3 Things to Think About When Creating Voice Comments

jennifer-haber-square Classroom practices blog post written by Jennifer Haber, Professor of Communications at St. Petersburg College

A few years ago, I gave my online writing students an assignment that asked them to look at the feedback I provided and answer three questions based on my feedback. Since I wasn’t sure some of my students were reading my comments, I thought this strategy would be a great way to ensure that they were engaged in the process. I asked them three questions:

1. What is one thing that you learned from my comments?
2. What is one area that I noted that you will work on for the next paper?
3. What is one thing you would like to see in future comments?

While I received some thoughtful responses to all three questions, I was most intrigued by the responses to the last question. About 50% of the students that semester responded, “The text comments were helpful, but it is too bad that I couldn’t hear what you thought about my paper. I really wanted to hear your voice.” At that point, I realized that I should try to find a way to speak to my students. Turnitin Voice Comments seemed to be the solution.

I started with a plan. First, I knew that I still needed to provide text-based comments because I only had three minutes. These comments were still important because I could show my students a greater range of comments. I could show them examples and add web sites for them to review. Then, I needed to think about what I wanted to say to my students in three minutes. So, I made an outline--and I actually practiced with my dog (he didn’t respond, but he is a great listener). Here is what I did:

1. I addressed students by name. The students needed to know that I was talking to them (and that I wasn’t used a pre-generated response). So, I would say, “Chris, thanks for sharing your paper about greenhouses gases. It has been a topic that concerns me, as well.”

2. It was important for me to include something positive and specific about their paper. For instance, I might say, “Chris, your opening sentence really caught my attention because the scenario that you provided made me feel like I was right there rock climbing next to you.”

3. I would focus on one or two ways that the students could improve their paper. For instance, if the paper lacked a thesis statement and a clear focus, those might be two areas to focus on (reminding the student, of course, there were other areas to look at). I might talk about their thesis and provide strategies for improvement. For instance, I might say, “At this point, your thesis appears to be a question. Have you considered how you answer the question to make your thesis statement?”

After using Voice Comments the next semester, I asked my students the same questions. Now, many students responded to the last question by saying, “I love the Voice Comments. It is so great to hear what you have to say about my paper. I really know how I can improve my writing.”

If you have a story to share about how you use Voice Comments, I would love to hear more. Please feel free to share.

Three Ways to Make Citation Practices Stick
How Voice Comments Improve Reader Attention
Why Student Engagement is Important
Good to Great: How Turnitin Makes a Difference in Critical Thinking
Is the Pen Mightier than the Pixel? Students' Reactions to Handwritten vs. Digital Comments
Dialed Up and Dialed In: Engaging the Digital Student

About the Educator

jennifer-haber-squareI have been part of a college/university setting most of my life--first as a student (BA in English from UF, MA in English from UCF, and a PhD from USF in Instructional Technology) and then as a professor. I have been teaching for over 15 years (with over 10 years experience teaching online as well). I am credentialed to teach a variety of classes, including composition classes, student success courses, education and technology courses, and humanities courses. This past year, I was award the Summum Bonum award for excellence in teaching. I have also written a few articles, have participated on numerous committees at the college, have participated and presented information at a number of conferences, and have designed countless courses and materials.