Interview with an Online Instructor: The Methodology (Part Two)

September 2001 — Volume 5, Number 2

Interview with an Online Instructor: The Methodology (Part Two)

Jim Duber
duber dot com
<jim@duber.com>

Return to Part One of this Column

Action

Having prepared a list of questions ahead of time, and with the hardware and software running smoothly, I was able to focus my attention on the essentials–a discussion of the interview topic at hand. The use of multi-track recording software, in this case, Audio Desk, allowed for quick and easy isolation of the two voices and maximum efficiency during the final editing stages of the production.

Audio Desk Interface
(Figure 7–Audio Desk Interface)

The first step in the editing stage was to export the dual-track audio file to a single AIFF formatted audio file. I then opened that file in SoundEdit Pro to perform final edits, which included applying equalization to help boost quieter segments, and deleting a few minor cases of place fillers ("um", "uh", "you know", etc.) and extended pauses. I also used SoundEdit to cut the audio up into five separate segments to make them more convenient to present in a streaming format with an easy to follow text transcript.

SoundEdit Pro Interface
(Figure 8–SoundEdit Pro interface)

In fact, producing the written transcription from the audio files was the most time-consuming aspect of the entire project. But, in keeping with principles of universal accessibility, this was a necessary operation and I was grateful that Maggie agreed to help with the task.

Special Delivery

I chose to use Macromedia Flash (version 4) as the delivery mechanism because of its ability to stream high quality audio over the World Wide Web even at slow modem rates and because of the large installed base of the Flash player worldwide. Recent surveys on Flash Player Statistics indicate that over 90% of web browsers internationally have the player installed. For those that don’t have it, I provided a link to download the free player, and the written transcript for those who can’t or don’t care to use this technology.

Flash Interface
(Figure 9–Flash Interface)

Those familiar with the Flash authoring environment will no doubt recognize that I’m using version 5 of the tool here. Flash 5 offers a lot of power in the form of ActionScript, an object-oriented scripting language similar to JavaScript that enables the creation of complex, immersive interactivity in Flash movies. However, since I wasn’t making use of any of the new programming capabilities, I chose to output a version 4 file. Moreover, because the version 4 player is more widely installed, this was a logical choice.

The audio settings I chose for publishing the Flash files are shown below in Figure 10. The "Audio Stream" settings were chosen to allow the sounds to play without delay over a 33.6 kbps modem connection or faster.

Flash Sound Settings
(Figure 10–Flash sound settings)

Lastly, I referenced the Flash files in my HTML using the standard Embed and Object tags, and then sent the HTML and media files to the TESL-EJ editors for upload to their web servers. Although this may seem to be an overly complex procedure, with a little practice it’s really easy. The whole job from start to finish was completed in a couple of hours. The audio quality is worth the extra effort.

Final Tips

  • Be sure to start out recording with your audio settings at maximum quality. For now, that would generally be 16 bits, 44 kHz. Save this original file so that you can republish the audio in a variety of formats and resolutions . For example, on CD ROM you can deliver the full resolution file and not worry about bandwidth constraints (or download times).
  • If you use the sort of simple microphone that came with your PC, you can minimize "pops" and "clicks" by placing a handkerchief or a piece of thin cloth over the mike to act as a wind screen.
  • If you can’t use a sound proof studio during your recording session, try to minimize noise interruptions as much as possible. I start by taking phones off the hook, and putting noisy pets outside.

Selected Audio Resources

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