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Friday, 22 August 2014

Mobile Apps for Higher Education Videos

There has been a lot of discussion over the last year or so on the Web over the merits of using tablets and apps within education, more notably primary and secondary schools. In higher education there have been various initiatives to encourage staff and students to get more value from their smart devices going beyond the stock use of email, calendar and Social Media. Yet there is an increasingly growing conversation on the Web that the tablets have not changed learning and teaching in the way they were heralded a couple of years ago. Some academics are reaping the benefits of their mobile devices by using a multitude of apps, but from my own personal experience these are in the minority. Part reason for this is there are still only a small number of good quality academic apps out there, or ones that can be applied to higher education. 

Again for the most part staff are using their devices as bigger screen versions of their smartphones to access emails and calendars with some taking and reading notes. Tablets represent a great example of the Gartner Hype Cycle, although according to the technology forecasters we were on the slope of enlightenment a year ago and probably should be somewhere near the plateau of productivity any time soon. It may be the case for many uses for tablet devices, as I said school education, there are no shortage of useful apps for kids (when you remove the U.S biased ones), in addition to apps on cooking, consuming, playing and communicating. Whilst some of these can be applied to higher education, the list of really useful, mass-appealing academic apps remains just a handful and rarely used by most academics and students. The reasons for this lack of uptake is many, that some of the apps are no good, poorly designed or just do not do enough compared to their desktop/laptop counterparts; that it could be argued that the app was created for the sake of having an app. That staff and students do not invariably have the time to explore these apps beyond the ones key to their work, email, calendar, PDF reader and those they are instructed to use institutionally, Turnitin, Pebblepad etc. There are of course exceptions to these rules and communities, student doctors use tablets increasingly to diagnose patients and check medications, whilst for anyone working out in the field, archaeologists, engineers and suchlike there is greater uptake. For the majority of mostly office and lecture-theatre based academics and their students there is still so way to go before they truly do reach the heady heights on the plateau of productivity.

Whilst tablets will increasingly seep into our working environment there needs to be a better understanding of not only how they work, how to stay safe using them and maintaining them but what apps are out there and how can they be employed within a university environment; in a streamlined process rather than just for the sake of it. The reality is that most apps have very small learning curves and are often just lightweight versions of software packages, that an awful lot of them are free and some are hidden gems not always spotted by certain communities. Take Evernote for example, the tablet version allowing for note, image and audio capture are perfect for students in classrooms and academics at conferences, yet many do not apply an academic use for it beyond taking meeting notes. 




The Evernote issue is understandable as with many applications it often takes a colleague or friend to explain and show the benefits of using a certain technology. It very much feels like the period shortly after Web 2.0 had arrived in 2005, and a couple of years later when innovative platforms like Prezi, Mendeley, Dropbox and Twitter appeared and where starting to gain popularity, yet the academic uptake was still fairly low. The reason behind that takes us back to the Hype Cycle again and reasons behind many technology adoptions, that users are wary of new technologies, cannot afford them, do not have the time to explore them and can often feel overwhelmed by them, the same is happening again but on a bigger scale as we have more platforms than before.




With regards to apps there have been Initiatives at our own institution through workshops, short seminars and such as the App Swap Breakfast idea. Another option is by making short videos that not only explain an app's use but also that it exists in the first place, awareness at least opens the mind to the possibilities. At present I have created just seven short videos hosted on the Information Resources YouTube channel and later on the University's iTunes U, but the intention is to create more. The videos explain briefly Evernote, BibMe, Harvard Easy Referencing, Mendeley, Readability and Browzine - the series can be viewed here.


Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Wear your jeans to work

As part of the Master Cutlers Challenge, the Department of Finance at the University of Sheffield have held a Wear your jeans to work day.

Here in IR, six members of the team have bravely agreed to take on this challenge and donate to the two Master Cutlers Challenge charities - Whirlow Hall Farm Trust and Sheffield Hospitals Charity.



Here is a picture of our intrepid jeans wearers - some of whom have never been seen wearing jeans to work and others who wear jeans very regularly (I'll leave you to guess which is which).

Pictured are Anthea, Louise, Anna, Magda, Helen and Andy.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Teaching in Information Resources - Public Health Informatics

Here in Information Resources we have a very wide portfolio of teaching, from teaching Information Skills through our innovative IRIS course, our dedicated support to staff and students through one to one training and InfoSkills Clinics and our teaching across the many courses that are offered by ScHARR.
One module that has been designed and led by staff within Information Resources is the innovative module on Public Health Informatics. Conceptualised by Andrew Booth in 2009 and delivered by Andrew, Louise Preston, Claire Beecroft, Helen Buckley Woods and Andy Tattersall since 2009, the module takes an technology based look at how specific public health problems can be better addressed using technology. 

