Conversational audio in online distance education.
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This thesis explores the effectiveness of convenient audio in online education. Conversational audio is defined as structured, but not scripted, conversations between the instructor and colleagues, students, subject matters experts, or people who have experienced the subject firsthand. The results of this thesis suggest strong student support for this format of audio in their online courses, with particular support for the use of conversation with guests and their use of stories and examples to reinforce the course content. One hundred and sixty-five students in four online courses conversational audio at Camosun College in Victoria, B.C. were surveyed in two consecutive offerings of the courses: at the end of the fall 2000 semester, and at the end of the winter 2001 semester. The students had the choice of listening by the analog methods of radio and audiocassette, or digitally through a stored computer file or as a live audio stream while the program was broadcast on the radio. Most students used only one method to listen to the audio, and the most popular listening method was the stored computer file. The students did not indicate technical difficulties using online audio, Most students said they enjoyed listening to the audio and felt it helped them learn the content. About 87% of the students felt the conversational audio programs helped them to understand different views of the subject, and that same percentage agreed that the stories and examples helped them to relate the subject to real life situations. While most students said hearing their instructor's voice contributed to them feeling a personal relationship with him, a substantial number of students indicated that they needed two-way communication in order to feel a personal connection. It appears that the use of conversational audio online may be better supported by providing substantial opportunities for peer and instructor interaction by computer mediated communication (CMC). There is strong student support that online conversational audio was interesting, enjoyable, and contributed to learning. Furthermore, students were satisfied with accessing and using the delivery technologies. This thesis concludes with 22 recommendations presented in support of conversational audio in online education.