I’ve had a few inquiries from faculty members who are interested in making their OERs more accessible by creating audio voiceovers or an entire audiobook version. Currently, we are thinking of recording the audio for each individual chapter and embedding it into the Pressbook, but I’m curious if anyone has heard of or developed OER audiobooks and has any suggestions for tools, resources, or platforms that I could look into.
This is actually something I thought about a lot, a while ago. I ported the Creative Commons Certificate course materials to Pressbooks (mostly to learn PB), and then I also wanted to make an audio version (which I did, it’s here: Creative Commons Certificate for Educators and for Librarians: The Audiobook ). I learned a fair bit about how to make an audiobook on a shoestring, and what might be issues that need to be resolved (e.g., where do attribution statements go? what format is best to share? etc.). I didn’t end up attaching the audio version to the PB version, because there wasn’t a super graceful way to do that (although I think there are ways).
Just a side note: I think this is a really, really valuable thing to do! There is, of course, the social justice issue of making available versions of educational resources to folks who have a difficulty with print. But then it turns out that others can use the audio version, too! E.g., I’ve been told by folks on four continents that they use my CC Cert course audio version to learn something while exercising or driving or on the bus – it’s pretty cool! (This is the example I like to use of what some accessibility advocates call the “curb cut effect,” where adding cuts to sidewalk curbs for accessibility reasons – which would be enough of a reason to do it, by itself, to be sure! – also benefits people on bikes or pulling a cart with their groceries or parents pushing prams.)
Anyway, I’d be happy to chat some time if you’d be interested in exactly which tools I used to make the audiobook (all FLOSS, of course … that’s the way I go!). Just DM me…
Great example on youtube from Brian Barrick, thank you for sharing that. CCCOER did a case study with Brian on the development of the audiobook with a student at his college. Happy to connect you if needed.
Brian’s video is an excellent guide, we also had him on a podcast where he shared about his project of creating an audiobook version of the OpenStax American Government textbook
Which has it’s own web site that also includes resources for teachers. His approach was doing it as a podcast and found the most use and feedback came from posting it to YouTube. He described the value for students who had long commutes or other commitments to have access to the text in both book and audio form, so it is definitely worth doing.
What was interesting in Brian.s project is he also had a student help with the recording, so there is potential for that approach. And of course, you can talk to (audio guru) @clintlalonde who organized the 25 Years of EdTech audiobook.
For Amanda’s question, I’m not sure a specific platform is critical for audio production, as much as a good mic for recording (Brian did his in the home studio clothes closet!). But for the question of where/how to use the audiobook, the good thing is it can be repurposed as yes, integrated into the Pressbooks, but also published as a series outside. I have seen a few examples of Open textbooks also using audio as a book introduction, or chapter intro, to give it more context and author presence.
And anytime now people are going to turn to AI to generate these (!!!) though I would much rather have the author
I hope we hear of more folks here who have thought about, seen, or done open textbooks in audio format. It would be excellent to see some move towards collections of such things (if they do not already exist).
Thanks for bringing this up, Amanda!
Glad it’s getting some people out of the woodworks.
And I’m glad @cogdog mentioned @hughmcguire’s LibriVox. Technically, we can consider the whole catalog to be full of OERs, since there are learning contexts for each of these audiobooks. Sure, people mostly think about OERs as resources created explicitly as learning material. Yet the lessons Hugh has learnt through this work probably informs a lot of what Pressbooks has become.
So: a platform to develop audiobooks can be a forum. People can sign up to read some chapters and “deposit” the recordings somewhere. Can become a community focus, including in a learning community. Can’t think of a better way to get some of our students involved in a project than let them do voiceovers.
Chances that many of us have learners in our midst who have a keen interest in voice acting, audio production, recording technology, or even sound engineering.
In terms of important tools currently used by a number of people doing this kind of work in our field… You probably know Audacity. Yes, it’s Free Software (though there’s been a controversy around that, last year). And it’s quite easy to use. Interestingly, there’s been significant work done to improve its User Experience. In itself, teaching with Audacity can go really well with OE.
Of course, there’s a whole lot of software for audio work. (The fact that Apple announced Logic Pro on iPadOS is significant, at several levels. Not that it goes in line with our OE values. More that it signals something for the future of audio tools.)
There are even some “futuristic” tools to improve recordings.
Yes, and… having smaller chunks identified? So, either smaller audiofiles (one for each section) or chapter divisions. The tool I’ve used for this (which is “free as in beta with no support”) is: Forecast: Podcast MP3 Chapter Encoder — Overcast.
A vote for smaller audiofiles would be that it’s more flexible, if you end up having to tweak something. (Heard some OER people talk about some Rs like “revising” and “remixing”. )
At the same time, lots of files can become unwieldy, for listeners.
Chapters are particularly neat in “podcatchers”, podcast listening apps. Overcast is the one I use. Not only does it allow to move from one audio chapter to the next (with links and “album art”), you can share the audio at the beginning of chapter. Or even create a clip to share on social media.
Precisely! And it’s also a social justice principle. As someone who prefers audio for a number of things, I often think and talk about “scriptocentrism” (during a recent podcast episode, Ilievska called it “graphocentrism”). We even associate “literacy” with the one basic level of skill to do anything in educational contexts. Those of us who have worked with deeply knowledgeable people who are “functionally illiterate” probably realize that the emphasis on the written word in OE is an issue in terms of epistemic justice.
