Post by Julian Hopkins
This blog post will summarise some of the literature regarding the uses of podcasts in further and higher education. Podcasts are audio recordings based on the radio programme format – however they differ through their asynchronous availability, typically updating dedicated apps on mobile devices through an RSS feed or made available for direct download (for example, via a VLE). The diagram below summarises and builds upon prior work, showing how podcasts can be produced by lecturers or students, or obtained from third parties.
Although the classic lecture receives much bad press, it does have the advantage of being face-to-face. Speech was humans’ first means of communication, and the “auditory dimension of podcasting” (Al Qasim and Al Fadda, 2013: 33) such as intonation, emotional expression, and tonal variations go beyond the limitations of printed media and offer the potential of engaging with different learner types and forms of cognition. Podcasts have also been argued to support “active, social and creative aspects of learning, and strengthen reflection and self-regulated learning” (Palenque 2015, cited in Dau et al., 2018: 424). Podcasts can also reduce digital literacy barriers and improve access for all students, not all of whom have easy access to personal computers or laptops.
An expected advantage is that they can be listened to during ‘downtime’ – for example when travelling or doing household chores. However, early research suggested that students preferred to listen to podcasts in their usual study context – such as on their laptop in their home, while taking notes (Sutton-Brady et al., 2009: 223). This could reflect their perception of study content as requiring a different interaction to other media that they may access via their mobile device (Bell, 2008: 183–4). However, more recently, Dau et al. (2018) report students listening to the content “on the go,” and perhaps in the intervening years these practices have become more habitual.
The most common type of podcast reported are simply audio lecture recordings. Although they are sometimes dismissed as replicating the lecture’s transmissive mode of content delivery and not leveraging the full range of interactive e-learning opportunities (e.g. Forbes, 2015; Turner et al., 2011; Zanten et al., 2012), they are also reported as having effective use as revision material, for students who miss classes, for those with language difficulties, or for adult learners with multiple commitments (Kazlauskas and Robinson, 2012; McLoughlin et al., 2007; Schreiber et al., 2010; Zanten et al., 2012).
Podcasts produced by students can help improve constructivist learning environments (Turner et al., 2011) through engaging them in the reflective production of material and improving problem-solving, collaborative and digital skills that address desired student outcomes in most further and higher education contexts (Al Qasim and Al Fadda, 2013; Fernandez et al., 2015; Forbes, 2015) However, it is important that students are not disadvantaged by the necessary technical skills required to produce a podcast – thus extra training may be needed, potentially detracting from the learning goals of the class.
Flipped Learning, Supplementary Podcasts and In-class Quizzing
Flipped learning reverses the conventional linear sequence of in-class content delivery followed by at home application exercises, and uses additional media to deliver interactive and compelling content to stimulate student interest and address a variety of student learning types (Blair et al., 2016; Kazanidis et al., 2019; Rotellar and Cain, 2016). We need more than simple recordings of lectures to properly leverage the flipped learning experience and I would suggest that supplementary podcasts would most benefit learners.
Based on the assumption that shorter podcasts are more likely to be effective, an alternative to recorded lectures is to provide summaries of lectures, or detailed explanations of key concepts or technical processes that are information-dense – enabling students to benefit from being able to replay and check details (Zanten et al., 2012).
Using podcasts of case studies/discussions of key concepts as pre-class preparatory material followed up with in-class diagnostic quizzes (using e.g. Socrative, Mentimeter) would address “the interplay between preclass and in-class activity” that Rotellar and Cain (2016) argue is crucial for flipped learning. Additionally, the quizzes provide a clear context and motivation for students to participate in the active learning. They would also provide a valuable formative assessment enabling students to improve their self-assessment skills and independent study practices.
In addition, as suggested by Wilson (2019) in a previous ALT blog post, including a weekly discussion of received emails, comments, or tweets would enhance the experience for the students and introduce a dialogic element to the podcasts, further leveraging the affordances of asynchronous and mobile technologies, and moving away from replicating the passivity of the lecture experience.
Al Qasim N and Al Fadda H (2013) From Call to Mall: The Effectiveness of Podcast on EFL Higher Education Students’ Listening Comprehension. English Language Teaching 6(9): 30–41.
Bell D (2008) The university in your pocket. In: Salmon G and Edrisingha P (eds) Podcasting for Learning in Universities. Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill Educaition, pp. 178–187.
Blair E, Maharaj C and Primus S (2016) Performance and perception in the flipped classroom. Education and Information Technologies 21(6): 1465–1482. DOI: 10.1007/s10639-015-9393-5.
Dau S, Andersen R and Nørkjær Nielsen S (2018) Podcast as a Learning Media in Higher Education. In: 17th European Conference on e-Learning ECEL 2018, Greece, November 2018, pp. 424–430. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328569379_Podcast_as_a_Learning_Media_in_Higher_Education.
Fernandez V, Sallan JM and Simo P (2015) Past, Present, and Future of Podcasting in Higher Education. In: Li M and Zhao Y (eds) Exploring Learning & Teaching in Higher Education. New Frontiers of Educational Research. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer Berlin Heidelberg, pp. 305–330. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-55352-3_14.
Forbes D (2015) Beyond lecture capture: Student-generated podcasts in teacher education. Waikato Journal of Education: 195–206. DOI: 10.15663/wje.v20i3.234.
Hew KF (2009) Use of audio podcast in K-12 and higher education: a review of research topics and methodologies. Educational Technology Research and Development 57(3): 333–357. DOI: 10.1007/s11423-008-9108-3.
Kazanidis I, Pellas N, Fotaris P, et al. (2019) Can the flipped classroom model improve students’ academic performance and training satisfaction in Higher Education instructional media design courses? British Journal of Educational Technology 50(4): 2014–2027. DOI: 10.1111/bjet.12694.
Kazlauskas A and Robinson K (2012) Podcasts are not for everyone. British Journal of Educational Technology 43(2): 321–330. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2010.01164.x.
McLoughlin C, Lee MJW and Chan A (2007) Promoting engagement and motivation for distance learners through podcasting. In: 2007. Available at: https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Promoting-engagement-and-motivation-for-distance-McLoughlin-Lee/fe8dc6dc2be920e1e07899d22b528fa8ef722c14.
Rotellar C and Cain J (2016) Research, Perspectives, and Recommendations on Implementing the Flipped Classroom. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 80(2). DOI: 10.5688/ajpe80234.
Schreiber BE, Fukuta J and Gordon F (2010) Live lecture versus video podcast in undergraduate medical education: A randomised controlled trial. BMC Medical Education 10(1): 68. DOI: 10.1186/1472-6920-10-68.
Sutton-Brady C, Scott KM, Taylor L, et al. (2009) The value of using short-format podcasts to enhance learning and teaching. Research in Learning Technology 17(3). DOI: 10.3402/rlt.v17i3.10878.
Turner J, Clark K and Dabbagh N (2011) Podcast Use in Higher Education: From the Traditional Lecture to Constructivist Learning Environments. International Journal of University Teaching and Faculty Development 2(1): 55–66.
Zanten RV, Somogyi S and Curro G (2012) Purpose and preference in educational podcasting. British Journal of Educational Technology 43(1): 130–138. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2010.01153.x.
Julian Hopkins, PhD. Learning Technologist and Digital Anthropologist, City of Glasgow College | email@example.com | https://www.julianhopkins.com
If you enjoyed reading this article we invite you to join the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) as an individual member, and to encourage your own organisation to join ALT as an organisational or sponsoring member.