every educational corner of the world that identify the “no significance difference phenomena,” meaning that study after study continually find no measurable differences between online students and face-to-face students in achieving learning objectives. In fact, researcher Thomas Ramage, wrote in 2002 that, “Interestingly (he) found no studies that exposed lower grades or test scores of online students compared to traditional students.”

Now, there is research that indicates what we’ve seen anecdotally for some time, it’s not just there is no significant difference, but online learners perform better than those taking the same course through face-to-face instruction.

USDoE graphic

USDoE graphic

A systematic review by the U.S. Department of Education of the research literature between 1996 and July 2008 brought us a meta-analysis called Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies.

Among the key findings:
•    Students who took all or part of their course work online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course in a traditional face-to-face instructional setting.
•    Either blended or purely online learning opportunities within a single class or instructional setting generally result in similar student learning outcomes.
•    Elements such as video or online quizzes do not appear to influence the effectiveness of an online learning class.
•    Online learning can be enhanced by giving learners control of their interactions with media and prompting learner reflection.

Digging deeper into the findings of the meta-analysis indicates possible reasons why online students outperformed their face-to-face counterparts.  Without over-simplifying too much, it appears to relate to time on task. Do online or blended courses enable asynchronous learning to occur, which allows online students to more conveniently schedule their learning activity with other work and family commitments?  Does this in turn give them more time on task as it relates to their learning activity, and therefore make them more successful in class?

Online learning per se may not be the reason learners are more successful. It is probably more how the learners use the tools. The bottom-line outcome is that when the tools are made available and the curriculum is appropriately enhanced to engage the tools, the learners can be more successful.

Among the types of individual studies that were reviewed in the meta-analysis, a couple of specific examples help provide greater detail, and together they indicate improvement can occur in both undergraduate and graduate programs.

In her article Learning Style and Effectiveness of Online and Face-to-Face Instruction, Charlotte Neuhauser of the School of Business at Madonna University in Michigan, compared two sections of the same undergraduate business class. And then looking at graduate classes, Charles Karr, Barry Weck, Dennis Sunal, and Timothy Cook at the University of Alabama writing in Analysis of the Effectiveness of Online Learning in a Graduate Engineering Math Course, discuss the complications and successes of online high-level mathematics courses. Both studies are good examples of the type of research included in the meta-analysis by the US Department of Education study. And both studies reveal significant success for online learners.

It is only slightly disingenuous for me to assert it is not about the money when it comes to online learning at OSU. In reality it is not only about the money.  Chris LaBelle, Oregon State University Educational Outreach instructional designer, points (and regular contributor to this blog) out. “…that 99% of the time, it’s ‘all’ about the money when it comes to elearning. For the students, distance education is usually about promotions or job advancement that comes with a new certification or degree, which equals money, and these students usually save money by being able to take online courses as opposed to leaving their job, home, etc.”

And, of course, many Continuing Education business models around the country return significant revenue directly to colleges and department, and that is not inconsequential.

So, if it is, at least in part, about improving learning for our students and learners, what’s next? How do we continue to improve?

A guest post by Dave King, Associate Provost of OSU Outreach and Engagement

Feb
09
Filed Under (e-learning, New Media, Video) by Jeff Hino on 09-02-2010

When Mike Derocher, the Experience Design Manager for HP in Corvallis, Oregon invited us to see a demonstration of their Halo telepresence system, I wondered how this might be relevant to our work in financially strapped higher education. But the demonstration convinced me that the technology of telepresence is on a vector to a whole new landscape of possibilities for collaboration and learning; and despite it’s current high price tag, it’s sending us an echo from the future.

halo multipoint_sm
I’m sitting in front of the three large HD video flat screens and seeing my colleague Chris LaBelle broadcast through HP’s Halo telepresence system. My first impression is a slight feeling of disequilibrium mixed with mild shock at the realism of the experience. The Halo system—and others like it—are taking the debate of “no significant difference” of online experiences to an entirely new level. The system goes to great lengths to recreate the physical, verbal, nonverbal immediacy of a face-to-face encounter, despite what could be thousands of miles separation between participants.

For years, those who design distance education facilities have struggled to create truly interactive environments, where the technology would become transparent to both near and far audiences. But the limitations of jerky, low resolution video, poor audio, and awkward room design made this extremely difficult to achieve. But through a combination of HD technology, interface design, and careful attention to room geometry, these telepresence systems are on the verge of erasing the physical and psychological distance between participants in online collaboration and learning.