Before someone jumps in to mention that “learning styles” are a myth… Let’s also remember that providing options matching learning preferences can be a matter of inclusion. Sure, we might want everyone to develop skills through every learning modality. The point, there, isn’t to switch everyone to “auditory learning” or to forget that the written word is the most important part of many professions. It’s more about developing diverse learning experiences. Any material can be “engaging” in the right context. Without cute pictures or “bells and whistles”.
By the way, if I may ask…
Could people producing audiovisual content decrease their use of background music? It’s often distracting and even unnerving. A significant amount of content now sounds like ads for pharmaceutical products. No, I didn’t get that from any of the content mentioned so far. It’s just that it’s becoming a problem in a lot of the things I “need to watch for work”.
At any rate… thanks again @agrey for that prompt! Hope we’ll hear from you. And feel free to get in touch if you want to discuss, say, podcasts as OERs.
Uh oh, you are talking about the intro/outro music I use for OEG Voices? I choose a different track to match the guests/topic all from the Free Music Archive. I only overlay on my voice for maybe 15 seconds in and out.
Not in the least!
I’m mostly talking about those videos with cheery music playing while people are saying important things. That one’s a pet peeve. Intro/outro music can really help, on podcasts! In audiobooks, caution helps a lot.
One really neat idea I encountered recently was publishing audiobooks as podcasts. This is especially interesting when multiple audioboks are included in a single channel. Robo Roth, an actor and narrator, shares his works this way. Cool for folks who like his voice to put them to sleep:
Perhaps universities could create thematic podcasts as audio distribution channels for STEM, philosophy, what have you, and share their audio OER this way. (If something like this already exists, please let me know, I’d love that!)
One other thing I’d like to bring here is the announcement an interesting Google technology (“Universal Translator: experimental AI video dubbing service”) less than two days ago. It’s only tangentially related but this will be super interesting for audiovisual educational content featuring “talking heads”:
What a great discussion! I used Natural Readers to auto-generate audio versions of each of the chapters of my OER textbook. I had to get the commercial version (I can’t remember exactly, but when I read the fine print it seemed this was required even for an OER project based on how much it would be shared). The quality of the voices was much better with that version and I was able to write a few months of the cost into one of my grants.
I played a bit with trial version of Murf – my idle curiosity is about what / how AI is used in this technology? I mean voice generator tech has been built into my Mac since like 2010, I have previously used the say command to generate audio from text.
And I know a number of people who still blog use services like Trinity Audio to do automatic voice generated text from their writings – I thought of @clintlalonde who’s blog I saw this on first (example) and Trinity has no indication it is AI flavored. My guess is that in theory/wild guessing, the Natural Language Processing of AI can perhaps generate audio that is less robotic ? That’s what I infer from
What would be interesting to know from people who use generated audio to read, is, what makes the audio most useful? Does it help to have a more human voice, or is robotic good enough?
I’m really interested to hear more from OER producers who are using solutions to provide this kind of accessibility options, and also if it helps the visually impaired to have the audio provided with the OER or if they prefer relying on other assistive technology to read OER text.
Me too, Moustapha… I am not sure there is an initiative, but there does some to be interest. It would seem the AI powered audio generators have potential for providing audio versions of OER in other language, on top of their value of translating.
However, last year, two AI-based machine translation algorithms have gotten pretty good. Are they perfect? No, they are not. But they are pretty good. And the argument that we had here is it better to have a hundred thousand pages in a new language that’s 95% good versus 20 pages that are perfect in that language.
And the answer by far is it’s much better to have many more pages that are able to help that students can actually get through a little bit of the clunkiness in order to be able to advance that. We’ve been eyeing machine translation for a while. But the Ukraine situation provided us with an opportunity, although it was, obviously a very bad situation over there in order to couple with Amazon. So Amazon had a machine translation infrastructure and then coupled with MindTouch or NICE CXOne, the company that actually hosts our central libraries in order to be able to make a new library that was completely machine translated. And we did that in Ukrainian.
We (LibreTexts) have hosted audio files of OER books on our Commons&Conductor system where all ancillary assets for books are stored. However, I have been conflicted about hosting static audio files since that reduces the dynamic nature of the book/pages. If one wants the audio files to sync up to the text version, then one has to edit the audio files each time the text is updated and that is an onerous activity.
We have looked at dynamic audio generators to “compile” a book’s audio output after editing and gotten mixed results, but that was two years ago. The explosion of AI based technologies suggest this should be better now or will be good enough in the near future. Plus, this may be useful for polyglot applications, which is dear to our hearts right now.
I’ll take a look at this next week and perhaps I can give an update on the efficacy of the current state of these tools now.
Thanks Delmar. Can I say again how much LibreTexts rocks! It seems to me that an on the fly audio generator, like those blog post readers, is more versatile, even if not the best voice (that 90% rule you describe).
Or is this capability something the browsers might ultimately provide? The speed of development can be scary and exciting, right?
This is what we hope can happen here with just ideas bouncing around.
I know that Stephen Hurley at VoiceEd Radio uses it, as do many podcasters and development projects, because the company offers good support and pricing schemes aimed at every segment including education and not-for-profits.
I have my own copy which I’ve used for a few projects. It’s aimed at podcasters, radio, and book narration projects.
Yes, the name and the logo mimic the big Hindenburg disaster originally covered live by radio. It’s a purpose-built application, not forcing any compromises, as with apps built primarily for music production. It is built for spoken word productions.