Friday, July 13, 2007

OJS – MP3 Article Usage: A pilot study

Main Presenter:

Kathy Killoh

(Athabasca University, Alberta, Canada)

Other memebers of the team:
Paula Smith (
Athabasca University, Alberta, Canada) - Absent
Shubhash Wasti (
Athabasca University, Alberta, Canada)

Presented on:
July 13, 2007 at 11am in SFUHC Sauder Industries Policy Room

~Click for abstract~

~Blogger’s Commentary~

The pilot study on MP3 articles conducted at Athabasca University demonstrates what the meaning of “innovation” is. The idea behind this study is to allow access to academic articles in a format different from traditional formats (HTML or PDF), while using an audio format widely used in today’s society. MP3 articles provide a brand-new way of using academic material, and allow scholars to temporarily rest their tired eyes and work their ears a bit instead.

Kathy Killoh points out that much research still needs to be done on this topic, but this pilot study is certainly one of its kind and carries great implications in the larger scope of things. MP3 articles present a new possibility for accessing knowledge and thus help widen the circle of people who can take advantage of this possibility. For example, MP3 articles can be helpful for people with reading disabilities. Users of mobile technology can also easily listen to MP3 articles on the run. In short, MP3 articles exploit modern technology and open up new accessibility avenues. After all, and at the risk of sounding redundant, we must remind ourselves that accessibility makes up a major part of the spirit of Open Access.

We have been used to the idea of audio-books for quite some time now, and MP3 articles might also someday become as popular as PDF files when it comes to accessing academic journal articles. These days, almost everyone is listening to MP3s on the bus or subway, but perhaps next time when you ask your friends what they are listening to, instead of “some popular music artist”, the answer might be “I’m listening to John Willinsky’s newest article on open access.”

~Summary of Presentation~

- A team of researchers from
Athabasca University conducted a study on the use of MP3 as a format for academic articles available for download
- MP3 articles are available for download on the IRRODL web site

-IRRODL is an open access, peer reviewed e-journal that has been online since 2000

-IRRODL adopted OJS in 2005
-IRRODL’s editorial scope is international, and the vision is to narrow the digital divide by providing rigorously peer reviewed ODL (Open and Distance Learning) literature using a variety of technologies
-since June 2006, IRRODL content has been available also in MP3 format
-this pilot study is to collect some data on how, when, where and why readers are using MP3 articles

Selection of software: NeoSpeech Voice Text software
- issue of cost: for desktop use or for creating files to publish on the internet, this can create a big difference in pricing
- time it takes for conversion to MP3: 2 – 2.5 hours for 16 – 20 pg. articles
- editing for conversion:

Remove: references, citations, end notes, tables, graphs, figures, charts, etc.

Include: Front Matter, Coding for Heading pauses, table, image, chart descriptions

Code in extra pauses to indicate a new paragraph

- conversion challenges:

Symbols (e.g. >, *, etc.) are not always recognized by the software

Word tenses e.g. “red” to substitute past tense “read”

Brackets are ignored, need to code in a pause or a change in pitch

Acronyms: software would sometimes spell it out or read it as one word)

An online survey was also conducted by the MP3 research team, and selected portions of the results are included below:

Top 3 Geographic Origins of MP3 Downloads: 1) United States 2) Canada 3) United Kingdom

50% of respondents said they listened to MP3 articles on the PC/laptop, 41% on MP3 players

As for reasons why they listened to MP3 articles, responses ranged from "professional development", "education/study", "curiosity", "research", and others.

24% of respondents said they listened at home, 22% in the office, and 21% while commuting.

65% of respondents said they downloaded and listened to 1-2 articles.

- MP3 audio files are at the beginning of the “diffusion” curve (based on Everett Rogers’ Theory of Diffusion of Innovations)
- further research needs to be done

~About the Team~
Kathy Killoh

Paula Smith
Shubhash Wasti

~Related Links~
IRRODL – International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning


frenzy said...

Nice Post
article generator

Anonymous said...

[Found this post while looking for "OJS MP3" after listening to an IRRODL article. For some reason, a previous search for "IRRODL MP3" didn't return this post as one of the first results.]

Interesting study. And nice to hear that IRRODL is now TTSing all its articles.
As it so happens, I worked at a speech synthesis lab, back in the early to mid 1990s. Hopes were high, at the time. Speech would revolutionize everything. Some have since been claiming that speech technology has been a failure.
Listening to this one article on my iPod touch, I got to think about the new possibilities afforded speech technology.
The reason I was looking for information about IRRODL's MP3 feature is that I find the speech synthesis system to be "good enough." The TTS version of the article sounded almost exactly like a conference presentation. Slightly awkward, in that those texts are obviously set in a "written register" of language. But natural enough for the task.

In this case, the most specific usage model which came up for me was podcasting.
Sure, podcasting has also "failed to deliver the change" that people have been expecting. But that doesn't mean that (academic) podcasting doesn't have a future. At least, as I listen to (and watch) a large variety of podcasts, I can certainly imagine further potential.
One could easily imagine using these TTSed articles in "multitasking sessions." Commuting is the most obvious example. There are practical advantages to listening to something instead of reading it, while commuting. In public transit, one can even do other things while listening to an article, including taking notes, preparing comments, playing casual games, observing people, etc. Given an Internet connection of some kind, one can even look up information while listening to that article, without interrupting the flow of that article.
The multitasking sessions allowed by podcast listening can serve to emphasise a set of multi-modal learning strategies which are bemoaned by some people but used by a number of learners. Undertaking several activities at once can be quite stimulating. The emphasis, there, isn't on retention. But it can be on critical thinking and active engagement in the material.
Audio articles can also be used in conjunction with some visual representation. The simplest form of this is a "slidecast," with Powerpoint-like slides and synchronized audio. But further developments are easy to imagine.

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