These kinds of solutions could take the discussion and inquiry into the variables of presence and immediacy in online learning and collaboration to a whole new level. And as designers of online educational experiences, we need to be aware of the possibilities.

Listen to our podcast about telepresence.

Recording audio for E-learning contexts is a straightforward process when you use the right equipment and adhere to some basic steps to optimize your recording environment. When was the last time you heard a poorly recorded E-learning course, podcast or online presentation?

You know of what I speak. Close your eyes and let the hissing, cracking, and muffled notes course through your auditory cortex. It’s unbearable and you long to hear a stereo-balanced, amplitude appropriate MP3 file. Let’s roll up our sleeves and talk shop in this post. I’ll discuss basic techniques for audio recording and highlight some equipment that will help ensure your message is communicated loud (but not too loud) and clear.

PlantronicsAudio550DSP-large

1. Microphone

Use the best microphone your budget allows. Microphones come in many different shapes, sizes, and prices. If you are on a more conservative project budget, I suggest that you invest in a USB Plantronics headset with integrated microphone as I’ve generally had good luck with this brand. Using a USB microphone ensures that your recording is transferred to your computer digitally (analog microphones use your sound card and must convert an analog signal to digital—resulting in sound degradation).

Here’s a good “starter” USB microphone from Plantronics that can be purchased for under $40.

If you are willing to spend more than $100 and are looking for a higher-end USB microphone, the Samson C03U USB Condenser Microphone is popular for audio screencast recording.

2. Beware of the Buzz

Buzzing, humming and other audio degradation can be caused by a number of issues, but electrical interference is the most common. Of the different forms of electrical interference, ground loop problems are perhaps the most noticeable and difficult to control. Ground loop is generally due to uneven levels of current being picked up on your power cables.

You will want to be careful to pay attention to nearby TVs, overhead fluorescent lights, and anything else that emits an electrical current when using a microphone. This is just as important when using an external microphone attached to a video camera. Here’s a good example of why you need to be careful around electrical devices like TVs.

3. Ambient Noise Dampening

In many offices or rooms ambient noise is very noticeable. Fans from heaters or computers are not uncommon in many work environments and what sounds like a very faint hum will oftentimes take on a strong and distracting static or hiss when recording using a microphone plugged into your computer.

Do your best to dampen the ambient noise. Your main goal is to block or absorb this noise. There are some creative ways to do this.

If you have a noticeable amount of ambient noise in your environment, surround your microphone with foam and ensure your computer’s fan and other computer peripherals are behind this dampening barrier. Here are some examples of how this might be accomplished.

4. Recording Basics

Make sure that you keep the microphone on your headset right in front of your mouth and don’t change its location once you decide on the best placement. You will notice a very significant change in audio quality if you move your microphone during a recording session.

S et your audio input and output level at about 3/4 of the maximum amplitude so that when you playback the audio using your speakers (test quality via both your speakers and USB device), your system more closely resembles that of the normal end-user. Double and triple check your initial recordings to ensure the audio sounds suitable for your context. Again, don’t forget to listen to your audio using your USB headset and then remove the headset and listen using only speakers. Be a discerning user and ask yourself if the audio is free of hissing, cracking, and other distractions.

5. Software

There are a lot of choices, and in all honesty, this is one of the least important aspects of ending up with high-quality audio. Audacity is a solid freeware option and will be more than sufficient for most. If you have some money to spend, Sony’s Sound Forge is a sophisticated audio editing tool. Soundtrack Pro for the MAC is also very popular. I tend to use these more pricey software options when editing audio files that need buzz or hum reduction or more filters applied. I also enjoy Sound Forge’s ability to open video files and edit the soundtrack of that file using their audio editing tools.

6. Attitude

Before you begin recording your audio, spend some time thinking about what type of tone or personality you want to project when narrating your content. You obviously want to sound energetic and excited about your content area. You also want to make sure that you sound clear and intelligible.

Do your best to record audio files for a module in one sitting. Your voice changes as the day goes on and mornings are usually a difficult time to record for many as their voice is still raspy. Additionally, make sure you have some water nearby and take care of your throat as you log the hours required to complete your audio files.

Do you have some other helpful tips?