I spent a few learning filled days last week at the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education Conference in Banff. This was the first conference of the new organization created from the merger of the Association For Media and Technology in Education and the Canadian Association for Distance Education. I suggested at the final plenary session that presenters upload their slides to Slideshare using the tag CNIE2008, (or just CNIE) and many have.

Besides an outstanding keynote by Stephen Heppell, highlights for me included the CIDER preconference sessions, a number of presentations overviewing web 2.0 applications (notably Alex Couros’s presentation), lots of talk about Open Education Resources (including my own) in blended and distance education and of course the Banff scenery.

I also had the pleasure of meeting and listening to Phil Ice drawl his way through a fascinating study that showed (empirically) what far too view interventions do – it improved perceptions of learning, student enjoyment AND saved instructor time. The intervention was the use of audio feedback (recorded using papers and essays converted to PDF and annotated with voice using Adobe Acrobat). Phil and his colleagues published the initial results in JALN in 2007 and claimed “From the instructors’ perspective, the ability to reduce the time required to provide feedback by approximately 75% was a compelling reason to adopt the technique. However, it is important to note that this reduction in time was coupled with a 255% increase in the quantity of feedback provided.

I’ve tried audio annotations myself some years ago, but quickly gave up when the resulting Word files mushroomed into Megabyte lengths that confounded our email systems. According to Phil, Acrobat does an excellent job of recording the inflection, accents etc WITHOUT creating huge files. Phil has validated his 2007 study internationally with 6 other test sites and different subject matter.

I’m hoping we will be able to publish the results of this larger validation study in an upcoming issue of IRRODL, but in the meantime, I am about to get the VISA card out and purchase the full version of Acrobat. Any innovation that saves me time and improves the quality of learning in my courses is always welcomed!