Grading with Recorded Clips

Featured Instructor:

Wanda Raiford, J.D., Ph.D., University of Iowa alumna


Explains how the use of audio or video recordings turn grading papers into an invigorating conversation with students. 


  • Improves student response to feedback
  • Makes grading more efficient
  • Improves instructor-student relationship


Wanda Raiford explains how she easily provides the same sense of individual coaching for every person in her class by grading with digitally-recorded comments. By allowing students to hear the tone of her voice, she is able to cultivate a working dynamic based on respect and acceptances.


Recorded Clips: Details & Examples

Wanda Raiford explains how students who met with her in person better understood her comments and suggestions about their classwork. As a result, they were also more likely to put more effort into implementing her feedback on future assignments.  Using digital recordings to grade helps to provide a similar in-person experience.  Raiford has found that student feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.  Research suggests that potential benefits of recorded comments are substantial:

  • Recorded grading allows for extended commentary and praise unfettered by space constrictions (as with paper margins).
  • More commentary that goes into greater detail promotes better student understanding of the feedback.  This may decrease later office meetings with students confused about written comments.
  • Recorded feedback encourages students to be more aware of the reader as they craft their writing.
  • Recorded grading can make instructors’ marks seem less punitive and more constructive.
  • Recorded grading can strengthen the student-instructor relationship, in part because students feel recognized as individuals and perceive instructors as interested and approachable.
  • Recorded comments may increase students’ self-confidence and motivation.
  • Recording grading works well in distance-learning or online courses, and is appropriate for many kinds of writing, including technical writing

Recorded Clips: Best Practices

Audio comments may work best for assignments where students have some motivation to listen to the comments, such as assignments where comments must be applied to revisions.  Another strategy is to state the assignment grade at the end of the comments.

Students will get the most out of the commentary if you invite them to go through the assignment with you as they watch the recording so that you are “literally on the same page.”

A recorded message for students needn’t be long.  You may only want to point out two or three things that are best expressed aloud, such as praising a skillfully balanced sentence, or deconstructing a problematic argument.  

Students often benefit from hearing what they did successfully as well as what could be improved.  Beginning by identifying aspects in which the student’s work is strongest before diving into constructive criticism can also help open the student to your suggestions. 

It’s helpful to consider students’ technological resources and abilities.  In some cases, giving students the option to have written comments may be appropriate.  Some students may need some instruction about how to access comments.  

Students also will benefit from instructions about how they should absorb comments.  Consider having them do a five-minute free-write about their reactions to your comments.  You also could request they write their own questions and comments in the margins of their papers as they listen. 

Many instructors and students prefer to give students a copy marked only for mechanical mistakes in addition to the recorded comments.

Recorded Clips: Technology

Instructors have created recorded responses since as least the late 1950s when they relied on dictation machines and reel-to-reel.  Today, instructors can access a variety of technology that makes recording easier than ever.  The following are good places to start:  

  • Turnitin has an online markup tool (GradeMark) instructors can use to comment on their students papers, as well as a way to leave a three minute long voice comment.
    • The Turnitin Instructor Training webpage has several resources on TII for instructors. 
    • Turnitin offers specific information about the voice comment feature.
  • iAnnotate is an app some instructors use to grade PDF, DOC, PPT, and image files with audio comments.
  • Audacity is free, open source, cross-platform software some instructors use for recording and editing sounds. 

Recorded Clips: Bibliography & Related Content


Killoran, J. B. (2013) Reel-to-Reel tapes, Cassettes, and Digital Audio Media: Reverberations from a Half-Century of Recorded Audio Response to Student Writing. Computers and Composition, 30(1): 37-49.

Lynda @ The University of Iowa (2016) Retrieved from

​Sipple, S. & Sommers, J. (2005) Articles on Audio Commentary. A Heterotropic Space. Retrieved from 

Sipple, S. (2007) Ideas in Practice: Developmental Writers’ Attitudes Toward Audio and Written Feedback. Journal of Developmental Education, 30(3): 22-31. 

Panton, L. (2012) Paperless Grading Resources. Diigo. Retrieved from

The University of Iowa Writing Center. (2016) Writing Center. The University of Iowa. Retrieved from

The University of Iowa College of Business Communications Center. (2016) Judith R. Frank Business Communication Center. The University of Iowa. Retrieved from

The University of Iowa College of Law Writing Center. (2016) Writing Resource CenterThe University of Iowa. Retrieved from

The University of Iowa Department of History Teaching and Writing Center. (2016) Teaching and Writing Center. The University of Iowa. Retrieved from

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