Teaching Speaking in Blended or Fully Online Foreign Language Courses

Feb 12 2021

Speaking is without a doubt one of the most if not the most important skill to master when learning a foreign language.

One of the best ways to teach speaking online is with audio recording assignments. In this post, we discuss a variety of ways to create, administer and receive audio recording assignments in order to promote your students’ speaking skills.

Vocaroo
Cost per year per teacher:
Free

Vocaroo is an easy way to record audio online but offers no central repository of recordings

Vocaroo is a simple and free way to share audio recordings online. It works on all devices (desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone) and has an easy interface without a complicated onboarding or login process.

However, one of the biggest drawbacks of Vocaroo is that there is no central repository of audio recordings. If you are a typical language teacher with multiple classes, and 20 to 30 students in a class, do you really want to be clicking on 30 separate audio URLs? I know I don’t.

So Vocaroo is great for one-off assignments, but for weekly practice or assessment, a more robust solution is required.

Mote
Cost per year per teacher:
$39

Mote is a great way for teachers to give feedback to students but only works with Google Chrome

Mote is an extension for Google Chrome that allows teachers to easily give audio feedback on reports created in Google Drive.

The interface is simple and intuitive, and there is a function which allows teachers to save their audio feedback recordings to a “Motebook” where they can easily be re-used. Very helpful when giving the same feedback to multiple students or classes.

However, Mote has several drawbacks. Firstly, it is not cross-browser or cross-device device compatible. Although students can listen to the audio recordings on any device, teachers can only record on Google Chrome.

Secondly, Mote is optimized for teacher to student audio messages, not student to teacher. So if you want your students to practice speaking, you will need a different solution.

Flipgrid
Cost per year per teacher:
Free

Flipgrid is the go-to solution for video assignments but isn’t optimized for audio-only submissions

Flipgrid has become to go-to solution for administering and receiving video recording assignments. It offers a comprehensive platform that requires teachers and students to register and log in to create assignments and submit video recordings. Flipgrid also includes a comprehensive library of over 25,000 pre-made assignments that can be easily incorporated into lesson plans by teachers.

However, there are several drawbacks to Flipgrid. Firstly, although it is technically possible to record only only audio, the platform is really optimized for full video recordings. This is not great if you want students to focus on their speaking skills as opposed to their physical appearance.

Secondly is the aforementioned onboarding process: both teachers and students have to log in to create or submit video assignments, respectively. This complicates the assignment submission process and can result in teachers having to deal with lost or forgotten passwords.

ZenGengo
Cost per year per teacher:
$79 (with discount code)

Logo of ZenGengo, an online platform for language teaching and learning

ZenGengo is a platform made by language educators for language educators. Among the eight different activities it offers is the Audio Recording assignment type. Creating an Audio Recording assignment type is simple and straightforward: login with Google or Microsoft, create a folder, create an assignment, and get the submission link.

ZenGengo generates a unique submission link that can be distributed to students in a variety of ways: email, LMS, Zoom, or even by syncing your ZenGengo account to Google Classroom.

Click here to try out a ZenGengo audio recording assignment.

An image of a ZenGengo Audio Recording assignment

To submit an Audio Recording assignment, students simply access the link. The teacher can configure the assignment so that submissions are completely anonymous, or the student inputs their name on submission, or the student chooses from a list of pre-defined names (Phew! That seems to cover every eventuality!).

In addition, teachers can also give feedback in the form of audio, video, or written comments on any Audio Recording assignment submission.