Image from University of Sheffield Asset Bank

Public Health Informatics is a rapidly growing and increasing relevant topic for Public Health and Informatics professionals alike. The opportunity to undertake this module offers students a different perspective on the area in which they work and is an innovative addition to the course in both content and delivery. The module is delivered online (to Information School students) as well as face to face (to ScHARR students) – we utilise innovative technologies and teaching methods in order to deliver teaching in an appropriate way. The subject matter of the module means that we are constantly revising and refreshing our material to ensure that it is as up to date as possible - new technologies and new diseases are included in the module as soon as feasible to ensure that we are addressing the issues of real importance to our students. More information on the module is available here and here. As Louise Preston will be away from the University in the 2014/2015 academic year, the module will be led by Helen Buckley Woods (face to face version) and Andy Tattersall (online version). 

Louise Preston, August 2014

Monday, 14 July 2014

InterTASC Information Specialists’ Sub-Group (ISSG) Workshop

Suzy Paisley, Anna Cantrell, Ruth Wong, Fiona Campbell, Rachid Rafia, Nick Latimer and Eva Kaltenthaler from HEDS attended the first InterTASC Information Specialists’ Sub-Group (ISSG) Workshop hosted by the University of Exeter on Wednesday 9th July.  135 delegates representing various stakeholders (InterTASC members, NICE, pharmaceutical industry, and event sponsors) in Health Technology Assessment were present at the workshop. The day was very busy with the first half comprising talks on views from four different stakeholders (Evidence Review Groups, pharmaceutical industry, NICE and ISSG).  Suzy Paisley presented on the views and reflections from the ISSG group. This was followed by an hour of questions and discussion.

Four posters from HEDS were presented at the workshop:
Anna Cantrell “Do we need to search MEDLINE and Embase for RCTs when CENTRAL should be sufficient?: a case study of search methods trialled in a HTA review of interventions to prevent postnatal depression”
Ruth Wong “Assessing searches in Single Technology Appraisals: a comparative study of UK and German checklists”
Louise Preston “Improving search efficiency by limiting searches for diagnostic studies to Medline and EMBASE: an exploratory study”
Nick Latimer "Treatment switching in randomised controlled trials: implications for trial design"

Anna Cantrell (left) and Suzy Paisley in Exeter
In the second half of the day, three useful talks were given on trial registers searching, web-searching for HTA reports, and finding information on adverse drug effects. The workshop finished with an interesting talk by Tom Jefferson on Hayashi’s problem: The use of regulatory information for research synthesis. More details about the speakers and workshop can be found here.
Words and image by Ruth Wong

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

App Swap Breakfast - Changing Landscapes Webinar

I was lucky enough to be invited to contribute to a UCISA (Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association) webinar last week focusing on the growing interest in App Swap Breakfasts which we have started at The University of Sheffield. I'd come across the idea after presenting at the UCISA conference Changing Landscapes back in January at The Edge in Sheffield. I'd seen an inspiring presentation by Fiona MacNeill, Beth Hewitt and Joyce Webber from the University of Brighton talking about initiative. The event was run by UCISA and was a continuation of their Changing Landscapes, hosted by Jane Hetherington and featured reflections from myself, Fiona, Joe Telles from the University of Salford about our own App Swap Breakfasts.
The recording of the webinar can be viewed/listened to here:


Webinar recording - http://adm-leeds.adobeconnect.com/p4phqrf9r85/
Fiona MacNeill et al's presentation from the Changing Landscapes can be viewed here:




UCISA Case Study Slides: App Swap Breakfasts: Pedagogy, Mobile Devices and Learning Discourse over Breakfast from Fiona MacNeill

In addition I was invited to give a presentation to University of Sheffield staff as part of CiCS LeTS Snap, App & Tap lunchtime series to help colleagues get more from their mobile devices. I ran a session on tools to help staff and students carry out research on the go and looked at Mendeley, Evernote, Harvard Reference, CLA search amongst other useful tools. The slides are below, and I will be looking to turn this into a future ScHARR Bite Size event.




Future dates for the remaining Snap, App & Tap can be viewed below and signed up for via the University's Learning Managament System.

