Adding value through podcasting PDF Print E-mail
Written by Andy Ramsden on Friday, 03 March 2006
/andy_ramsden.jpg The aim of this discussion is to work through one potential application of podcasting in a teaching and learning context. I値l encourage you to further develop this idea through getting you to answer a set of questions. I知 hoping you値l read, reflect and then rip it apart ;-)

What is podcasting?

Podcasting is the delivery of an audio file through a subscription based model where the student makes a conscious decision to install the appropriate software on their internet connected device, and then subscribe to the podcast feed. Once subscribed when a new audio file is added to the podcast feed then the individual will automatically receive the file.

This differs from the traditional approach of delivering audio files which involves the student locating the audio file on the course webspace and then clicking on the link to receive the file.

An important difference between the two models is that a podcast approach requires the student to own an internet connected device, while the browse and download model can be undertaken on any internet connected machine. In other words the student can use a computer on campus.

How can it be used in teaching and learning?

I致e discussed at length on other forums (http://www.mobile-learning.blog-city.com) my views on the type of teaching and learning activities to which podcasting is suited. Interestingly, podcasting is often referred to in the same breath as blogs and other social software. These types of tools are associated with student centred collaborative learning. If this is the case, then a question is, how does podcasting fit with collaborative learning? The position I致e taken is that given the likely affordances of podcasting, and the requirements for successful collaboration, then podcasting offers little as a collaborative tool. The conflict arises as efficient group synchronous communication is central to successful collaboration, however, this is not easily achieved via podcasting. In other words, you could use it, however, as Chickery and Ehrmann suggest, 都ome technologies are better than others: better to turn a screw with a screwdriver than a hammer a dime may also do the trick, but a screwdriver is usually better (http://www.tltgroup.org/programs/seven.html).

So given what I致e just said, should podcasting be viewed more as an instructor centred learning technology? Well, I知 going to argue no, I壇 suggest it still is an efficient and engaging tool which can be used to deliver the product of the collaborative process.

The following example illustrates my point and is based on my experiences of lecturing a 2nd year undergraduate course. I壇 also suggest that this is transferable to different ages and contexts. For instance, Tony Vincent has discussed a similar application on this forum with primary school children (/component/option,com_smf/Itemid,48/topic,166.0). While, Chan & Lee (2005) have also discussed a similar approach of a 5 minute student centred radio-style show for us in Higher Education (http://www.csu.edu.au/division/studserv/sec/papers/chan.pdf, pg 68).

Course context

To place into context the course had approximately 100 students. There was a two hour lecture, followed by a one hour computer lab session. The students where divided into groups of about 30 for the lab sessions. The course lasted a semester (12 weeks), and at the end of it the students sat an unseen exam and submitted two assignments.

A problem encountered by many students was overload. They were required to master the software (Microsoft Excel), the mathematics to solve the economic models, and building the computer model from the underlying theory. I often questioned how successful the course was at developing the required student knowledge and skills. Especially as the delivery and support mechanism was both Instructor centred and quite rigid.

Some questions for you

So you ask if podcasting was in my armoury all those years ago how would I have changed things? Well, I壇 have introduced a computer lab radio newsletter. But as I知 outlining the design brief, I壇 like you to mull over the following questions;

  1. Do you think the activity design is likely to achieve the desired learning outcomes? If not, how might you change it?
  2. From the perspective of the lecturer is it sustainable and scaleable for a large number of students, say 300 in 10 computer lab groups?
  3. If you role play the student, would you be motivated to participate? Where would your anxieties lie? How might these be overcome?

Activity Design: Computer Lab Audio Newsletter

The aims of the activity

The primary aim is to engage students much earlier in the course and empower them to improve their knowledge, skills and interest in the subject. If this is achieved then it is expected to result in improved assessment performance.

Clearly state the intended learning outcomes of the activity

  • Improve student knowledge and skills of using the software (Microsoft Excel)
  • Through the process of problem solving increase the likelihood of students making better connections between the computer model and the economic theory.

Describe the activities (which the instructor and student actively do).

The students

Each week a new group will be responsible for the computer lab audio newsletter. Each group will comprise of about 4 people who will have to solve and disseminate the answers to questions raised by other students and themselves concerning the previous weeks lecture and lab work. The answers will be disseminated via a podcast.

The group will be required to collect other students questions, and think of some of their own. Then they will need to negotiate who is responsible for each answer, peer review all the answers, script, record and publish a 10 minute podcast.

The group will be required to allocate marks for individual contributions within the process.

To maintain continuity between podcasts, the group who are creating the podcast will be required to review the previous weeks podcast, and quality assure the solutions. They will grade this podcast according to a marking criteria, for both content and appeal.

Each group has artistic license to arrange the podcast episode to their needs / tastes.

The instructor

The instructor will be available to quality assure the questions submitted to ensure they are comparable across the weeks.

The instructor will also use snippets from the previous weeks podcasts in the next weeks lecture.

How will the students be motivated to complete the activity?

