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Audio logs

Briefing on the use of Audio Logs

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Gráinne Conole
25 March 2010

Briefing on the use of Audio Logs

Rationale for use

Previous research of using written student diaries as a form of data collection raised some issues in terms of the quality and quantity of the data collected. Our interest in using mobile and personal devices for data collection and our previous experiences in collecting sound, music and audio data (Dillon, 2006) informed our decision to use audio logs as a means of data collection.

Use of audio logs in a learner experience project - LXP

LXP was a project that explored the ways in which learners were using technologies. Data collection consisted of three main sources: an online survey, audio logs and interviews. The online survey[1]  was used to gain a wider contextual understanding of learners’ experiences, whereas the case studies of individual learners (via the audio logs and interviews) described the nature of the e-learning activities carried out by the learner. The survey contained a series of matrices of technologies against types of learning activities derived from the DialogPlus taxonomy (Conole, 2007b) as a basis for categorising types of technology and their use. The combination of methods allowed for rich empirical data, as well as for the triangulation of the data. The participating institutions provided a range of contexts across the UK – old and new institutions, city and regionally based.

Based on the results of the survey and students availability, a selection of learners from across the subject centres were chosen for in-depth case studies. Students were asked to provide regular audio-logs to demonstrate the different ways in which they were using technology. During the period of data collection, students could ‘drop’ their audio-logs, which were phone (mobile or landline) messages they could leave on a central database every time they used technology to support their learning activity. When phoning the dedicated voicemail box they received a detailed instruction reminding them about the information to be collected during this project. Based on our previous experiences, audio logs were chosen because such diaries can provide rich data about day-to-day events, as they happen, and contain a realistic account of the activities undertaken by the learners. Additionally, previous research suggested that working with written diaries was useful but that students find them time consuming (Timmis et al., 2004a/b). A semi-structured interview was carried out to help contextualise and extend the findings emerging from the audio logs. All audio files were stored in a shared area – two versions were kept (with individuals name and with audio containing their name removed). Files were coded and cross referenced. Three researchers listed to the files and drew out emergent themes and then compared findings. A summary table for each file was produced – see sample table.

Refection – 10 pros and cons

  1. Simple and surprising effective means of collecting data
  2. Gives an emotive angle to responses, capturing in situ at the time data
  3. Good response rate from students
  4. Need to consider how best to set up: students’ own devices (mobile, MP3, etc), or ring into a central number
  5. Nice means of triangulating against other data
  6. Very rich data from small snippets of information
  7. Issue re: ethics? Difficulty of anonymising
  8. Issue in terms of how best to analyse and code – degree to which account should be taken of emotive aspects
  9. Some issues re: background noise or bad recordings

10.  Great to ad audio into presentations, really enriches the presentation and gives the audience a feeling for the data


Table: Sample of summary data per audio log








Laptop + projector + PPT

Gave a presentation




Word, email, chat


Loves email



BMA e-module

On acne and primary care

Helps with module currently being stiudied



Search engine plus Word to store findings

Literature research for next presentation due (on breast cancer)




Medical School site

To update her e-portfolio





Contact close friend

“Mobile phones are mobile phones.” Great way to make contact



[Institution] Learning Support Environment

To request lectures from medical school office

Good to be able to access course information + events




Checking some course details

Quick and easy




Search for accommodation for elective next summer

Google good for private life needs as well as course work searching



Conole, G. (2007b), ‘Describing learning activities: tools and resources to guide practice’, in H. Beetham and R. Sharpe (Eds), Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age: Designing and Delivering E-Learning, London: RoutledgeFalmer

Dillon, T. (2006), Hail to the Thief: The Appropriation of in Music in the Digital Age. O'Hara, K and Brown, B, (Eds) Consuming Music Together: Social and Collaborative Aspects of Music Consumption Technologies. Dordrecht: Springer

Timmis, S., R. O'Leary, Weedon, E., Harrison, C. and Martin, K.  (2004a), ‘Different shoes, same footprints? A cross-disciplinary evaluation of students' online learning experiences: preliminary findings from the SOLE project’, JIME, 13, [20/04/07].

Timmis, S., O’Leary, R., Weedon, E. and Martin, K. (2004b), ‘A multi-disciplinary, holistic approach to networked learning – a critique of a large-scale empirical study into student online learning experiences’, Proceedings of the Networked Learning Conference, Lancaster,"online learning diaries methodological issues" [10/10/06]




Extra content

Embedded Content


Anthea Wilson
12:26pm 7 February 2014


I'm interested in gathering audio diaries from level 1 students in the faculty of health and social care.

The data gathered will inform the design of a mixed method longitudinal study for a subsequent cohort of students. The overall aim is to find out what the students find motivating or discouraging, and to gain insights into their engagement with the support and skills resources provided, and any other sources of support.

The aim of the longitudinal study would be to discover the changes in individuals over time: how their needs and skills develop.

I'm at a very early stage of working out the pilot methods, and would dearly love to have some advice on the simplest way technology-wise of gathering audio data  from distance learners. I like the idea of calling a dedicated voicemail box. How does this work? Can it be set up as a free number? I've tried making voice recordings on various devices but it results in file types that are not always compatible with standard audio players.

Any comments gratefully received!

Best wishes


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