Weds 3rd September: The Collaborative Classroom: This session will give you a taste of how mobile devices can be used collaboratively and/or interactively in a classroom setting. You will get the chance to experience a lesson learning something which may be new to you and seeing how it feels to be a student using these technologies. The session will cover some / all of the following - synchronous use of Google docs, Nearpod, Feedback tools such as Poll anywhere, Socrative, Google moderator and Blackboard mobile.

Weds 10th Sep: Reading on your mobile device - a good idea? There are differences in the way that we read electronic texts and paper-based texts. There are also differences between reading on a computer screen and on a mobile device. How do these differences affect our experience, our work and our students? What are the advantages and disadvantages? The session will look at which options are available for reading on a mobile device, what advantages there are, what the options are for annotating and sharing reading, how the screen size affects our ability to read, accessibility / disability and reading on screen. 

Weds 17th September: Keeping a diary, journal or reflective log on a mobile device. A mobile device can be the perfect tool for a journal, diary or reflective log as it is often with you wherever you go. This session looks at the tools available for keeping your notes and how they can be exploited for academic purposes. It covers the apps available for diaries, journals and reflective logs, how notes can be moved from one place to another and tools available to transform your notes into valuable data.

Weds 24th September: See Hear! You or your students can create audio-visual resources on your mobile devices. This session will cover the reasons why we may use audio-visual resources and look a various tools that are available such as iMovie, Explain Everything, voice recorder.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

European Association for Health Information and Libraries (EAHIL) conference



The 14th EAHIL conference was held in Rome and organised by the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (Italian National Institute of Health) and held at the National Central Library of Rome. Details of the slides and posters can be found here.
There were a variety of speakers, mainly from Europe as you might expect, but also some presenters from Canada and the US.  I presented a poster and gave a “gone in 60 seconds” presentation in a poster plenary session about the LIRG work that I did with Andrew Booth. The focus of the poster was on the use of ephemeral evidence in a scoping review of LIS practitioner’s relationship with research. I had quite a few visitors during the poster session and I can definitely cite colleagues from Ireland, Sweden and Norway who introduced themselves.  The poster session was a very busy two hours as it was scheduled straight after the poster plenary, which provided a taster of the work.
Aside from the poster I attended a number of other events:

There are a number of special interest groups in EAHIL, one of which is the Public Health Information Group. This is co-chaired by Sue Thomas from Public Health Wales and Tomas Allen from the WHO. I attended a friendly meeting with people interested in a variety of different aspects of public health information such as HINARI, patient information, cancer patients, open repositories, documents in native languages, systematic reviews and WHO.
I also attended the board meeting which featured reports from key officers in the usual manner. The representative of JEAHIL encouraged people to consider submitting to the journal  (the next copy deadline is 5th August). She also recommended three key sections of JEAHIL as being good for current awareness: “take a look”, “new publications” and “emerging challenges” which is a tech column.
Also mentioned at the meeting was the council election. There are vacancies for country representatives across Europe including the UK. If you want to vote (or stand), you have to be a member and it is free to join, you can register here. There is more information on all this in the journal and the September issue will be dedicated to the conference.

Maria Cassella from the University of Turin was the keynote speaker. She talked about the “open paradigm” (open access, open source, open data, open learning, open knowledge) and the changing environment of increased marketisation, global competition and student demand. She referred to the G8 open data charter and the open research data pilot from Horizon 2020. She described Altmetrics as open social peer review and as being complementary to traditional metrics. One problem is that Altmetrics are not standardised and she referred to the NISO Altmetrics project which aims to develop a published standard. She suggested that more granularity is required with the need to drill down to article level metrics and gave the example of Plos One articles where you can do this. The NISO Altmetrics standards white paper is open to public consultation until July.

Valeria Scotti also spoke about Altmetrics and gave a useful introduction to the topic, linking to  http://altmetrics.org/manifesto/  Her research involved comparing the Altmetrics scores from a number of academics at her institution with the citations received in Web of Science, number of Mendeley readers and PubMed citations.  She described Altmetrics as covering academic and social impact and referred to a couple of sources:
Impact story – https://impactstory.org/

