2. Introduction - What is a podcast? Why podcasts? and my audience
We have seen in this course a number of information and communication technologies
(ICTs) and Web 2.0 use and applications that are changing how students spend their time
socializing, finding entertainment and learning. Young learners particularly seem to have
developed a more intuitive sense of technology and how to use it and how it can be used
personally and collaboratively. Knowing that these spaces are where learners are
spending more of their time and, indeed, reflecting upon how this time is shaping their
learning styles and preferences, some ICTs are being utilized for education in a myriad of
ways. Disseminating and creating materials on the internet is one of the key areas of
exploration in education. Meeting students online, where they are free to collaborate and
undertake their learning according to their own needs and timeframes is becoming more
and more useful. That is, educators realize that ICT use may help learners as it
accommodates students according to what they want to learn, when they want to learn
and where they want to learn it as Web 2.0 allows students to access the material they
want, when they want to access it and from any connected place they wish (home, school,
One of the tools laid out in the We Are Media project that meets students on these
varying levels is the use of podcasts. A podcast is a means for distributing a digital media
file (text, audio, visual or a combination of any or all of them) or series of files over the
internet to be downloaded for playback at a later time (Lonn & Teasley). Typically, the
traditional definition of a podcast refers to the distribution of an audio file only. An
enhanced podcast is another term that refers to distribution similar to traditional podcasts;
however, this kind of podcast contains multimedia information, such as slides, pictures,
images, photographs, short videos, and chapters that help users to increase their
perception about the topic. (Fernandez et al) And finally vodcasts are defined by the
presentation of video multimedia. These various file types may be accessed on any media
player and so may be viewed on any computer or on portable devices such as an iPod.
Listeners can also subscribe to the podcast's RSS (Rich Site Summary) feed for updates
or automated download to their computers or portable devices. That is, the RSS feed will
alert the user of new content and/or distribute the content to their computer (Duffy &
Bruns). The ease in locating these files has also given rise to their popularity as learning
materials are made more accessible through sites such as iTunes University, a section in
the iTunes catalog that focuses on college class podcasts (Sprague & Pixley).
The reasons podcasts appealed to me were that they could be accessed by almost anyone
at almost any time and that the little I knew about them seemed to suggest that they were
relatively easy to create and use.
Cost was also something to consider as according to the We Are Media site for an audio
podcast the price would be little. One only needs a reasonable microphone to record the
information and your computer to work on the podcast. Editing software and production
can be free through services such as Audacity (recording and editing software) and
Levelator (production clean up of sound) and one can put podcasts on a number of sites
for free if gaining access to one's own server is a problem.
For the learner, accessing a podcast is very simple through download. A user can also
subscribe to an RSS feed and receive the podcasts directly to their computer when a new
one is posted. The ease of access to podcasts made them appealing as well since the
3. student did not have a very steep learning curve for accessing them (downloading media
is almost certainly familiar to anyone with a computer) and so the student would have the
skills or literacies to use podcasts effectively (Duffy & Bruns).
Beginning with the We Are Media site, it was stressed that to have a useful and popular
podcast that considering content and who your audience is are the most important things
before getting started. In my Department I would be introducing podcasts for the first
time. The audience would be undergraduate humanities students in large first year classes
(300 - 600 students) in Linguistics. Many of these will be younger learners aged 18 – 24
with a large population of second language learners. I decided to focus my research on
instructor generated podcasts. Although the We Are Media site and course Wiki
mentioned student creation of podcasts, the primary, immediate, integration of podcasting
in our Department would likely be instructor generated to disseminate lectures and
review. Different research shows the varying levels of success this approach brings.
Further research into podcasting would help clarify the different uses of this tool.
Podcasting - General use and advantages
Nielsen//NetRatings, a global leader in Internet media and market research, showed in
July 2006 that 9.2 million Web users, had recently downloaded an audio podcast and 5.6
million Web users had recently downloaded a video podcast. These figures had put the
podcasting population on a par with those who publish blogs.