The extrinsic motivation is in place as the work will contribute towards their overall grade. However, it is hoped that as the course develops then students will become more intrinsically motivated towards engaging in terms of submitting questions and developing podcasts. This should be driven by the both the novel dissemination route and the speed of getting quality assured feedback.

What is the envisaged timescale for the activity?

For all groups it will be 10 weeks, and for each group, it will be one week.

How will students be directed through the activity?

The instructor will provide information and advice on what is expected. Information will be made available on the course web site. There will be references made during all face to face sessions, and each group can request a meeing with the instructor.

Identify the separate elements to the activity (indicate likely time commitment)

The student if it is not their turn to create the podcast

  • Listen to the other groups podcast (about 15 minutes a week)
  • Submit questions to the course discussion board or voicemail.

The student if it is their turn to create the podcast

  • Assess the previous groups podcast (about 60 minutes)
  • Agree on what questions to answer, and share out the work
  • Answer the questions
  • Liaise if required with the instructor
  • Script and record the podcast (about 30 minutes)
  • Edit the podcast (20 minutes)
  • Upload to the appropriate part of the course blog (2 minutes)

The lecturer

  • Check voicemail / discussion board for question assurance (10 minutes)
  • Listen to the podcasts (15 minutes each)
  • Use snippets from the shows in the lecture (30 minutes includes prep time)

What resources will you need to create or locate for this activity?

  • Provide a voicemail number for the students to access / use (suggest skype account)
  • Provide discussion board space
  • Provide a course blog for the publication of podcasts
  • Install audio editing software (audacity) on Faculty computers
  • Create a guide on how to use Audacity, and discussion board space so students can set up an FAQ
  • Create a marking criteria for assessing the group work and the podcasts

How will you know if the activity has been successful?

Initially, through observations in the computer lab session as I compare these groups with the previous years. I値l also write a short student survey that focuses on evaluating any benefits the students perceive from undertaking this activity.

Concluding comments

The discussion has outlined a potential use of podcasts within the collaborative learning process. The next stage is for you to reflect and then rip it apart. So, a starting point might be to revisit those questions I raised earlier.

Author: Andy Ramsden (andy.ramsden@bristol.ac.uk)
Andy Ramsden works as a learning technology advisor for the Learning Technology Support Service (http://www.ltss.bris.ac.uk) at the University of Bristol. Part of his responsibility is to maintain the Mobile Learning Blog (http://www.mobile-learning.blog-city.com)

Thanks to comments from Hilary Griffiths, at the LTSS.

If you have enjoyed or found this article useful you may wish to share your knowledge or experiences with the rest of the international Handheld Learning Community by submitting an article. This site supports many other sites via its RSS feed as well as Google News. If you are a registered member you can submit an article via the "Submit Article" item in your User Menu after you've logged in or, if you prefer, you can submit via articles@handheldlearning.co.uk

Comments from the forum:
Adding value through podcasting
thornuk    March 16th, 2006 - 11:26 AM
An excellent analysis of the issues, and what looks like a valuable scheme.

I feel that podcasting has significant potential in the "teaching and learning" context, but with reservations.

First, it is a medium primarily accessible to the "auditory learner", and whilst that comprises a valuable group, it does not necessarily include the majority.  Further, without a proficient structure to the podcast and effective "delivery" by the speaker(s), it will have little more impact on learning, even for auditory learners, than background "musak" - the eyes of the listener have, potentially, too many available distractions, and only if their attention is fully retained will the "message" be absorbed.  However, a podcast does have the advantage that it can be "wound back" and replayed, either to cover those parts missed through distraction, or not fully understood.

Secondly, as a learning tool, it could be useful for instructional material - the content could be step by step instructions which are followed sequentially, with the option to step back and re-run the stages if necessary.  The content is instructor focussed; how it is used is learner focussed.  Appropriate learning is dependent on the learner interpreting the instructions correctly. There is no opportunity for dialogue between the two, so misunderstandings and misperceptions are not correctible. It is therefore critical that the script of the podcast is able to be understood in only a single way.

A further use in learning would be for the podcast to pose questions that provoke investigative thought, so the learner considers alternatives and draws conclusions;  these conclusions may be the basis of further actions or analyses.  However, unless there is later scope (eg: in tutorial) for discussing these conclusions, they will be undirected (possibly misdirected, assuming certain definitions of the "right" view).  As learning is normally associated with assessment of some type (whether formal or informal), it is axiomatic that there will be a perceived view of what is the "right" learning outcome.  So this application of podcasting could either release a new level of thinking, or be simply misleading.  Leaners appreciate feedback, and this is lacking in the podcast medium - but then, so it is in the traditional learning medium - books !

(That's a start to the responses, so sit back and await incoming fire !)
Re: Adding value through podcasting
Mark van 't Hooft    April 5th, 2006 - 6:13 PM
There's a similar thread about the value of podcasting going on Tony Vincent's LearningInHand site. Here are some of my thoughts:

First, while podcasting is purely auditory, vodcasting (video podcasting) adds video to that. Creating good pod or vodcasts takes time (it's a lot like shooting and editing video).