Shona Kirtley presented on the EQUATOR library of health research reporting guidelines. “The EQUATOR (Enhancing the QUAlity and Transparency Of health Research) Network is an international initiative that seeks to improve the reliability and value of published health research literature by promoting transparent and accurate reporting and wider use of robust reporting guidelines.” (Info from EQUATOR website). The group provides online toolkits aimed at different user groups such as authors, librarians and teachers. They are also hoping to set up an international librarian network, an advisory group and representatives from each country to feed into this work.  Please get in touch if you are interested in any of these opportunities – or just join the network at www.equator-network.org.  Contact details shona.kirtley@csm.ox.ac.uk. There are also promotional leaflets which can be downloaded freely from the website to display and promote the service. Suggestions on how to support EQUATOR

Patrice X. Chalon presented an update (from their JEAHIL article) on the SuRe information project run by the HTA IR group which aims to identify, appraise and summarise relevant literature on information retrieval for HTA. There are currently 34 appraisals and 7 chapters on the website. Four chapters are in preparation to be published in 2015. The project is a contribution to evidence based information retrieval practice and can be used to update institution’s own methods handbooks or for use in designing teaching sessions. They are looking for people to participate in the project and contribute to the writing, so please feel free to get in touch if interested. 
Janet Harrison and Barbara Sen did a double header reporting back on two EAHIL 25th Anniversary research grants awarded in 2012:  European Library Quality Standards and experiences of European health information professionals respectively. The full report for project WHIPPET (Barbara Sen’s project) is in the White Rose repository.

Wichor M. Bramer gave a presentation on the most effective and quickest ways to remove duplicates when conducting a search for a SR. Working with a group from the Netherlands and the US, they firstly compared the performance of a number of reference manager tools in de-duplication – using the default settings. He had an interesting table which showed how many false duplicates were removed, so worth checking out the slides for this. They then looked in more detail at the algorithm and how easy it was for the user to adapt this to improve the de-duplication performance. The team went on to develop their own algorithm for Endnote which they found speeds de-duplication and has a good precision rate.  Using this algorithm they have de-duplicated libraries of 10,000 records in less than 30 minutes. Secondly, working with colleagues from the medical library at the university medical centre in Rotterdam, Wichor Bramer presented a poster on the search methods for systematic reviews which have been developed to support over 200 SRs a year. They work with the PI for each project to develop an optimised search strategy checking the added value of individual terms. Working in a step by step way they identify missing thesaurus and free text terms.  When a search strategy is arrived at, they use macros which they have developed in MS Word in order to translate the optimised search into the appropriate syntax for other databases

Elena Springhall from the University of Toronto gave a presentation about blended learning (also known as the “flipped classroom” or “hybrid instruction”) which provided useful background knowledge to this way of teaching.  She described a piece of research which is currently in progress to assess the effectiveness of this approach and review its use in teaching Medical students at the UoT. Preliminary finding suggest that achieving an optimal balance between the two elements of online and F2F teaching is difficult but is still overall a useful pedagogical approach. The project is due to be completed this summer. Anecdotal info from the presentation include: make teaching sessions mandatory or the message is that they are not important; she also commented that her medical students often disliked the reflection side of her classes and struggled with this skill. She also talked about having “online office hours”.
Marte Odegaard from University of Oslo gave a presentation on knowledge management and her teaching on an EBP course for final year medical students. She described a piece of research she undertook where she analysed the methodology chapter of 29 final assignments in order to establish the students understanding and improve her teaching methods. Focusing on the students' choices on knowledge management and search techniques, one of her methods was to use elements of FRESNO and the PRESS checklist in order to grade the PICOs that students had written. The illustrations from students’ work gave the usual contradictions such as students declaring that a comprehensive search had been undertaken (which they defined as a certain range of data sources) and then they searched  only one source. She also mentioned that less experienced students often investigated clinical effectiveness questions with students in later years taking organisational / management type questions.
Louise Farragher spoke about the theory and use of systematic reviews and other review types, based on the work of Grant and Booth (2009) and Gough et al. (2012). She also reported on the experiences of the team at the Irish Health Research Board which was set up by the Department of Health to conduct “evidence reviews”. She highlighted that a different approach is required from that of a traditional SR to develop a rapid or scoping review to inform policy decisions. She referred to a diagram from the Gough paper which outlines review approaches. It indicates the different philosophical bases of review types, for example some reviews rooted in an idealist philosophy, which in turn informed the methodology – inductive, exploring or generating theory and the search process – iterative and emergent. She commented on some of the challenges to producing reviews to inform policy and how researchers sometimes found it ideologically challenging to reduce information to small concepts in order to present to policy makers.

