Working with audio

Audio tools help us or our students record our thoughts, give presentations, gain confidence and more. Get out your microphones, your laptops with built in microphone or your mobile devices and have some fun testing out audio tools. And remember, no one likes to hear their own voice, we just don’t sound right to ourselves, do we. But the rest of us know what your voice really sounds like, so don’t be shy!

Audio can be used in numerous academic contexts, from music and language instruction to archival recordings of lectures (we’ll take a look at a “field recording” example below). Making audio content available online can be an excellent way to reach students, who can listen from any location and at any time via the Internet. Students increasingly expect this content to be available to them, and, fortunately, the means of distribution are increasingly becoming easier to use.

What are Podcasts?

audio patternPodcasts are digital audio files that are available on the internet. Unlike radio, podcasts are episodes or series which can be subscribed to and downloaded either automatically or manually when new episodes become available.

Once downloaded podcasts can be listened to on your pc, laptop, mobile phone, or device.

iTunes is one of the easiest ways to start using podcasts. The latest version is available here if you want to install it on your device:

Open up iTunes, go to the iTunes store and click on the ‘podcasts’ menu option on the leftt. This will take you to iTunes podcasts home page, where you can search for podcasts by category, genre, top shows, and provider.

To listen to an episode in iTunes, click on a show and then click on an episode. If you want to download a single episode, just click “get”. To subscribe to all new episodes of a podcast, click the “subscribe” button under the show image/logo on the left of the screen. You can also choose to sync podcasts to your device.


SoundCloud is a global online audio platform based in Germany, that enables users to upload, record, and share their originally-created sounds such as music and spoken word. SoundCloud is used by a broad range of amateur and professional artists, societies, and broadcasters. Just like YouTube and Vimeo, SoundCloud tracks can also be shared and embedded within other webpages and platforms such as Twitter.

Anyone can listen to music and tracks on the platform, but if you choose to sign-up you can also create playlists, comment on other tracks, create and upload your own sounds. Users can sign up through a Facebook or Google account, or an email address. Once signed-up you can can “like” tracks just as you would like a post on Facebook. You can also “repost” tracks, similar to a retweet on Twitter. Another neat feature in SoundCloud is the ability to comment on a certain point in a track.

SoundCloud is not just music. Poetry, spoken word, interviews, readings, and sports broadcasting can all be found on the platform.

The Poetry Foundation on SoundCloud – The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organisation in Chicago. They use SoundCloud to post audio poems, podcasts, and readings of poems by participants in the Record-a-Poem project.

BrainPicker – Is Maria Popovers SoundCloud account for her BrainPicker website where she collects and curates a range of interesting material from across the web.

Podcasts for learning

Audio ‘on the go’ can be a powerful way to learn. Alternatively, it can be a powerful way for you to provide regular updates for students. Check out what SOUNDCLOUD has to offer. The way a soundcloud podcast can plug right into your subject content is pretty powerful.

For example, the Australian Museum uses SoundCloud to podcast some excellent talks in their AMPLIFY podcasts. In this AM Live episode, Dr Helen Maynard-Casely takes us on a journey through the solar system on the eve of the United Nations Day of Women and Girls In Science (11 February 2017).

If you want to set up your own account on SoundCloud then their Getting Started on SoundCloud guide is a good place to start. Mashable also provides an excellent Beginners Guide to SoundCloud.

