Lend me your ears: The subtle qualities of voice in learning

By Clare Gormley

Seldom a day seems to go by without some mention of the word ‘voice’ in academic discussion. Educators and policymakers frequently refer to the importance of representing ‘the student voice’ in teaching and learning activities. Similarly, the concept of ‘the academic voice’ is often used in conversations around the values, opinions, and perspectives of the university community.  However in this post I would like to take some time to talk about the real-life, living-and-breathing human voice itself in relation to teaching, learning, and assessment. Given the evidence of feedback as a powerful learning tool (Hattie & Timperley, 2007), I would like to reflect on the perhaps underestimated contribution of a person’s actual voice in developing and enhancing knowledge.


Andrew Middleton, well known for his research and staff development work around the development and use of audio-based feedback in higher education, was guest speaker at the recent DCU Teaching and Learning Day. He described audio feedback as “the recording and distribution of spoken feedback on a student’s work” and gave a wide-ranging, stimulating presentation on why, how, and when feedback in audio format might fit into an assessment strategy. We heard how audio feedback can take many forms, ranging from personal to general, and it is ideally suited to constructive criticism on aspects such as evidence, structure and academic argument. You can watch the video of his presentation here: Andrew Middleton at DCU T&L Day

One of the slides that I felt most vividly captured the potential of the audio medium is shown below – it illustrates some reactions from students who received audio feedback from lecturers and it captures many of the key benefits described in the literature.

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Clearly the timeliness, replayability, and mobility of the approach appeals to students. But it is that intangible quality of being prompted to “listen more when someone is talking to me than if I’m reading it” that is particularly intriguing.

You can read Clare’s full reflection piece on the value of voice in learning, based on several talks and experiences at DCU’s recent Teaching and Learning Day, on her personal blog – Learning Rush.

Busy Start to New Academic Year with a Record Number of DCU Connected Students

It has been a hectic start for our team to the new academic year. Last Saturday during our annual Welcome Day we greeted a record number of new DCU Connected students to Dublin City University’s (DCU) Glasnevin campus.


While our DCU Connected online learners are spread throughout Ireland, and beyond, and not everyone is able to attend the Welcome Day in person, we were delighted to meet up with around 280 new students. In many cases the Welcome Day is one of the few times we get to meet our students in person, with the other formal opportunity occurring when they proudly come to DCU on completion of their study for their Graduation Ceremony. DKKGcSVW0AA3EQA.jpg-large

This year’s Welcome Day began with a formal welcome to DCU from Bill Kelly, Dean of Teaching and Learning. He noted that earlier in the week Mr Richard Bruton, Minister of Education and Skills, formally launched DCU’s new Strategic Plan, Talent, Discovery & Transformation (2017-2022) where we set ambitious goals for the future of the University across six key themes.


In the context of these goals, Billy stressed to our new online students that widening participation in higher education has always been part of DCU’s DNA, with over 30-years experience of online distance education. He finished his brief welcome with a few words of inspiration and wisdom drawing on Seamus Heaney:

“Walk on air against your better judgement – challenge yourselves in all you do!”


4Dr James Brunton, co-Head of the Open Education Unit, also welcomed everyone and emphasised how much we value our DCU Connected students.
The opening session also included a welcome to DCU from Niall Behan, Student Union President. Typically our DCU Connected students are studying part-time, off-campus and we really value the Student Union’s efforts to support all learners, wherever they study.

3Dr Anne Markey, a previous online graduate of the BA in Humanities programme and Open Education tutor, learning resouces developer, and current member of the Humanities Programme Board, also shared her advice and experiences of studying by distance. In particular Anne reminded our ‘newbies’ that learning is a social process and to take full advantage of this new social network.

After the formal welcome students had the opportunity to learn more about their specific programme of study and to meet fellow classmates. While studying online from a distance isn’t easy Irish employers consistently tell us that in addition to the new knowledge students acquire (often on the job), they really value the perseverance and time management skills they develop when studying through DCU Connected.


We now look forward to engaging with all of our DCU Connected students in Loop—our online learning environment—and seeing the fruits of their work over the first semester, and beyond.