Feedback is important to healthcare students as they need to be able to critically appraise and reflect upon their academic work and professional practice. Feedback from assessments, particularly clinical skills examinations, should help students feed-forward not only to future assessments, but also into their clinical practice. The timeliness and perceived relevance of feedback are two of the main issues which students report relating to feedback, a concern evident in the findings of the 2016 National Student Survey as 72% of students felt they received detailed feedback, with only 68% stating their feedback helped to clarify things (HEFCE, 2016). One method of providing feedback in a timely manner is audio feedback, due to it being an efficient means of distributing high quality, detailed feedback.
Audio feedback may also hold great potential in enabling students to obtain a deeper understanding of the feedback provided, due primarily to the level of detail provided. Using audio feedback and being “walked-through” a practical, clinical examination can trigger a student’s memory as to what they had been requested to do, thereby enabling them to visualise their examination, in addition to comparing their performance against what was expected by the examiner, a factor novice learners often struggle with, trying to understand what the examiner is expecting of them. The importance of students being able to recall their strengths and weaknesses during an assessment cannot be underestimated, as it encourages and enables self-evaluation and reflection.
Audio feedback is held in high regard by tutors and students alike, with the latter reporting it being more personal to them and enhancing their relationship with a tutor. However, the detrimental effects of audio feedback must be acknowledged, as this mode of feedback may negatively impact students’ confidence, whilst academics may have concerns of audio files being miss-used by students, particularly on social media sites. Students have also cited in literature, concern regarding inconsistencies amongst tutors in providing audio feedback, particularly in terms of the duration of feedback provided.
Whilst some academics may have significant teaching experience in Higher Education, it does not automatically infer that they will have a natural aptitude for using technology for feedback purposes. Using any technology as a new means of providing feedback to students, places academics, irrespective of experience, as novice learners. Therefore, it is important to issue support and guidance to tutors when using a new method for providing feedback to ensure good practice and consistency. By educating tutors on using audio feedback, this can enhance confidence within academics to use this mode of feedback, which may then be a means of improving NSS feedback results relating to student feedback, all whilst enhancing the student experience and aiding their development as health care professionals.