Dragon Dictation and Podcast Accessibility

A few months ago I began a project to create an online module on pedagogic practice in higher education history. Primarily based upon two of my workshops, Teaching as a Postgraduate Researcher and Teaching as an Early Career Historian, I naively believed that the course would essentially write itself.

Over the next few weeks, I am going to share some of my experiences in converting face-to-face workshops into online courses. The first point I would like to bring up, however, is accessibility.

One of the sessions in my face-to-face workshop was on inclusion and accessibility; simple steps which postgraduates and lecturers could take to make their teaching more accessible to students with heavy work or family commitments, international students or students with learning difficulties. I therefore already recognised that there would be a need to address accessibility issues within the online version.

In order to simulate face-to-face interaction, the module included a number of recorded lectures and video podcasts, which students could stream or download. Alongside these videos, I intended to include full transcriptions of the audio. There were a number of reasons for this:

  • My American accent, while charming, was more likely to be misunderstood than a British accent by my predominantly British cohort
  • Many individuals find it difficult to navigate audio lectures without visual cues, such as facial expressions and hand gestures, or simply retain written information more readily than aural information 
  • Not all students have frequent access to high-speed internet connections from which to download or stream the video version of the lecture

Although I knew it needed to be done, I was of two minds about how to do it. On the one hand, I could relate my lectures naturally, as I had in the workshops, and then transcribe them from the audio recordings. Having transcribed numerous interviews during my undergraduate days, this was not a prospect I relished. The second option, which I eventually chose, was to write out my lecture and then simply recite it into the audio recorder. The results were satisfactory, but the tone and pacing was much more stilted than my normal lecturing cadence.

I have since stumbled upon a programme that will not only aid in the creation of any future online modules, but also in provide more natural and rapid feedback to my students on their assessed work: Dragon Dictation.
Dragon Dictation is a free Apple© App for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. With a simple click of a button, it will record your speech and, when you are finished, text or email you a transcription. With a wide variety of languages and accents recognised (including American, British and Australian English) most people will find one that works for them. Although I have only used it in a limited fashion thus far, I have found it to be 85-90% accurate in transcribing my lecturing voice; more so if I make a conscious effort to enunciate.
So, supposing you have an Apple gadget and a Wi-Fi connection (the transcription takes place server-side), what can you use this for in your teaching?
  • Creating transcriptions of educational podcasts
  • Rapidly preparing natural-sounding written feedback on student assessments
  • Transcribing impromptu lectures or presentations
  • Capturing your immediate reflections on seminars or lectures

What will you use it for?

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