Podcasting in the University Classroom (#coltt2009)

by Stephanie Chasteen on August 13, 2009

The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs has been experimenting with using podcasts in their nursing courses, though it was four years ago so things might have changed.  They discovered several things along the way:

Students needed to be educated that they could listen to podcasts on any MP3 player or on their computer (and did not need an iPod).  Most listened to them on their computer.  How did they use the podcasts?  Did they use them to review, or as a substitute for attending class?  86% used them as a review, and only 14% used them instead of going to class.  These are consistent with other studies.  Most (79%) used them at home, as opposed to at the gym or on their commute.  So, they’re not using them as “mobile learning” per se, they’re sitting at their computer to listen to them, for the most part.  Also, they downloaded the podcasts as soon as they were available (51%) as opposed to right before the exam (12%).  Other studies, she said, have found that only 40% download immediately, and 60% later or before the exam.  Some preferred the audio podcast because it was easier, but a few students said they preferred having the powerpoint slides along with the audio.  These survey results are at www.uccs.edu/bethel.

It may be that recording the student lecture isn’t the best use of student time, to re-listen to the whole lecture.  However, most people are podcasting the entire lecture.  Some students specifically seek out courses where podcasts are being used.

Podcasts can be helpful in the following ways, found some studies:

  • clarifying difficult concepts
  • reviewing concepts
  • repetition of material
  • helping with note taking
  • preparing for exams
  • catching up on missed classes
  • ESL students who need to repeat words

Lessons learned

  • Check disk space and batteries before class
  • Repeat student questions
  • Start each ‘segment’ of the lecture with a title
  • Create multiple short files (15-20 minutes) as opposed to entire lectures
  • Archive previously recorded lectures in case the current one has technical difficulties
  • Ownership issues can be sticky.  Careful of using images from textbooks because you’re then distributing copyrighted content.
  • One idea is to record the lecture in advance (though some faculty complain that this feels stilted without an audience) and require students to listen to it in advance.  Then use classtime for discussion.  Some instructors have found this to be a great alternative to the traditional class lecture.

I’ve been trying to figure out for myself what I think of podcasted lectures.  I could see it being helpful when you’ve spaced out for a moment, to go back and review what the instructor said.  It’s an alternative reference, like the textbook.  But it also seems that it requires a relatively sophisticated student to use such a resource to enhance their learning.  Learning doesn’t happen by transmission, and a freshman might think she’s studying by just listening to the lecture again.  They need to be going to the content with a purpose, to try to understand the material or answer a specific question or fill in their notes, I think.  I could imagine the podcasts being even more helpful with some sort of guiding questions to direct students’ engagement with the podcasts.

How did they do it?

  • Used portable digital recorders (Olympus; $~70) which can record up to 6 hours and are easy to use.  However, the file then needed to be compressed to MP3 using Audacity ($free).
  • They eventually started using the Zoom H2 recorder ($199), which records directly to MP3 and has omnidirectional recording (allowing students to hear their questions during class, not just the instructor).  They’re very pleased with this recorder.
  • It’s been difficult to get instructors to break up their lectures into different segments.  Recordings of 15-20 minutes would be ideal.
  • In the course website gave students instructions on how to download the podcasts from iTunes
  • They then upgraded to Leopard and, with quite a bit of difficulty, got Podcast Producer configured.  Apparently the new Podcast Producer II will avoid many of the difficulties that they experienced, especially regarding workflows.
  • They are also now going to iTunes U, but for now have just been using a “subscribe in iTunes” link on the course website (which is a wiki/blog site).  Each entry in the blog is a new audio file, but there is also a subscription link.

I would be interested to hear about iTunes U from people who have been using it.  I don’t quite understand what it is other than a central depot for university/education related podcasts?

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