The Embedded librarian is obviously a concept we are familiar with at ScHARR and also, of course, common in the NHS with the clinical librarian role. Norbert Sunderbrink, working in a teaching hospital library in Hamburg, reported on how this role had been developed at one of the departments in his institution, where an IS had been employed separately from the University library. He gave a background to the notion of the embedded librarian/informationist/ISIC (Information specialist in context), before covering some of the main advantages and disadvantages of the role. One feature he described was of the embedded librarian being a “power user” of the institutional library services and able to identify information needs of researchers sooner, as in situ. He also spoke about “the move from a transaction based to relationship based model”.
Other highlights include – the development of a new ontology to translate indexing concepts into Finnish, which is a language which has no structural relationship to Indo-European languages such as English, French or German: “FinMESH” presentation by Raisa Livonen (University of Helsinki)
Valerie Durieux spoke about collaborative tagging and folksonomies.  Molinari et al from Italy conducted a survey to capture the location of HTA centres in Europe and the extent to which information professionals are involved in the HTA process. (poster number 16)

Finally, the next EAHIL conference is in Edinburgh, 10-12 June 2015. The theme is research; doing research, supporting research, promoting research…


OK, that’s it, “Arrivederci Roma
Helen
 

Friday, 6 June 2014

"1,2,3, Testing!"- Audio and the modern LIS Professional




537699459_a2a40563d5_z.jpg
Image by David Jones: https://www.flickr.com/photos/davidcjones/ used via CC BY 2.0


In a world where video-based content is fast becoming the dominant online medium, it's easy to forget that audio is still as accessible, relevant and engaging as ever. In this article, Claire Beecroft, an information specialist from the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) at the University of Sheffield, argues that modern Library and Information Professionals need to be wired for sound…


In my role as an information specialist and university teacher, I have become increasingly involved in the creation of multimedia content for a variety of purposes. This includes promoting the library and information service, generating tutorials for information skills and digital literacy, applying for conferences, promoting online courses and providing feedback to students. While I have gained a lot of experience producing videos, and still value this fantastic medium for communication, I think there's still a strong case to be made for the use of audio.


When we think of audio and the Web, the first word that might spring to mind is "podcast". What some might think of the podcast as a slightly updated online medium, in fact the world of podcasting continues to thrive and flourish.


5 key benefits of audio:


1. Audio is ideal for the camera-shy
Audio is an ideal medium for those of us who are a little camera shy, and are nervous about appearing visually online. If you would like to make videos but are too nervous, producing audio content is a great way to start and build confidence. It’s easy to practice your delivery and listening back to recordings is very revealing about how you use your voice, and how you sound! This can enhance not only your future audio recordings, but your ‘live’ delivery as well, so its well worth taking the time to record some short pieces, if only to have a chance to hear yourself as others hear you.


2. Audio files are small (ish)
Audio files are much smaller than video files, making storage easier and downloading less draining on precious download limits for users, especially on mobile devices where users may have to choose carefully what they ‘spend’ their download allowance on. It also makes it easier to share files with others as many audio files are still small enough to send as an email attachement; something that is often impossible with video. This makes distributing your audio content widely a much easier prospect.


3. Audio is mobile
Audio is a mobile medium; while its not realistic for our users to watch video while walking to work, audio is a great medium for learning on-the-go, and can be accessed during times when other mediums are not accessible. As we become increasingly aware of how we use our time, being able to access content on-the-go can be a real bonus to users. It is also very easy to create audio content on mobile devices using apps such as Audioboo, meaning that content creation is not tied to a particular computer, or even to our office/work environments.


4. Audio is engaging
Audio gives precious meaning and context to our words that is often lost in print-based communication; this is especially useful when delivering feedback or communicating negative messages in more engaging and humane way, but is an enhancement to pretty much anything you might want to say in print. We have a tendency to be more economical with words in print, but in audio we can flesh out things in a way that gives our message meaning and value beyond the words themselves.


5. Audio is free (or at least v.cheap!)
Recording and sharing audio can be incredibly easy and accessible. There are several free or very low-cost apps for mobile devices that allow you to record, edit upload and share audio content. My 3 favourites are Audioboo, VoiceRecordHD and Audacity.


