Sonocent Q&A: DSA professionals’ questions answered

Over recent weeks, the attendees of our latest DSA webinar series asked a broad range of insightful questions about our software. And we think our new DSA & Training Manager, Lucy Toffolo, did a brilliant job of answering them.

For those of you who weren't able to dial in, we’ve put together this article featuring our favourite questions along with Lucy’s answers. 

Topics covered by the Q&As below include:

• Our updated companion app

• Recording quality

• File size

• Battery life

• End user training

• Lecture capture

• Licensing options


Sonocent for Desktop, Tablet and Phone


Concerning our updated companion app...

Q: What is the max recording length on the app?

A: There is no recording limit defined within the Sonocent Recorder app. The only real limit would be battery life on your device.

In our tests, iOS devices capture around six hours of continuous recording on a full charge.

To reduce battery-related worries for students, we will soon be offering bundles including our Sonocent Recorder app and a battery pack - more info on these coming soon!

By default, Sonocent Recorder files will take up 14.4mb per hour, so unless a student has filled their phone to the brim, storage is unlikely to be an issue.


Q: When the app is in Glance Mode does it override the phone's own sleep settings?

A: The Sonocent Recorder app will not override the phone's own sleep settings.

Whether in the new Glance Mode or default mode, as long as the user is colouring and adding sections then the phone won’t sleep. These simple actions help keep the student focused on the lecture and allow them to start adding meaning to the information they capture.

But if the user doesn’t want to do this then that’s OK - if the app isn't being interacted with, the phone will auto-lock but our app continues to record while the phone is asleep.

In fact, the Sonocent development team have worked hard to ensure the Recorder app is as mishap-proof as possible, and it will merrily continue recording in the background even when the user navigates to other apps.

However, if a call comes in then recording will be interrupted, since the phone takes over the microphone. (Good practice for lectures would always be for the student to ensure their phone is set to do not disturb / flight mode or similar.)

If recording does stop then the app doesn’t close - everything is saved and the student can just hit record to carry on. In fact, even if the device switches off mid-recording, the recording taken up to that point won’t be lost.

Read up on the new features included with our app update


Concerning recording quality / file size / battery life…

Q: If recording in high quality, how many hours can you record in comparison to standard quality?

A: Selecting a higher recording quality will not significantly increase battery use. The main consideration will be file size vs your available storage. The file size for each different recording quality option is displayed both within the software (Options>Audio Files) and within the app (Settings>Recording Quality).

Our online Knowledge Base explains a little more about each option:

There are 6 recording options in Audio Notetaker and 4 in the Sonocent Recorder app:

3.6 Mbyte/hour ‘Extra LP’ – suitable for personal recordings made close to the microphone

7.2 Mbyte/hour ‘LP’ – suitable for most speech recordings, but the audio may not be totally clear and may have some slight compression effects

14.4 Mbyte/hour ‘Standard’ – suitable for all speech recordings, no compression effects should be noticeable

21.6 Mbyte/hour ‘HQ’ – suitable for all recordings, no compression effects should be noticeable

28.8 Mbyte/hour ‘Stereo HQ’ – only set to this if you have stereo input on your PC and you need excellent quality

57.6 Mbyte/hour ‘Stereo Extra HQ’ – perfect quality (as long as your audio input is perfect)!

(These last 2 options are not available in the app since phones are not designed to record in stereo!)


Concerning lecture capture...

Q: Do you know of any university lecture capture system that supports audio export so that the student can then import the captured audio into Audio Notetaker software?

A: We need to do more research into the various systems, but we understand that Panopto does allow for export / download of MP3 / MP4 audio-only files. Whether or not these will be easily available to the student will depend on the HEI's policy. We certainly feel this is something that should be taken into account as an adjustment!

In terms of study skills, being able to stream a full recording of a lecture in video format is scarcely more beneficial to the student than listening back to an hour long recording from a DVR.

Recording and highlighting audio live with Sonocent is a really simple way for students to add meaning to lecture content - it promotes active listening and helps them focus on and engage with new information.

