I’m tired of listening practice.  More specifically, I’m tired of the limitations present with traditional methods of doing listening practice.  Usually, it involves playing an audio file from one set of speakers at the front of the room.  Challenge 1:  volume.  Challenge 2:  time constraints.   Alternatively, I point students to audio on the internet and have them do tasks individually.  Challenge 1:  responsibility.  Challenge 2:  answer checking.  Both of these methods can be effective in their own ways, but in addition to these challenges, they each present fundamental issues that are not ideal for either me or the students.

a.   I control how much and often they hear the audio file or
b.   I’m not with them when they control how much and often they hear the audio file.

I’m tired of using the usual suspects
Even when using Youtube (or most other audio/visual web tools I’m familiar with), if students are using them individually and performing activities independently, it’s harder for me to check their ideas or answers without listening to it with them again or on written answers, having them indicate somehow where in the audio they’re referring to, which I then need to find myself.  This has always felt like an irritating and time-consuming endeavour.

I want to comment where I want to comment
As a result, I’ve started using Soundcloud.  It’s a web tool that allows users to upload audio files.  Once done, they appear as a wave visually with a play button.  When students go to link provided, they can listen at their leisure in class or at home.  BUT, what’s great about this tool is that at any point during the audio, they can leave comments which appear at that point.  On top of that, you can reply to each comment and create an ongoing discussion.  This makes retrieving the relevant audio to their task much simpler and gives students a better chance to engage with the audio and each other than the traditionally linear comment functions.


(This is an example audio file – as it plays, students click on the blue bottom bar to leave a comment at a certain point;  the thin, vertical blue lines that bottom with an avatar or blank head indicate comments left.  When reviewing, you can start the audio at any point and click on the avatar to read or reply to the comment)

I used it with my EAP students
I uploaded a 10-minute podcast on innovation in China to listen to as many times as they needed.  While and after listening, I gave them four tasks I gave my students using Soundcloud by commenting at specific points in the audio:

1. Focused listening:  Choose two 10-second excerpts and transcribe what you hear word for word.
2. Paraphrasing:  Choose a two-sentence passage, consider its meaning and paraphrase it.
3. Opinions:  Choose one idea from the audio passage and write your opinion of it in the comment box.
4. Replying:  Read through the opinion comments and choose one.  Listen to the audio at that point and then reply to your classmate’s opinion by agreeing or disagreeing with support.

After students had completed each, it was very easy for me to go back and check their transcriptions, their paraphrases and comment on how they gave their opinions and the content of their opinions themselves.  Even better, students were more actively engaged with the listening tasks and enjoyed waiting for their classmate’s comments to appear.  And I loved the result!

Take a look at the result of one student groups’ Soundcloud work.

China s Communist Party, Economic Gr by Coursetree

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13 Responses to Soundcloud for listening practice

  1. David says:

    Great stuff – just went through the demo and looked at it in detail. Thanks for sharing.

    I really like the comment feature but also think the audio drop box is invaluable. Right now I pay for that through Evoca but this really ups the ante and makes one more attractive and organized. Great….


  2. Marisa Pavan says:

    Hello Tyson,

    Thanks for sharing this valuable tool and the insightful task you’ve devised.
    Regards from Argentina!
    Marisa (@Mtranslator)

  3. Hi Tyson!

    I’m so thankful you shared this resource during my audio tools webinar. It seems almost like it was designed for language teachers! I’m really amazed by the capabilities and features. There are so many potential uses! Thanks again for this gem!

    • seburnt says:

      I’d been meaning to write a post about it since then, but it didn’t seem organic until I used the tool in one of my more recent classes. Glad it’s been received well by both students and teachers!

  4. Nice tool and nice ideas! Thanks, Tyson!

  5. Sharon says:

    Hi Tyson,

    This is a really interesting tool and one that I will definitely explore with my learners and teaching partners. It is great because it also seems to allow the students to feel more confident about listening on their own. Did you find this to be the case? Were students more willing to listen alone? I would be interested to know.



    • seburnt says:

      Students were much more engaged in the listening practice rather than doing so as a whole. What I noticed in particular was the decrease in technological fail… in other words, with students in control of the listening themselves, you no longer need to worry about the volume being loud enough, or varying listening ability not being accounted for. For this reason, students definitely were more involved in their learning on their own time.

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