Centre for Bioscience, The Higher Education Academy

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Does providing academic feedback to students via mp3 audio files enhance learning?

Project Leader Dr Stephen Merry
Organisation Staffordshire University
Contact s.merry@staffs.ac.uk
Partners Paul Orsmond and David Galbraith, Faculty of Health and Sciences, Staffordshire University
Grant type Teaching Development
Completed August 2007


Feedback is provided to students at all stages of their academic development and can be an important force shaping their learning. This study considers the effectiveness of providing formative feedback on academic work to students using mp3 audio files.

Fifteen students received mp3 audio feedback on written work and were subsequently interviewed regarding their utilisation of that feedback within their learning. The written work provided by twelve of the students was also conventionally marked and this feedback was quantitatively compared with the audio feedback comments following classification of individual comments.

The students responded very positively to mp3 feedback judging it to be good quality because it was easier to understand, had more depth and was more personal. Most students annotated their work as they listened and stated that they would use the audio feedback to improve their work for other tutors. Our evaluation within the study showed that students use this type of feedback more actively to support their learning compared to written feedback and also that it better addressed their overall learning development as professional biologists.

Pitfalls of this form of feedback included the large size of the mp3 files (up to 11Mb) being incompatible with some e-mail systems. Comment classification showed a greater emphasis on developmental aspects of learning within mp3 feedback.

As feedback is integral to student learning this project has wide applicability both within and outwith the biosciences.

Outcomes and downloads



Of related interest:

Development and implementation of a policy for delivering effective feedback to students - a project led by Maureen Dawson, Manchester Metropolitan University

Glover, C. and Brown, E. (2006) Written Feedback for Students: too much, too detailed or too incomprehensible to be effective? Bioscience Education E–journal,  volume 7 available at http://www.bioscience.heacademy.ac.uk/journal/vol7/beej-7-3.htm

Case Study: Giving audio-visual feedback to students using Jing and Grademark, by Sheila Hope at Keele University

Read the reports from our Effective Feedback to Students events at Wolverhampton and at the London Knowledge Lab

Formative Assessment in Science Teaching website
This FDTL4 project aimed to examine how students’ formative assessment experiences affect their learning – and looked at how feedback to students can be made more effective by maximising the learning students gain from their assessments.

Feedback to students – Extracts from "2000 tips for Lecturers" edited by Phil Race

Hounsell D., Hounsell J., Litjens J. and McCune V. (2005) Enhancing guidance and feedback to students: findings on the impact of evidence-informed initiatives, European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI) 11th Biennial Conference Nicosia, Cyprus, 23 – 27 August 2005. Available at http://www.ed.ac.uk/etl/docs/earliHHLM.pdf