Rethinking the "lecture" podcast

As you know, I thrive on the possibilities for using emergent technologies. And I tell people that learning the technology tool itself isn’t really the hard part. It’s coming up with solid and meaningful pedagogy on ways to use the technology that takes time and thoughtfulness. Take podcasting, for instance. It’s a great and easy way to get syndicated content published for access by your audience. However, just because you build it, doesn’t mean your students will come. Take lectures as an example.

It seems that recording a live lecture and then turning it into a podcast as a “convenience” for students who miss class or want to review is at the top of the list of ways to use podcasts in education. But is this really an effective and useful application of this powerful tool? I would argue that recording a live lecture, in its entirety, and publishing it, unedited, is NOT the best use for podcasting. Here are my reasons why:

  1. It has been suggested that students like to listen to podcasts in 6 to 10 minute “bites.” Unedited, hour-long lectures don’t fit into this model. In Carie Windham’s article, “Confessions of a Podcast Junkie: A Student Perspective,” a professor at Bentley College in Massachusetts first started producing podcasts of his lectures as an introduction to podcasting to his students. When he asked how many had been accessing the information, not many raised their hands. When he asked why, students said that the podcasts were too long, not as enjoyable as shorter segments, and interestingly, were just recordings of what they had already talked about in class.
  2. Sound quality is an important factor in podcasting. If the sound quality is inferior, students will not listen to your podcasts, period. And in a classroom setting, where you may not have proper sound equipment and setup, it’s likely the quality of your recording will suffer.
  3. Recording a live lecture is usually a one-way, one-person transmission. Without microphone setup for the audience and recording of this interaction, students are not really experiencing the dynamics of a live lecture through listening to a podcast. Wouldn’t they rather come to a live lecture then? And this brings me to a deeper issue in all of this . . . why do we still spend the entire class period lecturing?

Okay, so I am suggesting that recording live lectures is not at the top of my list as a rich, pedagogical reason for podcasting. However, if you absolutely want to record your lectures, feeling that they are really good and that students would love to listen to them over and over again, then make sure you are ready with the correct recording equipment, listen to it and edit it, maybe add music at the beginning and end, and also try to set up another microphone to include student questions and discussion. Try to edit out as much non-essential recording as possible, to reduce the listening time. If after that, you still think recording live lectures is good, then get back to me. I’d like to hear about it.

I’m going to continue this conversation about podcasting for students tomorrow, so stay tuned. Tomorrow will be suggestions on how to record lectures, but in different formats and for different reasons.

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