Second, I disagree that the content would be instructor focused. The most powerful use of podcasting would be for students to create the content. See for example http://learninginhand.com/OurCity/index.html. I agree with your statement that dialogue is not possible, but we have other tools for that (email, IM, VoIP, forums, f2f, blogs.......

Third, interesting thoughts. As I have said on other forums, the use of digital tools should invoke new ways of teaching and learning (see e.g http://www.rcet.org/ubicomp/intro.htm, which includes new ways of assessing learning. Learning with technology, when done well (in my view), is more project/problem-based, and focuses more on process than product, and not necessarily on the "right" answer. This type of learning also means more choice for learners, i.e. less teacher control over what is learned and how it is learned. Getting people to see the importance of this kind of shift in learning is probably the hardest thing to do. It's funny how we expect graduates to take on 21st century jobs with 20th century skills.

Re: Adding value through podcasting
thornuk    April 5th, 2006 - 6:56 PM
Some good thoughts there, Mark.  (I was responding to Prof Tom O'Brien's correspondence with Prof Dr. Heinrich Bauersfeld, but the response didn't come up on the same thread for some reason.)

That correspondence resonated with me because I've been thinking about a "library" of auditory reference podcasts that pupils /students can access whenever they need to develop a new technique or revise one they've not used recently (my thinking is coloured by the subject I teach ["Design & Technology"]).  They can then download the appropriate file(s) - if they don't already  have them on their mp3/4 device - and listen to it at whatever pace they chose (using the pause button at each stage, and re-run sections as they need).  So the choice on what is studied, and the pace at which it is studied are entirely pupil/student centred.  In this context the learner could be seen as "lonely".  However, they may be solitary (insofar as following their own study needs of the moment), but within the context of a whole class, each similarly occupied with the opportunity to break from their solitude to discuss issues with others and seek help, whenever they feel the need.

Certainly vodcasting would be an advantage, as they could see the process under instruction as well as hear it.  However, as you say, the development time for this is significant - I have edited instructional VTs, and getting (eg:) 8 minutes run time from 40 minutes raw video is reckoned to be good going - the editing took many hours !

Whilst the concept of pupils/students creating the podcasts is an exciting approach, I have reservations about it being an efficient use of time in the context of the acquisition of techniques in the focussed area of D&T.  My interpretation of the scenario would be that they would discover how to do something and make a podcast to summarise their experiences and their conclusion of the best way to so it - a very sound learning method in some arenas, but could lead to the loss of several fingers if learning how to use machinery !

We are at the dawn of a new era in learning, and (for the exact reason you mention) we will undoubtedly discover new (and, hopefully, better) ways of using technological developments to present learning experiences to the pupil/student.  However, that discovery may be (if history is to be any indication) a stumbling affair, with numerous obstacles and false tracks !

- But the more we seek, the more likely we are to find !
Re: Adding value through podcasting
thornuk    April 5th, 2006 - 7:09 PM
Time to adjourn to the thread Graham started, I think ! ("Do PDAs promote lonely learning")
Re: Adding value through podcasting
Andy    June 1st, 2006 - 12:55 AM
thanks Mark and thornuk for the thoughts.

Now a call for help - I was wondering if any practitioners could help me.

In UK HE w.r.t podcasting there is still the focus on replacing lectures. I'm trying to build up a case whereby you replace the didactic / non interactive large scale lecture with a podcast which is supported by follow up activities on a discussion board, virtual classroom, IM set up. I'm arguing that this has the potential of increasing the degree of interactivity compared to the previous stale-ish environments in a way that will scale with numbers, while adding that rather nice - mobile twist, given the tasks are relatively easily achieved on current mobile devices. While a simple podcast of the would be lecture in isolation is in fact a poor learning experience for the student - see http://www.mobile-learning.blog-city.com/podcasting_lectures_for_uni_students__will_it_really_work.htm

However, I was wondering if anyone is currently attempting this, and if so, what have been their experiences and would they mind if I reviewed the podcasts, discussion boards activity etc. I'm looking for a few juicy case studies :-)

If yes, then please leave a message using the messages area on this forum and I'll contact you.
Re: Adding value through podcasting
thornuk    June 2nd, 2006 - 8:38 AM
Sounds like a good strategy.

This has a resonance with the problem that the Open University had (has ?) in delivering "lectures" to students who were not on campus - excellent, purpose written texts, tv programmes with active visual demonstration, and audio tape talks (lectures but in a "one to one" voice modulation)... (even flimsy pressed vinyl 45 rpm discs on one course I did - mid'70s technology !) - in short, utilising a variety of technologies as were available at the time.  None of these enabled interactive feedback, to query points and clarify issues - that's what "self-help" group meetings and tutorials were for.  The discussion board (or email list ?) would be a contemporary equivalent (with the benefit of reducing the carbon emissions involved in getting to a single location for a meeting).

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