Meeting the Needs of the Online Student
Shelley Turnbull, an online educator, reaches out to students through the Internet using MorphVOX.  Using a combination of novel teaching and voice-changing software, Shelley has been able to design curriculum that appeals to the wide-range of learning styles.01.02.2007

Shelley Turnbull, an online educator, reaches out to students through the Internet using MorphVOX. Using a combination of novel teaching and voice-changing software, Shelley has been able to design curriculum that appeals to the wide-range of learning styles.


Over the last four years, Shelley Turnbull has been teaching an English course online. She also teaches Society and the Environment (History and Geography). In the last year she has started teaching Creative Writing, Philosophy and Ethics and designing websites for Mathematics and Science.

Shelley's success in reaching out to students and the effectiveness of their learning is a testament to how important it is to carefully design classes to meet the needs of each student. Her students "attend" Swanline, a school based in Perth, Western Australia and NorthstarUK based in Sheffield, UK.

Teaching students online has its unique challenges. Many online educators choose to upload generic Word documents through a learning management system and let students read the material on their own. This "one-size fits all" philosophy may be adequate for some learners but not others.

"My philosophy when building a website is to make it educationally available, that means making sure that the `intelligences' are catered for."

Shelley has designed her courses around the philosophy of adjusting the educational content based on the learner. Whereas a linguistic learner would benefit from written material, a logical learner would thrive on sequential lessons. A musical learner would enjoy songs, while an intra-personal learner would want a sense of personality from the website. She has also designed curriculum to help aural learners too.

"The best way to cater for these kinds of learners is to have materials that are fun, engaging, colourful and personality based. MorphVOX allows this. I can create vocal characters for my sites."

She has recently taught The Hobbit to Year 8 students using a mixture of MorphVOX to modify her voice into a new, comical personality and CrazyTalk by Reallusion, a tool for creating animated characters. By creating these talking characters, she is able to effectively explain some of the more difficult concepts to her students. It also provides a personal guide to help her students learn to love the book the way that she does.

Shelley's aural curriculum covers a wide range of topics, from Mathematics to Philosophy and Ethics. She often employs various characters using MorphVOX to make each subject more relevant and fun for the learner. For example, she chooses the child voice to teach Mathematics. This allows her students to relate better - if the child on the screen understands the material, then so can they.

"For my Philosophy and Ethics course, I choose to alter my voice into that of a the gravelly voice of an older man and I use a mixture of the Microsoft Agents software and Camtasia to make flash files which present a mini video of Plato talking about the theories of Philosophy and asking the `Big Questions'"

Currently Shelley is working on a term's worth of material for Finding Nemo, using the MorphVOX underwater voice changing effects and backgrounds feature. In many ways, the tool has encouraged her to teach things that she wouldn't have thought of normally. For instance, the use of backgrounds (street, wood, underwater) allows her to teach a little more about the world of news as she can set the scene aurally for a reporter.

"I think MorphVOX has helped me make my work more inviting and friendly for my students and education shouldn't be a threatening experience for anyone."
 

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