Having access to high quality audio from a lecture capture system would allow students to make the most of our Audio Replace tool - this allows a student to record and annotate live, then swap their audio for a better-quality recording afterwards, keeping all of their colour highlighting intact!

More information and a video guide to the Audio Replace tool are available on our Knowledge Base.  


Q: If a student can't download a lecture capture session, can they play it in background and record it in Audio Notetaker?

A: Yes - the Record from Speakers Only option in Audio Notetaker was designed to capture streaming audio directly from your computer. (N.B. this feature is currently supported in the Windows version only.) Audio captured in this way is processed and "chunked" in exactly the same way as a live recording, so the student could stream the lecture capture and annotate / colour highlight as they listen.

(N.B. It is the responsibility of the end user to check that their HEI allows them to use the content in this way)

We will certainly try to get more information on what HEIs intend to make available from their lecture capture systems. Any feedback on this would be very welcome!


Concerning end user training…

Q: Did you ask the students in your [2015 user] survey how much AT training they needed to use the software?

A: We did indeed.

77% of the student users who responded to our survey said that between 15 and 30 minutes of training was sufficient to become familiar with the key features of the software. Interestingly, 16% of students said that less than five minutes training was required, and 7% said that no training was necessary.

We'd agree that familiarising students with the core note-taking features of Audio Notetaker should take no more than 30-minutes.

However, we certainly recommend that trainers / tutors spend some time showing students the most effective way of using the software for a range of study strategies, including essay composition, revision, and presentation practice. Exactly what you train students on and how long this takes will of course depend on each individual student’s needs and abilities.

Support staff at colleges in the US who have implemented the software following the Sonocent CARE process (Capture-Annotate-Review-Engage) tell us that two sessions of 45-minutes are typically required to show students how to fully integrate the software into their study practices.

The Sonocent Recorder app can be a good starting point for introducing students to the concept of visualising audio as editable chunks and using simple colour highlighting to add meaning whilst recording live – especially with the new, super-simple Glance Mode.

Students can also access a number of useful resources from the Audio Notetaker Home Tab: the Videos section links to our 4 short CARE videos which cover each stage of the CARE process: Capture, Annotate, Review & Engage. There is also a Tutorial accessible from the Home Tab which students can work through to learn about and practise core functionalities.

In addition, we are currently working on an online training course for end users. This will feature a series of short videos on core uses of Audio Notetaker and Sonocent Recorder, followed by questions to test students’ knowledge. Students (and tutors) will be able to “dip in and out” of the course and come back to it to refresh their understanding.

The launch date is not confirmed as yet, but we'll have this in place for the beginning of the 16/17 academic year. Look out for notifications this summer!


Concerning licensing options...

Q: Are there HEIs that have Audio Notetaker installed across their network?

A: Audio Notetaker was designed as a very "personal" software, and we feel it makes most sense for students to have it on a personal laptop or home PC, where they can review their Audio Notetaker projects at their leisure.

We are in conversation with a number of UK HEIs around campus-wide licenses for Audio Notetaker. However, Sonocent’s Loan Licence currently tends to be the more popular option among HEIs.

An Audio Notetaker Loan License gives you a "pool" of licenses which you can loan out to students to activate on their own machines. Using our online Loan License Manager, the administrator can set the loan period for each student, after which the license will return to the "pool" for reassignment.

This is great for students who don't qualify for DSA support, or for those who'd like to try out the software for a limited time.

It's also worth remembering that we offer a free, full-feature 30 day trial.


Q: Can you tell how much a student uses a loan licence copy?

A: Sonocent don't currently log usage of Audio Notetaker.

This is something our development team are planning to build into a future release, so we hope to be able to start logging usage sometime later in the year.

One of the benefits of using Sonocent's Loan Licence Manager is that it allows you to set short initial expiry dates for the loan. You can then take the opportunity to catch up with the student, check they're making use of the software, ask how they’re getting on and identify any additional training needs at that stage.

Want to have a chat?

If you are a DSA professional and have a burning question about our software, you can contact our DSA & Training Manager, Lucy Toffolo, directly on

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