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Joe’s Guide to Free eLearning Tools: Audacity May 12, 2009

Posted by jmullock in e-Learning Tools, Misc.

Item: Audacity, Freeware Sound Editor

Category: Audio Recording, Editing & Resources

This tool is the de facto standard of free sound editing software.  It has been widely used by musicians for some time, and has also now been adopted by podcasters, and eLearning developers.  It is a cross-platform offering, which means that this is a great resource for both PC and Mac developers–not to mention *nix.

Basic set-up and use is pretty straight-forward.  In addition, there are a number of optional add-ons that—while requiring a little extra technical effort to install—provide several additional handy functions that are well worth the effort.

What it Does:

Audacity allows you to record, import, export, and edit audio tracks.  It is not a true “multi-track” recorder, in that you can only record one track at a time, but this is unlikely to be an issue in the realm of eLearning.  It does however, allow you to record several separate tracks and mix them in to a single soundtrack for your production.

When to Use:

Using Audacity to record interview or voice-over tracks on your computer is just a start.  Import an existing sound file with background music as a second track and use the FADE IN / FADE OUT effects to create intros and outros.  Use the simple CUT tool to remove “umms”, “ahhs”, and long pauses.  Have several separate audio files that need to go together?  Use the NORMALIZE function to adjust volume levels across the tracks (to avoid overly LOUD and entirely too soooofffftttt sections).  When you are done producing your soundtrack, EXPORT the finished product to a single audio file type of your choice.

TIP:  Make a copy of your original unedited original sound file and use the copy for editing and processing.  While Audacity has a generous UNDO feature, there may be times when you would like to revert back to the unedited version without hitting CTRL-Z.

How to get it:

The most recent Windows, MAC, and *nix versions can be found at http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/.  Version 1.2 is the latest stable release.  A version 1.3 Beta release is also available, and introduces some useful new features (such a REPAIR function that can digitally “fix” a short recording glitch).

A wealth of information about how to use Audacity is also available for no cost, much of which has been compiled into the Audacity WIKI (http://audacityteam.org/wiki/index.php).  Look there for tips and tutorials on recording and editing with Audacity.


Minimize the risk of accidentally installing malware or a virus onto your computer by using trusted download sites (such as CNET, etc.). It is also good practice to run an antivirus program (which may also be available for free through your company IT group or your personal Internet Service Provider).

Next Up: Resources for “podsafe” background music and audio samples



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