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….

Students using their own devices – e-learning stuff podcast

My last blog post was about changing attitudes about using learner owned devices, which then prompted an e-learning stuff podcast with James Clay, Lilian Soon, and Ron Mitchell, where we discussed this basic idea further, with James playing devils advocate, and Lilian, Ron and Myself making sense of the some of the issues (barriers) that are often presented when this issue is addressed.

Some of the key messages are about giving the learners choice, looking at the teaching activities not the technologies, and the idea is not to completely replace organisation owned computers, but allow learners to use their own instead, thus liberating other computers for students who may not be able to afford their own ipad or similar.

I made a point towards the end, about how letting learners use their own devices offers wonderful accessibility benefits for disabled learners, and I think these benefits outweigh the problems of the digital divide issues, which can be managed through sensible financial investment, good management and decision making.

A point was also made about the cultural change required to make this work, but one thing that is in our favour in this area, is we are not looking for a wholesale and sudden shift in attitude from our staff – but instead if we allow those that want to work this way to do so, once others see the benefits, and students identify which ideas they like and don’t like, it is then easier for other staff to follow suit over a period of time, and I think this shift can happen gradually over a period of time, allowing the infra-structure to upgrade sufficiently, and the cost associated can be offset against savings in not replacing as many organisation computers as they naturally reach the end of their lifetime.

Taken from http://farm5.static.flickr.com/7037/6868878321_1f659890d3_b.jpg on 2012-3-06
Original URL – http://www.flickr.com/27214509@N00/6868878321/ created on 2011-12-24 17:38:57
April RinneCC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Should we use Flash in education?

Last week I took part in an e-learning stuff podcast on the future of flash.in which we discussed in light of the fact that the Apple iPhone and Ipad doesn’t do flash, should we stop using it when creating educational content.

So should we stop using Flash when creating content – or do we keep using it, knowing that some people will have devices that won’t be able to access the content?

When I worked at a University; for the ‘e-learning courses’ – (the ones that were delivered entirely online) when a learner inquired and before they enrolled they were given a minimum specification in terms of what they would need on their computers in order to be able to do the course – and this idea I liked – it then made it easy to create content and check it against this specification, and then be safe in the knowledge that everything will work as desired.

So this could be one solution – to state what types of resources will be used, and what specifications are required to use them – then people can make a choice.

Another option would be for an organisation to stop using Flash, so that the iPad users out there, can use their devices, but how far do we go with this. I use Microsoft extensively in my teaching resources – so some of these resources become unusable on certain devices. However when I produce such resources, I do try where possible to create them in a way that they will work in older version of office and in open office. This isn’t always possible as sometimes there is a functionality in the newer versions which prevents this, in which case I have to make a judgment as to what to do, which is similar to accessibility judgments where you way up the benefits for the masses, against the disadvantages to the minority – can you make an adjustment for the minority, and then decide which technique or tool to use, and I think that this approach is valid for the use of Flash, and I follow these steps when making a decision.

  1. What is the learning outcome that I am trying to achieve?
  2. Which learners will be using the resource, and when and how?
  3. Which technologies could be used?
  4. Which one will give me the best desired output?
  5. Which one will give me the best compromise of desired output and increased accessibility?
  6. Which one will be easiest to update in the future by myself or someone else?
  7. I will then weigh up the answers to the above questions to try to make an informed decision.

The problem with this model is that it relies on me having not just a good knowledge of the different options available, but also access to lots of different tools to create them. In many organisations they will have a small number of tools to create content, and the staff will learn how to use 1 or 2, and then proceed with them only.

At some point in the future when HTML 5 is mainstream then these issues may go away, but there is such a vast array of existing materials out there, it will take time for this to happen and time for the existing resources to get converted and updated.

Podcast on Inclusion, conferences, and lesson planning

The last few months I have rather busy so have be unavailable for the e-learning stuff podcasts series, but last week could find the time to join one of these casts, which as usual took a meandering wandering through various topics, starting with the idea of an unconference, then onto do we need big name keynote speakers at events, a bit on inclusion, and then finally our views on lesson planning (which I think could be a podcast in its own right).

The podcast can be found here

Podcast – snow and e-learning

After a break of quite a few weeks, I was involved in another panel podcast, hastily arranged and recorded to discuss the topical issue of the disruption to education caused by snow, and how e-learning could paly a part (now and in the future).

The podcast can be found at http://elearningstuff.wordpress.com/2009/02/08/e-learning-stuff-podcast-012-its-snow-joke/

Snow man

Snow man

Podcast on Google Docs (and a few other things)

Last week I contributed to another panel podcast, this time with only 3 of us, and we discussed the uses of tools like Google Docs in education. Google Docs is improving all the time, and there is a lot that can be done with it, which when I get a bit of time will have a look at. There is a new type of doc within the Google Suite called a ‘form’ which looks like it could be used for capturing data from people, which could be very useful for evluations, or signing up for events.

Anyway the podcast can be found at http://elearningstuff.wordpress.com/2008/12/07/e-learning-stuff-podcast-010-lets-take-a-note/

Podcast on the ‘The VLE Debate’

I was involved in a podcast the other week, debating the role (and future) of the formal VLE within education. What was interesting about this podcast was that on the panel involved there was a range of views on the topic, which should have made it interesting listening materials.

I agree with Steve Wheeler’s views that the VLEs available are not meeting the needs of advanced users (like he and I) however I think strategically, using a VLE is a phase that people and institutions have to go through, and the fact that many institutions have spent thousands (some millions) of pounds implementing them now is not the right time to stop using them.

Saying that though I have recently connected on facebook with an old friend from uni who is a maths teacher, and he made this comment…

we’re using FROG across the local authority for our VLE, the biggest advantage I can see for me right now is being able access school files from home…saves me using laptops/memory sticks etc.

Within  the school sectors, many are now embracing VLEs but there doesn’t seem to be an integrated approach to training staff in how to use them. The end result, a huge investment in a system that allows a tutor to access files at home!

Anyway – to access the podcast – go to http://elearningstuff.wordpress.com/2008/11/30/e-learning-stuff-podcast-009-the-vle-debate/