Young people were more likely than their older counterparts to engage in audio or video
podcasting. Web users between the ages 18 and 24 were found to be nearly twice as
likely as the average Web user to download audio podcasts, followed by users in the 25-
34 and 35-44 age groups, who were also more likely than the average Web user to do
In 2009 the number of web users accessing podcasts had more than doubled to 21.9
million users who were downloading at least one podcast a month. (emarketer)
Studies also show that more than 80% of American college students own at least one
portable audio device like an iPod that can be used to play podcasts (Lonn & Teasley),
while Edison research in 2009 showed that 86% of the general population owned a
portable audio device that could play podcasts (Edison research). Portable devices allow
users to access the content anywhere they wish.
So podcasting is a tool that is already used by a large population. It also has an important
advantage; that is the capability for podcasts to be used anytime-anywhere. In a society
where time is the most essential resource, this characteristic has allowed podcasting to
reach an exceptional position. The creation of small and portable MP3 and Video players
has allowed users to decide where and when they want to listen to podcasts, according to
their needs (Fernandez et al).
This is particularly important as traditional distinctions between part-time and full-time
study, campus-based and distance learning and work and play and study are breaking
down (Parson). The greatest asset then of a podcast is its ability to be used on computers
when the time allows or on personal devices such as iPods or other mp3 players in any
place. One can listen to them anywhere and on their own time whether that means on
their morning jog, drive to work or school or in bed at night. This seemed to be the most
important benefit of using podcasts.
4. Podcasting as a tool for teaching and learning
The wiki on defining social media suggested a number of uses for podcasts for teaching
and learning including:
To record lectures, include external presenters, give evaluation and feedback, have
learner created reflections and interviews, interviews with notable contributors to a
particular field, news or course-related updates and short introductions to new subjects
(Defining social media).
As already mentioned I decided to research the uses that seemed most likely to be used,
at least initially, in my institution for our needs. We would likely use podcasts in one or
more of the following ways, all generated by the instructor:
To record lectures, to provide summaries of lectures and chapters of the text and to give
review tips and strategies for students.
Recording lectures is useful for students who miss a lecture for some reason so they can
have access to what was presented by the lecturer.
Summaries of lectures and chapters are useful for guiding students to manage course
material in a more meaningful way.
Review tips and strategies are useful before midterms and exams to help answer student
questions about what will be covered and how they can study for a test.
Hopefully all of the above uses would benefit student learning by providing unrestricted
access to material anywhere-anytime.
Podcasting use in education - Experiments and Findings
Perhaps the most ambitious use of technology that included podcasting was an initiative
by Duke University in 2004 that saw the institution hand out over 1600 iPods to entering
first year students in order to judge the effectiveness of iPods for academic use. The
courses included in the experiment ranged from Languages, Literature and Music to
Economics, Engineering and Anthropology. Two of the five major categories identified
for academic use of an iPod included being a course content dissemination tool and a
study support tool, tools that podcasting encompasses.
For course content dissemination they found that students in courses with listening
comprehension requirements (foreign language and music) found the content especially
valuable. Students felt that podcasting was beneficial in supporting multitasking, as they
could do other things while they listened to material. Students felt that there were
advantages for replaying conceptually difficult lectures and non-native speakers
specifically benefitted from replaying lectures at their convenience.
As a study support tool it was most useful again for listening comprehension
requirements. Its benefit again was that students could listen to the material whenever
they wanted. Students did, however, suggest that having images with the audio would be
useful and that having preloaded content on their iPods was easier and more likely to be
used than finding content online (Duke University iPod First Year Experience Final
While not a specific study in podcasting, it serves as a starting place to see how instructor
use of podcasts for course content dissemination and study support were received by
To go further I looked at 3 separate experimental uses of iPods in higher education with
one article specifically looking at its use in distance education. I will not go into the full
methods of the experiments but I will explain how they used podcasts and what the
student responses were. I will look at each one individually looking at the benefits first
and then outstanding issues or 'problem' areas with using podcasts.
