Implementing Student-Produced Audio Narratives (SPANs) in the community college classroom

Monday 11:15-11:45am PT / 12:15-12:45pm MT / 1:15-1:45pm CT / 2:15-2:45pm ET Online
Share-a-Thon Part of Share-a-Thon


Geremea Fioravanti, Harrisburg Area Community College-Lancaster
Laura Guertin, Penn State Brandywine


I will provide a brief summary of what SPAN is by reviewing the steps involved in creating the assignment. This will be followed by discussion of shared curricular materials and assessment rubrics, that are freely available online. In addition, there will be opportunities to listen or sample several student's SPAN projects that are shared online.


This activity will focus on Student-Produced Audio Narratives (SPANs). These are classroom activity assignments where students engage with content by telling a story using simple audio recording and production techniques. The SPAN assignments were aligned with the learning goals of 1) identifying and describing a current issue or problem (and underlying scientific concepts) in the geosciences, 2) identifying an audience that is related to/impacted by this issue, and compose an audio piece to effectively communicate the science to this audience, and 3) examining solutions or approaches to address concerns and illustrate how this may impact the desired audience. The assignments submitted included audio collages, workforce explorations, public service announcements, place-based explorations, and other creative narratives. To achieve their learning goals, the students undertaking the SPAN assignment generally followed the steps of recording, producing logs of the recordings, outlining their project, preparing a script, combining sound elements using software, and then playing the audio narrative for their peers. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under Grant #1708590. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF.


The SPAN activities were used to enhance the science teaching curricula at Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC). Faculty teaching introductory geoscience courses, particularly at community colleges, face challenges such as limited research, field, and laboratory experiences. Community college students were specifically involved because reaching introductory students may inspire them to further explore STEM fields and enter the workforce. The courses involved were face-to-face Environmental Science courses with a course management system (i.e., D2L) to submit work remotely. The projects were assigned as a major assignment spanning the entire term of instruction (>12 weeks).

Why It Works

Engaging an audience in audio formats has great potential for success. Look at the success of podcasts such as Serial, Ear Hustle, and This American Life. Combining an audio medium with active learning techniques, such as storytelling, has the potential to be particularly effective. Students face a low barrier of entry to creating audio narratives, but have a high ceiling for their achievements with the ability to create excellent projects. The application of smartphones and apps adds a degree of novelty and appeal for traditional students. Research suggests that the SPAN designation and format have been proven to be innovative because of the creativity involved in completing the assignment.