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Georgia Institute of Technology

Sound and Sonification Design for Interactive Learning Tools

Georgia Institute of Technology and University of Colorado Boulder via Coursera


Designing sound representations of information can be a complex, but necessary part of engaging students and making material accessible to a larger group of learners. While advances in these tools (e.g., interactive simulations) have made many freely available to millions of STEM students and classrooms around the world, their reliance on visual-only representations makes it difficult for diverse groups of students to access the content. In this course we will introduce you to sound and sound design, to help you successfully integrate enjoyable and effective sounds into interactive learning tools.

This course will take about 6 weeks to complete. Some of the modules are shorter, with videos focused on quick introductions or refreshers to get you up to speed with information you need fast. Others are longer (Modules 2 & 3), and include more working examples, or scenarios to consider.

When you finish this course, you’ll know how to:
1. Identify concepts to associate with sounds in learning tools
2. Brainstorm sound designs
3. Prototype sound designs
4. Evaluate sound designs
5. Interpret results and decide next steps

The lessons cover terminology, best practices in design, and even give you an introduction to creating sounds.


  • Sound
    • What sounds do we hear every day? What sounds do we hear when we use technology? And, how do we rely on them to inform our decisions throughout the day? We’ll cover categories of sound types and terminology.
  • Sound Design
    • Module 2 introduces specific mappings and sound characteristics that we can rely on to convey information. We’ll introduce terminology for simple mappings like pitch, timbre, reverberation, and many more. Then we’ll move on to more complex audio mappings, and design considerations for layering sounds in interactive learning tools.
  • Evaluation
    • For sound designs, it’s important to understand how your users are interpreting and thinking about the mappings. This module will cover the measurements and question types to consider for evaluation, the different types of evaluations, and how to analyze the data generated in the process. Then, we’ll discuss how to make changes to a sound design using what we learned from evaluations.
  • Prototyping
    • Module 4 will introduce different prototyping and design methods for making sounds. We’ll go through a variety of tools that you can use to make sounds, and where to find other sounds you might want to use. We’ll introduce some programmatic ways of creating sounds and discuss how to embed the sounds into prototypes.
  • Designing Sounds and Sonifications
    • In this module we review best practices. These will come from previous research and also our own work. We’ll review the full process we suggest for successful sound design. This will also be your chance to put all of your skills into practice, and start using the full process to work on a sound design from end to end.
  • Putting It All Together
    • Module 6 will review the content across all lessons, and consider ways for you to integrate the different steps together -- brainstorming designs, planning an evaluation, deciding on an analysis plan, and redesigning. We’ll also review how you can get involved in future projects.

Taught by

Emily Moore, Brianna J. Tomlinson and Bruce N. Walker


3.9 rating at Coursera based on 22 ratings

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