1. The following is from Vicenc Fernandez, Pep Simo, Jose M. Sallan. Podcasting: A
new technological tool to facilitate good practice in higher education. Computers &
Education 53 (2009) 385 - 392
For this experiment at Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Spain the empirical study
consisted of a longitudinal study on a course on Information Systems Management that
was coordinated by two instructors. Of importance to this experiment is that it involved
distance learners and how podcasting could enhance distance students' personal study.
Thirteen podcasts were produced which were divided into three groups: (1) podcasts
related to the chapters of the textbook, (2) two special podcasts to be distributed before
the mid-semester and the final assessment, and (3) two general podcasts where the
teachers reviewed some important topics and exercises during the course.
The authors found firstly that podcasting is a powerful tool as a complement to the
traditional resources of a course, but not as a substitute for them.
Many students commented that the characteristics of podcasting (anytime-anywhere)
allowed them to devote more time to their studies, making better use of their time.
After reducing and analyzing the information the authors identified five ways in which
the podcasts had helped students in their learning process: (1) giving an overall or global
vision of the chapters, reducing the time required to study and assimilate the contents,
and allowing them to efficiently manage their time; (2) offering a new tool to review
concepts that they had learnt during the week and during the course before the exams; (3)
increasing the feeling of proximity between students and teachers, (4) enhancing
students’ motivation; and (5) allowing students to learn in different ways.
Finally the features of podcasting increased the feeling of permanent contact between
students and teachers, increasing students’ motivation. From these findings, motivation
has been the aspect most highlighted by students on the course. They identified several
reasons why podcasting had motivated them: it was the first time that they used this
technological tool; it provided a different approach to study the contents of the course; it
reflected a concern of teachers to students, it increased the feeling of proximity between
students to teachers. This is particularly important in distance learning.
One area of difficulty were the students’ preferences regarding the podcasts, which were
also very different. Some students had asked for longer podcasts, while others had
demanded shorter podcasts. Some students had preferred a faster delivery, while other
groups of students had required a slower one. Finally, some students had asked for
podcasts for different goals. The authors concluded that the results of these features were
on account of this diverse range of students’ preferences. It is worth considering though
that podcasts will have a broad audience with different expectations, learning styles and
6. 2. The following is from Steven Lonn & Stephanie Teasley, Podcasting in higher
education: What are the implications for teaching and learning? Internet and Higher
Education 12 (2009) 88 - 92
The participants in this study were instructors and students at the University of Michigan.
The study focused on the use of podcasting delivered via iTunes University and made
accessible at the university through their LMS. For this experiment most instructors
uploaded audio-only lecture recordings once a week or more frequently to be used by
students in their course.
The study suggested that instructors agreed more than students that podcasting improved
instruction and students agreed more than instructors that podcasting improved learning.
This at least suggests that it can be beneficial for both instructors and students in their
preparation and study habits.
Many students did confirm that podcasts helped them review lectures they attended or
catch up if they missed a lecture. Ultimately, the most common use was to review
concepts and issues presented in lectures that the students had already attended.
However, though instructors posted material weekly students did download materials
only a few times over the year, typically before big tests. This suggests that students need
to be motivated to use podcasts more frequently.
This study also showed that students mostly listened to material on a computer and not a
portable device, which suggests that they did not necessarily use podcasts so they could
multitask anywhere. However, this may be due more to pre-established habits on
studying with or on a computer. Even though they used podcasts on their computers
laptops do afford a lot of freedom of movement so they could still use podcasts in many
different places and certainly at any time.
3. Parson et al. Educating an iPod generation: undergraduate attitudes, experiences and
understanding of vodcast and podcast use. Learning, Media and Technology 34:3 (2009)
215 - 228
This study was with students in the Psychology Department from Aston University. This
study took place in two phases. The first examined undergraduate's attitudes, experiences
and knowledge of using vodcasts and podcasts. The second phase looked at the provision
of podcasts and vodcasts to students who were to miss a number of specific lectures due
to a scheduled conflict.
The study compared three sets of broadcast materials. A powerpoint slide show of the
lecturers' slides, podcasts of the actual lecture and vodcasts of the actual lecture. Students
were assigned to one of the three groups to be able to access one of the three sets of
broadcast materials only.
