Friday, May 30, 2008

The perfect voice, the perfect podcast?

I've been given thought lately to the effectiveness of podcasting as a tool for delivering training. After discussing the issue with an expert in the field I can see how it could easily be classified under the "rapid" banner too. The expert, Peter Galante of JapanesePod101, revealed that he felt that success or failure of podcasting as an enterprise lay in one or two keys features, chief of which was an an engaging voice.

So, today's spurious-advertorial-disguised-as-science* piece on the BBC, courtesy of Post Office Telecoms, was actually fairly interesting.

The research purports to reveal the perfect voice. Researchers tested people's reactions to a variety of previously unknown voices (ie there was no bias based on previous exposure) then the voices that scored best were analysed to find out what traits they shared. It revealed the sorts of things that people found most appealing.

Issues they looked at included the tone, speed, pauses and so forth. The top voices for women included Mariella Frostrup and Dame Judi Dench; for men it was Jeremy Irons and Alan Rickman. While these folk are probably out of the budget of most elearning projects, they at least give you an idea of the kind of voices you should be looking to if you want people to receive your learning most favourably.

I guess that this would come with caveats - the antithesis for these plummy tones was Jonathan Ross, but with his listening figures contributing to Radio 2's position as the most popular radio station in the UK, clearly there are plenty of people who like him. That said, he was a TV personality long before radio so it's possible he simply brings existing fans with him.

However, key issues like clarity of pronunciation, richness of voice and sensible pacing are goals that can be aimed for by all podcasters.

* usually these are marked by a commercial sponsor (check) and some nonsense equation (check). The best champion in the fight against most of this kind of rubbish is the Guardian's Ben Goodacre in his Bad Science column.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Moodled - at last

For a while now I've wondered just how good Moodle is.

On the prowl for a new project last month I decided to upgrade my package with 1&1 hosting to a compatible LAMP affair, and which gave me, for free, the option to get hold of which will just bring you straight back here.

This afternoon I finally managed to get my head around the tweakery that was required, courtesy of the volumes on the subject in the very useful Moodle forums, and so I have a working install of Moodle.

Next up, reading the manual to work out what to do with it...

For a reasonable assessment of Moodle and its prospects, here's Darren Sidnick of Ufi/learndirect.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Enter the Grand Learning Renewal Project

Google have announced that they are swinging behind the social revolution with Google Friend Connect, creating APIs to enable any site to incorporate features usually associated with the likes of MySpace, Bebo and Facebook. Here's the Beeb on subject.

This should mean that the task of renovating our existing learning ghettos - the soulless, dank, lonely homepages of most LMSs - should become a whole lot easier.

Places of learning should not resemble the online equivalent of the East End of London, circa 1970, or the Detroit of countless straight-to-what-was-once-video -but-is-now-more-likely-to-be- DVDs - that's to say empty places where all you will hear is the echo of your own mouse click.

No, if we want people to learn, or more importantly if we want them to want to learn we need to create hospitable places where they get the sense that there are other people around doing what they're doing. Learning.

Vive la revolution sociale!

On a more balanced note, Brent Schenkler has a great post that tries to combat the erroneous binary opposition that it's social networking OR face to face.

Image by detroitderek on flicker