Try this

  • Vocaroo – Very simple tool, with limited features. Just click and record. No account or login needed. No editing options. Recordings are stored online, but not forever. Download for safekeeping or upload to other audio storage sites. Great for short recordings. Simple interface makes it easy to use with younger students. I often use it as a super simple test of any audio recording equipment setup.
  • AudioBoom – Sign up for a free account and record as many 10 minute audio segments as you like. Use your laptop’s built in microphone or an external microphone plugged into your desktop computer. There are also AudioBoom apps for iOS devices and Android. Each recording can be accompanied by an image – an uploaded photo, a scanned drawing or other graphic.Your recordings can be grouped into boards based on any topic or organization scheme you like. From your settings page on AudioBoom (accessed by clicking on the little gear icon), you can set up connections with other sites (like and Blogger) and post your recordings to those sites.
  • Spreaker – Free podcasting plan includes unlimited recordings up to 15 minutes in length and up to 5 hours of recording storage. Has multiple options for recording including: desktop interface, online recorder, apps and more. Also serves as a podcast listening tool.
  • SpeakPipe – Free, online voice recorder. No registration needed. Record up to 5 minutes of audio. Save to your computer and/or store online. SpeakPipe gives you a link to your recording. Recordings are stored for three months since the last playback. Great for students since they don’t need an email address to record and files are only accessible by the link you’re given. Recorded files aren’t added to a public stream of recordings, as they are on some free tools. Reported to work on Android and iOS through a regular mobile browser.   (Nathan Hall’s guide to using SpeakPipe)
  • FlipGrid – Great for sharing, stories, opinions, ideas and for assessments. Records video and audio. Comes with iPhone, iPad, and Android apps. Flipgrid One is free for all PreK-PhD educators. For Flipgrid Classroom each educator pays a yearly subscription fee for unlimited use and all premium Classroom features. ALL students have free access on Flipgrid One and Flipgrid Classroom.
  • Kaizena –  The latest version of this requires a more complex setup than previously, but worth it for the ease with which you can leave audio notes on student papers.
  • Audacity – Free, open-source recording and editing software. Runs on Windows, Mac, Linux. Lots of options, not the simplest tool to get started with, but very useful.
  • Google Docs Voice Typing – Open your google docs in Chrome, and speak into microphone and google docs will transcribe your speech. In Google Docs, you can now simply talk for speech-to-text dictation if your computer has a microphone! Use can even pause, issue a command, pause again, and resume dictating. This article will give you some initial directions to get you started and some common commands that you may want to use.

Explore further

If you’re interested in podcasting for yourself, here’s a great article on academic podcasting from Mark Carrigan on the LSE Impact Blog: Podcasts are a natural fit for communication of academic ideas.

Using audio feedback to students in academic work includes enables the teacher/ tutor to:

  • communicate on a more personal level and help create a sense of connection
  • present tone and a sense of the personality of the lecturer
  • motivate students
  • better inform students how to improve
  • encourage students to listen to all of the feedback, not selecting only the sections they desire.

Take a look at this comprehensive Feedback Model from Deakin University.  Try the Designing Feedback template

Also worth reading is How to start podcasting your research by Thesis Whisperer

You will also want to consider your recording surroundings, and how to record high quality audio for e-learning.

So what about Creative Commons?

You want to add some sound or music to your podcasts, right?

Creative Commons is a system that allows you to legally use “some rights reserved” music, movies, images, and other content — all for free. CC offers free copyright licenses that anyone can use to mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry. For instance, a musician might use a Creative Commons license to allow people to legally share her songs online, make copies for friends, or even use them in videos or make remixes. For more information, visit our Learn More page.

Several sites offer music published under Creative Commons’ flexible copyright licenses. Here are some:

Can I use any song with a CC license on it?

Almost — you need to make sure that what you want to do with the music is OK under the terms of the particular Creative Commons license it’s under. CC-licensed music isn’t free for all uses, only some — so make sure to check out the terms (you can find these by clicking on each song’s license icon).

Most importantly, you need to use music that is not licensed under a No Derivative Works license. This means that the musician doesn’t want you to change, transform, or make a derivative work using their music. Under CC licenses, synching the music to images amounts to transforming the music, so you can’t legally use a song under a CC No Derivative Works license in your video. Learn more from Creative Commons.

What are your thoughts?

Find a podcast or a SoundCloud track (which could be music, a podcast, an interview, a reading, etc.) and share this on your blog with a short post about how podcasts or SoundCloud could be useful to you.  Or perhaps you could choose one of the other recommended tools and share your comments.

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