Part 7: Spring 2018 Labs

123 Using Audio Commentary for Feedback with Kurt Kuehne – 04.26.2018

Audio commentary has excellent potential for instructors who wish to provide meaningful yet time-efficient feedback on longer written assignments, field projects, and/or group work. In the April 26, 2018 Active Teaching Exchange, Kurt Kuehne from L&S Career Initiative shared how he employs audio commentary to deliver more feedback in the same amount of time – with greater dynamism – while reducing the possibility that students will mistake criticism for rudeness. This Exchange explored both the pedagogical benefits and the practical logistics of audio feedback. View Kurt’s presentation slides here and the Exchange notes here.


  • Detailed feedback can sometimes make students feel that they’re failing. Audio feedback conveys emotions and some of the nonverbal nuances (e.g. tone, pitch, mood) that might be lost in written feedback, so it can sound more constructive than critical.
  • The average narrator reads 9,300 words per hour, which equates to 23 pages, according to That means instructors can give 2.3 pages’ worth of written feedback in only 6 minutes of speaking. 
  • Kurt adds some written feedback, such as arrows and short notes, to use as references during the audio feedback. One pitfall to avoid is continuing to write comments that will be reiterated in the audio feedback, as that effort mitigates the time-saving perk of audio.
  • Audio files serve as a permanent record of the feedback. The voice-typing feature in Google Docs allows instructors to keep a written record, as well.
  • The analog linearity of audio feedback helps students spend a certain amount of time reflecting on the feedback rather than focusing on the grade only, or just scanning.
  • Structuring feedback so that it moves from top to bottom makes it easy for students to follow.
  •  Two cons of providing audio feedback is it requires a quiet room and can at times feel awkward speaking to no one.
  • Canvas has an audio and video commenting function integrated into SpeedGrader that makes for a streamlined sharing process. Kurt uses his phone, which allows pausing, rewinding, and rerecording of short snippets.
  • A cheap document camera (<$50), phone stand ($15 on Amazon), Blackboard Collaborate, or Kaltura Mediaspace might be great options for trying video feedback in the future.


Active Teaching Exchanges are held Thursdays from 1-2pm in room 120, Middleton Building (1305 Linden Dr.). Check out the upcoming Exchanges or read the recaps from past Exchanges.

Like the Active Teaching Exchanges, Active Teaching Labs feature instructors sharing their teaching experiences with tools and techniques, but also provide time for hands-on exploration of tools. Labs are are held Fridays from 8:30-9:45am in room 120, Middleton Building as well as some Wednesdays from 12:30-1:30pm in room 302 Middleton Building. See the full calendar of both events. Stay informed about upcoming Labs and Exchanges by signing up for regular announcements by sending an email to



Active Teaching Lab eJournal Copyright © 2016 by DoIT Academic Technology and the UW-Madison Teaching Academy; Jennifer Hornbaker; John Martin; Julie Johnson; Karin Spader; Margaret Merrill; Margaret Murphy; and Jeffrey Thomas. All Rights Reserved.

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