Top tips for sharing audio files with learners

I use audio a lot in my work, both for giving learners feedback but also for the creation of learning objects. One way to use audio is for each week or topic of teaching to provide a short audio file to set the scene, to provoke thought or as a form of additional information for those that want to take the topic further (differentiation). Many people will use their VLE to house these audio files – and if we do this there are a few tips that we can apply to make this process easier for ourselves and the learners. The following video will explain some of these ideas, and the details are further explained below.


Using leading zeros when naming files

If we are producing a sequence of audio files (e.g. 1 per week) – if we name  the files:

  • Underwater Origami Week 1
  • Underwater Origami Week 2
  • Underwater Origami Week 3
  • ……
  • Underwater Origami Week 9
  • Underwater Origami Week 10
  • Underwater Origami Week 11

This is OK if you have less than 9 weeks in total, but if you have 10 or more weeks, what can happen is when the files are saved together in a folder either on a computer or an audio playing device (e.g. mp3 player/phone) – the order of them may be displayed alphabetically, and with the above scenario, this would look like:-

  • Underwater Origami Week 1
  • Underwater Origami Week 10
  • Underwater Origami Week 11
  • Underwater Origami Week 2
  • Underwater Origami Week 3
  • ……
  • Underwater Origami Week 9

So to avoid this, it makes sense to save the filename with leading zeros e.g.

  • Underwater Origami Week 01
  • Underwater Origami Week 02
  • Underwater Origami Week 03
  • ……
  • Underwater Origami Week 09
  • Underwater Origami Week 10
  • Underwater Origami Week 11

This way if the files are arranged alphabetically, they will remain in the correct order.


Use CamelCase rather than spaces

If we have spaces in our filenames, when these are displayed as web addresses the space is often replaced with a %20 – which then stops the filename from making sense, so I tend to avoid spaces. What I do instead is use CamelCase – this is where all the words are lowercase, but the first letter of each word is capitalised so that it stands out (and creates a bump – hence the name CamelCase). This makes it easier to read on the eye.

  • UnderwaterOrigamiWeek01

Adding meaning into the filename

With the example that I have used so far, this works if we know what is being covered in each week, but if a learner is coming back to this at a later date to revisit a topic that they are struggling with, or need for their assignment – if they don’t know which week each topic was taught in it can be frustrating trying to guess which file they want, so adding a brief description at the end of the filename will help e.g.

  • UnderwaterOrigamiWeek01-Introduction
  • UnderwaterOrigamiWeek02-TypesOfPaper
  • UnderwaterOrigamiWeek03-FoldingTechniques

Makes a lot more sense.


If using dates use yymmdd format

If you want to include a date in a filename – then use the yymmdd format, or reverse format – e.g. todays date is

9th July 2012

This would be recorded as the year first (12) then the month (07) then the date (09) to give a final date of 120709. The reason we use this is if the files are arranged alphabetically – if we have used this format they will also appear in the correct chronological order. e.g.

  • 120608UnderwaterOrigamiWeek01-Introduction
  • 120615UnderwaterOrigamiWeek02-TypesOfPaper
  • 120622UnderwaterOrigamiWeek03-FoldingTechniques

Zipping the audio files for easier downloading

If distributing the files each week via the VLE then that is great if the learners are diligent enough to access the VLE, to select the file and download it onto their audio player or computer. However it is worth considering as well as doing this, also putting all the files into a folder, zipping this up, and uploading this zip file as a file – this way the learners have the option of downloading the whole series in one go, rather than having to visit every link in turn and save etc.

If you are recording the files as you go along with the teaching, then this can be done at the end of each term for example for students to download retrospectively, or if the audio files have been produced in advance, then you have the choice of doing this at the beginning, so they have the files in advance.


Another important feature when using audio files is to use the metadata options – which will be covered in the next post….

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Simple drawing techniques in PowerPoint

I have been called many things in my time (some pleasant, some less so) including perfectionist, obsessive behaviour, pedantic. Now I don’t think that I am a perfectionist (if you saw the state of my house, office, car – you would see why), but in one area of work I am certainly pedantic, and I think I have developed an obsessive disorder. This area is the way that people create images in Word or PowerPoint:-

I often see high level presentations, keynote speeches, websites and even expensive glossy printed literature advocating the use of technology – where they have created sloppy drawn images – now this frustrates me, and when I am sat in the audience and someone is ‘training’ me – I look at their badly drawn image on the screen, and think ‘You cannot even run a spellchecker, you can’t draw 2 boxes the same size, and why is there a gap in that bent arrow? – How can I trust your expertise on……’

Although others may not react in the same way to me, I am sure that all will agree that a well constructed diagram or image will have a far better impact on learners than a sloppy image – and the sad truth is that it is very easy to do (unfortunately though the skills are often not taught).

So in order to right the wrongs I have produced this sequence of 5 screencasts, showing how it is possible to quickly create a professional looking flowchart in PowerPoint (or Word or Excel).

The first video was the introduction seen above

The second video looks at how to create the shapes, making sure they are all the same size, all formatted the same.

The third video looks at what has to be the best kept secret within Microsoft Office – and that is the align and distribute tools, if you haven’t used them before please have a look – they will save you lots of time and make a huge difference to your output.

The forth video, shows the second best kept secret within Office – the connectors tool, which will again save lots of time and improve the quality of output.

And the final video, shows the group, and ungroup tools within Office.

I hope that these videos will make a difference to the quality of presentations that are used, and will help me to overcome my obsessive behaviours and PowerPoint rage!

The videos above although produced by myself belong to the JISC RSC SE.

The ‘Align or Distribute’ tool in Microsoft Office

There is a brilliant tool within Microsoft Word, PowerPoint or Excel, that allows you to easily align objects (e.g. shapes or pictures) so they are evenly spaced and perfectly aligned. When producing diagrams (e.g. flowcharts) – having objects neatly aligned makes them look much smarter and more professional, and using this tool, makes it very quick and easy to do.

All you need to do is select the objects that you want aligning (the easiest way to do this, is to hold your finger on the shift key, and then left mouse click on each object in turn)

Then go to (These instructions are for Office 2003, or Office 2000)

  1. Draw (usually bottom left of the screen)
  2. Align or Distribute
  3. (and then select whichever option you want)

The image below, shows the steps that you would go through to space the 3 rectangles out evenly – f you click on the image below, you will get taken to Flickr, where there are some hover over noted explaining what each of the options does.

AlignOrDistribute

Originally uploaded by Dave Foord.

For Office 2007, the align or distribute tools appear in the top right corner, when you select the shapes.