Multimedia pedagogy and software selection

Parking the idea of the cloud for now, one of the questions I often get is “dude, how do I make kewl multimedia stuff? What software is cheap, easy, and reliable?” And my reply is “dude, that totally depends.”

But here are some recommendations, based on functionality. All of these are either freeware (often bundled with new computers) or shareware (free to try and inexpensive to buy). Today we’ll cover…

Audio capture and editing

One of the great ways to liven up static text pages in your e-course is to add audio clips. That does not include embedded, automatically playing music files–especially MIDI ones. If you are explaning a model or theory, or want to add an expert’s commentary on a topic, creating an mp3 sound file uses little bandwidth for students and produces a crisp, clear sound.

Adding a verbatim audio clip of the site’s text also makes your sight more accessible to persons who are visually impaired (though many of these folks use screen reading software).

I recommend Audacity. It’s open source, so it’s free. It’s cross-platform ( Windows, Linux and Mac), so if you collaborate with others, everyone can use the same tool, and it’s both full of features and relatively user friendly. There are lots of online tutorials for you as well.

Audacity records audio directly, and allows you to crop the ends off a too-long clip, cut long pauses out to shorten a clip, and add fade in or fade out (and lots more). It also lets you export files as WAV (the format of music CDs), mp3s (for portable music players like the iPod, but also great for web sites), and other formats.


  • Be sure to record audio somewhere with little ambiant noise.In fact, do a test recording first.
  • Always use an external microphone. The one built-in to your computer usually won’t isolate voice clearly enough from background noise. If you have a headset with microphone, that will suffice, but lavalier microphones that can be pinned to clothing are both excellent and inexpensive.
  • If your clip is only  someone speaking, compressing it as mono (rather than stereo) will make files even smaller.
  • Don’t edit your original (raw) audio clip: save your originals in one folder and put copies for editing in another. That way you can go back to the original if you mess up. 🙂

About John P Egan

Learning technology professional.
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