Audioboo (www.audioboo.fm) is available for iOS and Android and allows users to record up to 10 minutes of audio. This can then be uploaded to the Audioboo site and embed code can be copied and pasted into any web page, allowing your audio content to be easily place wherever you want it. I’ve used Audioboo both on my tablet and smartphone and found the quality to be excellent, providing I can record somewhere quiet. Obviously a better microphone will further enhance quality, but don’t let a lack of ‘specialist’ equipment put you off; it is really not necessary.
Many audio apps pose difficulties in that they produce audio files in obscure formats, but


VoiceRecordHD (http://eapps.pro/app/voice-recorder-hd-full-featured-iphone-ipad-recorder/ £1.49 on iOS, free on Android) allows you to record your video and them email an MP3 file to yourself or anyone else. MP3 is the most widely accessible audio format across mobile platforms, so its a useful tool if you need to share your recordings with others but are not sure which devices they own.


Finally, try as you might to record your audio with no coughs, sneezes or mumbling, sometimes you’ll need to edit a recording. For that, I can heartily recommend Audacity, a long-standing and much-loved audio recording and editing suite for your Mac or PC. It is pretty simple to use and allows you to create very high-quality audio files, integrating content from multiple recordings including spoken work and music, for a professional result.  Download it for free at http://audacity.sourceforge.net/


5 ways to try audio:


1.Feedback


At ScHARR we have been using the plagiarism-detection tool turnitin for submission of all assessed work and for feedback for over 2 years. More recently Turnitin added and embedded feature allowing easy recording of an ‘audio comment’ of up to 3 minutes to enhance the existing feedback features such as text comments, grades and rubrics.


From Skitch-2.png


Feedback is an area where tone of voice can add significant meaning and interpretation, and could be the difference between a student being dispirited by their feedback, or being motivated to do better. A recent workshop I attended at Sheffield Hallam University confirmed my own experience that giving feedback via audio is faster, more thorough and more enjoyable than providing written feedback, and is much valued by students who may be more motivated to listen to audio feedback than to read written feedback, though a recent blog post I stumbled across served as a reminder that not all students welcome such significant change:


skitch twitter


2.Promote a service or resource
Having been involved in the development of MOOC (massive open online course) last year, I made use of a wide variety of social and online media to promote the course and encourage people to sign up. While some social platforms such as Twitter restrict how much content can be posted, I used audio to help get round this issue. Using Audioboo to create a short podcast describing the course and its aims was a great way of enabling me to get more mileage out of social media postings and ‘add value’ to them. This worked very well, with the ‘boo’ having had over 6,200 listens so far.


From Skitch.png

3.Produce an audio blog post
Blogging is an incredibly popular medium these days, but finding time to regularly post to a blog can be difficult when you have more urgent work issues to deal with. I have found that I can post to a blog quickly and reactively, with my ideas still fresh in my mind, if I record an audio blog post instead of waiting until I can find the time to write one. Tools such as Audioboo are ideal for this. I first used audio blogging to record a post for the ScHARR Library Blog, reflecting one (appropriately enough) a workshop I had attended on audio feedback. I recorded the blog post the day after the event while my head was still buzzing from all the audio projects I’d heard about. Once I recorded the blog post I was able to cut and paste embed code from Audioboo into the blog, enabling blog readers to listen to the post using the embedded audio player.


audio blog pic.PNG


4. Use audio as an ‘introduction’ to conventional material
You may already have online written-word content that could be made more engaging and appealing with an audio introduction. This gives you an opportunity to bring a more human element to conventional material, and to give it some context. I have used audio to introduce learning materials in an online course I deliver to Masters students, giving them the chance to have more of a sense of my presence as the tutor, and for me to introduce the materials more effectively; hopefully motivating them to work through it all.


5.Send audio email.
This one might sound strange, but I often find that I am more brief in emails than I sometimes want to be, simply because I can’t face typing a long message. Recently I have used a mobile recording app on my iPad (Voice Record HD, iTunes,£1.49)  which enables me to speak my message, then send it via email as an MP3 from within the app. It means I can say all that I want to say, with all the benefits of ‘tone of voice’, and much more quickly and efficiently that by typing. Obviously the recipient of the email needs to be able to play an MP3 file, and they need headphones, but within my own organisation this is increasingly the norm, and I do think carefully about who I send an audio email to. Its a niche use of audio, but one that I plan to use more in future.


Conclusion


Audio provides an easy in-road to producing multi-media content and can add a valuable human aspect to a range of online content. Its usually possible to produce audio content at zero-cost, providing you have a smartphone, tablet or a microphone headset for your computer- a significant consideration at a time when budgets are stretched to the limit. For those nervous about producing video, audio provides an excellent first-step, and an opportunity to experiment with multi-media content production and gain vital confidence. So many forms of written content can be enhanced by the depth and context that the human voice can provide- go on, give it a try!