For phase one the results showed that the PowerPoint sides had the most positive
response, though the vodcasts were considered most useful. Podcasts, however, were the
least popular media format and when asked which media they would like to see in future
courses 12.9% wanted to see podcasts vs 63.4% who wanted PowerPoint slides.
Students did agree that podcasts were a useful tool for if they missed a lecture, in order to
catch up and for revision purposes.
7. The majority of students were in favour of having podcasts and vodcasts available on a
more regular basis but no student opted for just podcasts, suggesting that they would be
appreciated with slides and/or vodcasts.
So podcasts and vodcasts were considered most useful when used in conjunction with
lecturer's slides. Enhanced podcasts would then be the most beneficial to students since
they could have slides, images and video with the audio.
Again, these findings showed that podcasts and vodcasts could not substitute for lectures
and contact with lecturers but were most likely to be used if students had to miss a class
or wanted review material.
So looking at these three very different studies some common benefits emerged. Students
seem to find podcasts very useful for if they miss a lecture for whatever reason so they
can catch up and yet they do not seem to interfere with lecture attendance since students
found that lectures and instructor contact was not replaceable. Using podcasts is also very
helpful for revising notes and reviewing material that was covered in class and was very
much embraced for such purposes. Finally, in distance learning it seemed to help reduce a
feeling of isolation and podcasts increased student motivation.
As Lonn & Teasley surmise, "the question remains as to whether podcasting is just
another review mechanism or a valuable method for students to construct knowledge." It
can be said that at the least, podcasting offers no more threat to standard teaching
practices and at best offers new opportunities to restructure classroom face time.
For the purposes of my Department I can see the benefits of podcasting. With such large
enrollments it is almost a given that on any one lecture someone is going to be away for
some reason or another. Providing podcasts of lectures will guarantee that every student
can have access to every lecture in some capacity.
Since most of the research suggests that students use podcasts to enhance their learning
through review and revision it seems a useful tool in that it will not affect lecture
attendance while providing a chance to navigate the course even more successfully. This
will be particularly useful for second language students to navigate material with difficult
terms and concepts in English.
Being able to produce and make podcasts available myself, without other party support is
also a benefit. I can record and post the podcasts on my own according to the needs and
time constraints. I think podcast 'bites' of 5 minutes or so is a good idea to perhaps just
recap the main points of lectures for student review and revision, as well as to guide
students through the text and course materials.
I would implement small podcasts summaries of lectures first to test their use and success
and then move on to see if providing full lectures would be beneficial. Ultimately,
according to students, enhanced podcasts would be the most useful for their needs. This
would be difficult though, due to time constraints. Creating multimedia podcasts would
take longer than a recording itself. By the time editing is done a podcast may already take
valuable time from the instructor and so the bonuses of podcasting would have to be
worth the time sacrifice that might otherwise go into student help in the first place.
Eventually I would look at how podcasting could be beneficial for students to make their
own podcasts to share and see how that motivates students and facilitates learning.
Crispin Dale & John Pymm. Podagogy: The iPod as a learning technology. Active
Learning in Higher Education 10 (2009) 84 - 96
Debra Sprague & Cynthia Pixley. Podcasts in Education: Let Their Voices be Heard.
Computers in the Schools 25: 3 (2008) 226 - 234
Parson et al. Educating an iPod generation: undergraduate attitudes, experiences and
understanding of vodcast and podcast use. Learning, Media and Technology 34:3 (2009)
215 - 228
Peter Duffy and Axel Bruns. The Use of Blogs, Wikis and RSS in Education: A
Conversation of Possibilities. In Proceedings Online Learning and Teaching Conference,
2006. Brisbane. Pp 31 – 38 (accessed from http://eprints.qut.edu.au)
Steven Lonn & Stephanie Teasley. Podcasting in higher education: What are the
implications for teaching and learning? Internet and Higher Education 12 (2009) 88 - 92
Vicenc Fernandez, Pep Simo, Jose M. Sallan. Podcasting: A new technological tool to
facilitate good practice in higher education. Computers & Education 53 (2009) 385 - 392
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