Podcasts have promise as a media form for wider learning as they are affordable and convenient to consume, being device-agnostic and flexible to time and space. Existing research (which we will review) has already examined the use of audio and podcasts to “create a rich learning space” (Middleton, 2016) and to engage marginalised students within traditional institutions. Few researchers, however, have explored mainstream podcasts and compared them to established models of learning. This is the emphasis of our presentation, which uses a digital humanities and education studies multidisciplinary approach to analyse a selection of popular podcasts. The analysis asks the questions: Can listening to podcasts be described or interpreted as a learning experience? And thus, can podcasts be viewed as a cheap and accessible way for massive cohorts of people to learn? It draws parallels between podcasts and MOOCs—both in their opportunities and limitations for wider access to learning.
The epistemology of the research does not draw on the scientific paradigm (which may aim to test the hypothesis of whether the listener is effectively learning through the measuring of learning) but rather the interpretivist paradigm—exploring how mainstream podcasts compare to models of learning that exist in educational studies literature and can be interpreted as learning objects through the lens of these theories. Similar approaches have been used in studies that consider the educational nature of experiences that fall outside of formal educational activities, such as Oliver and Carr’s analysis of how experiences of playing World of Warcraft compare to the Communities of Practice model of learning (2009). Where the paradigm of this research draws from education studies, the methodology draws from the digital humanities—analysing the podcasts themselves as primary sources or digital artefacts. The sampling method uses a typical or critical case sampling approach, with consideration of variation. We generate a set of categories of podcast types, and then from this set we select a smaller set of categories that seem most closely connected to educational of informational purposes. We then create a list of podcasts for each of the categories from the Apple Podcast app’s list of popular podcasts. We choose a single podcast from each of these lists, selecting them for variation.
Having drawn parallels between MOOCs and podcasts, positing that podcasts can be interpreted to some extent as massive learning objects that resemble MOOCs, we will end by consider what ramifications this has for learning design. We will explore how the learning experience of mainstream podcasts compares to the instructional design of audio learning objects in our own team (an instructional design and development team for online courses in an HEI), particularly the design of MOOCs. This will draw from our exploratory, interview-based research, which focusses on rich description of current instructional design practices of the team. We critically examine this research study (both its value and its limitations) as a foundational step to audio innovation and strategic experimentation with podcasting as a form of massive learning media.
Participants can expect to explore podcasts as a means of democratising education and to consider the implications of this.
Some items from lit review:
MIiddleton, Andrew (2016). Reconsidering the role of recorded audio as a rich,
flexible and engaging learning space. Research in Learning Technology, 24, p.
Gachago, D., Livingston, C. and Ivala, E. (2016). Podcasts: A technology for all?. British Journal of Educational Technology, 47(5), pp.859-872.