Lost in translation: the radio programme

Microphone
Image by rafabendo from Pixabay

I have been working on a series of blog posts about translating existing teaching practices into online models of delivery. In previous posts I looked at the lecture and the seminar, in this one I want to focus on the conversation, using audio recordings akin to a radio programme.

One of the things I have noticed as the education sector moved rapidly to remote delivery was the different models that people used. However what we did see was many people were translating their usual practice to an online version, some have called this practice mirroring.

As part of my work in looking at the challenges in delivering teaching remotely during this crisis period I have been reflecting on how teaching staff can translate their existing practice into new models of delivery that could result in better learning, but also have less of detrimental impact on staff an students.

In my post on translating the lecture I discussed the challenges of translating your 60minute lecture into an online version.

Though we might like video and Zoom, we shouldn’t underestimate the potential of audio recordings. We still have radio despite the advent to television and the internet. The internet even has it’s own subscription style audio content in the form of the podcast.

So at a simple level, you could create a 60 minute audio recording to replace the physical lecture or live zoom session.

However simply recording yourself misses a real opportunity to create an effective learning experience for your students.

If you have listened a 60 minute radio programme, you will realise few if any have a talking head for 60 minutes. So if you change the monologue to a conversation then you can create something which is more engaging for the viewer (the student) and hopefully a better learning experience.

Radio
Image by fancycrave1 from Pixabay

Radio is different to television and those differences should influence the design of how you deliver the content or teaching if you are suing audio rather than video. Most 60 minute radio broadcasts are rarely a monologue, there are discussions and debates, as well as conversations. Some of the most successful podcasts follow a radio format with a variety of voices. The same can be said of audio based learning content. Don’t do a monologue, think about having a discussion or a conversation.

It could be an interview between two people, but why not make it a real conversation and have three or four people involved. When involving people do think about diversity, are all the people involved old white men? If they are, time to think differently about who is involved.

Though potentially easier to create a 60 minute radio version of a conversation, than a video version, it may still require some kind of production time, especially if you need to do any kind of editing.

It makes sense to plan the conversation in advance, this isn’t about scripting, but about decided what topics you are going to cover and how long you will spend on each of them. A good interviewer (or chair) will need to close down conversations and move onto the next topic. When participating in these kinds of recordings, it also makes sense to be concise and know when to stop talking, to avoid rambling. The visual cues in a normal conversation are missing and as a result you need to be proactive in finishing your point and helping others to realise where they can join in or interject. Decent handovers to others in the conversation will ensure a more polished approach. So using a line such as “that’s really interesting Sophie, what do you think Rebecca?” can ensure that the conversation doesn’t ramble and flows well.

microphone
Image by goranmx from Pixabay

From a recording perspective, you want to try and use selective muting to avoid the focus jumping from person to person, or picking up extraneous sounds. Where possible, try and use decent microphones to get decent audio. People are often more forgiving of poor video than they are of poor audio,

Structuring the audio recording or podcast into a learning process can also help students to locate the recording into the structure of their learning and how it links to other content and activities.

So you could release the podcast at the beginning of the week and follow it with a week long asynchronous online chat discussing the topics and content.

Reflecting from an audience perspective, it might be better to create two or three shorter audio recordings rather than one big one. It might result in a fresher better recording than one which tires itself out. Also think about the student, will they have the time to listen to a 60 minute podcast?

You may think you are an amazing and engaging presenter and raconteur, the reality is maybe do something shorter and to the point. Breaking the podcast into two shorter recordings may allow them to be more accessible to the students, they could listen to them as they do something else, physical exercise for example.

These could be released together or split during the week and again and follow it with a week long asynchronous online chat discussing the topics and content.

Simply translating what we do in our physical buildings into a online remote version, is relatively simple, however it may not be effective. Thinking about what you want that learning experience to achieve and what you want the students to learn, means you can do different things.

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