One of the common ideas instructors have to bolster student-content engagement in a course is to add media. Podcasts are a type of media element that can support learning in a number of ways. It is relatively easy to link to an established podcast. Planning and producing your own podcast is more involved. This post explores the idea of producing a podcast for your online course. Is it something you should consider?

Prior to diving into the value and purpose of podcasts it is useful to understand what a podcast is…and what it isn’t.

The term podcast is a portmanteau of “iPod” and “broadcast”. This blended word says a lot because a podcast is a digital recording that is produced for distribution to a computer or mobile device (e.g., the iPod in 2005). Podcasts are distributed via RSS feeds that users subscribe to. Podcast directories, like iTunes®, allow users to find and subscribe to a podcast. Generally podcasts are episodic and often serial in nature with new episodes delivered automatically to subscribed users as the new content becomes available.

So, you can see a course podcast is more than an audio or video file embedded in an online course that students click on to engage with. In its ideal form, a podcast is a method of delivering course content to a learner’s mobile device via the podcast subscription process. Learners can engage with that content at any time and any place they have their mobile device.

Banner showing cover art from four OSU podcasts
Sample cover art from select Oregon State University podcasts.

Audio, Video, or Enhanced Podcasts

There a three primary formats of podcasts. Links to examples of each type of podcast are provide at the end of this article.

  • Audio: This type of podcast distributes digital audio files to listeners
  • Video (vodcast): This podcast type distributes a digital video file to podcast watchers.
  • Enhanced: The enhanced podcasts distributes a media file that displays images synchronized with audio. 

Instructional Use & Value
With mobile devices pervasive in college audiences, being able to distribute educational content to those devices is very attractive. The use of podcasts in online learning environments is common and spans many disciplines (Supanakor-Davila & Bollinger, 2014). Podcasting has also been applied in traditional college courses (McGarr, 2009) and in graduate teaching (Luna & Cullen, 2011). Fernandez, Sallan and Simo (2015) recognized podcasting as a major phenomenon in education with the primary purpose being the distribution of course content.

The purpose of podcasts in instruction varies by podcast type and author. Podcasts can be used to inform, provide analysis, develop skills and knowledge, motivate, mediate and more (Carvalho et al., 2009). Common types of podcasts produced for educational use include:

  • Informative: Description fo concepts, analysis, synthesis, readings etc.
  • Feedback: Audio or video feed back for student work or group work.
  • Guides: Helpful media content addressing field or practical work, studying, group dynamics and reflective or experiential learning.
  • Authentic: Original media contend such as news, interviews, radio programming and others.

The production of podcasts can be faculty, student, or outside expert driven. Like any good media production it should have excellent production value and a structure to hold attention and enhance learning. Since podcasts are serial in nature shorter media segments are encouraged. Episodes of 15 minutes or less will likely promote better engagement with podcast content. Although a very engaging podcast can be longer.

The benefits of podcasts in online courses are tied to the nature of the media and distribution process. Audio podcast are popular because they can be listened to while doing other tasks. Additionally the speed of media playback can be controlled by the listener. Video podcasts are ideal when visual support is necessary to foster understanding of the course content. As mobile media podcasts may be used to facilitate and support remote field work by students or even tours of remote places. The ability to watch or listen to podcasts via WiFi or downloaded and used on-demand makes podcast a convenient asynchronous media adjunct to an online course.

So, as a course content delivery mechanism podcasts are a unique tool if applied thoughtfully. Understanding podcast types, formats, and their delivery mechanism helps you make better decisions about podcast application.

Research in Action sound wave image.
Visit the Research in Action podcast website at Oregon State University to listen to this episode and see how transcripts are shared.

Accessibility
Making content accessible when using podcast requires some planning and also reflects the nature of the podcast media you plan to use. For audio podcasts it is important to provide transcripts to support all learners. 

Video podcasts are best paired with well synchronized captions. When planning video podcast you may also want to think about providing audio descriptions of content that provides important information that is shown as a visual in the video.

Podcast Consumers: Is This Your Audience?
This is an important question. If you produce a podcast are learners likely to engage with it? Is podcasting on the radar of potential learners?  The Edison Research survey on The Podcast Consumer (2018) indicates that 26% of those surveyed listen to podcasts monthly. The podcasting audience by age shows that  30% of  12-24 year olds, 32% of 25-54 year olds, and 13% of 55 + year olds have listened to a podcast in the last month. Male and female listeners are about evenly split in podcast engagement. Smartphone and other mobile devices make up 76% of podcast listening devices with computers making up 24% of podcast engagement. The top three locations of podcast engagement are at home (82%), followed by in a car/truck (54%), and walking or on foot (41%). Podcasting seems well suited to reach audiences that are remote, mobile, and consume media in an asynchronous fashion. These are also common descriptors of online learning audiences.

A Podcast For Your Course?
If a podcast sounds interesting to you contact your instructional designer at Ecampus. They can help you understand more about this mobile media opportunity and help think through strategies for effective podcast use. They will also work with Ecampus multimedia developers to help facilitate the production and distribution of your podcast. 

So, what do you think? Can you imagine your students engaging with course content as a podcast? Could a podcast work in your online course?

Links to sample podcasts in iTunes

Notes: 

  1. Enhanced podcasts are best viewed on a mobile device although they can be viewed in iTunes once downloaded.
  2. Prior to 2017 educational podcasts were distributed by Apple via iTunes U. With changes in iTunes educational podcasts now appear in the podcast section of iTunes and iTunes U was discontinued.


References

Carvalho, A. A., Aguiar, C., Santos, H., Oliveira, L., Marques, A., & Maciel, R. (2009). Podcasts in higher education: Students’ and lecturers’ perspectives. In A. Tatnall & A. Jones (Eds.), Education and technology for a better world (pp. 417-426). Boston: Springer Berlin Heidelberg. doi:10.1007/978-3- 642-03115-1_44.

Fernandez, V.; Sallan, J.; Simo, Pep. Past, present, and future of podcasting in higher education. In L., Many & Y. Zhao (Eds.). Exploring learning & teaching in higher education pp. 305-330. Berlin: Springer, 2015,.

Luna, Gaye, & Cullen, Deborah. (2011). Podcasting as Complement to Graduate Teaching: Does It Accommodate Adult Learning Theories? International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 23(1), 40-47.

McGarr, Oliver. (2009). A Review of Podcasting in Higher Education: Its Influence on the Traditional Lecture. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 25(3), 309-321.

Supanakorn-Davila, S., & Bolliger, D. (2014). Instructor Utilization Of Podcasts In The Online Learning Environment. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 10(3), N/a.

Webster, T. (2018). The Podcast Consumer. Retrieved from http://www.edisonresearch.com/podcast-consumer-2018/

 

On May 2nd, Ecampus held our annual Faculty Forum which showcases the outstanding work that OSU is doing in online education. Sixteen interactive sessions allowed faculty the opportunity to learn more about innovative teaching methods and share their experiences in online teaching with each other.

This year we were delighted to have Dr. Kevin Gannon, a professor of history and director for the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Education at Grand View University, present a keynote address on a very timely and relevant topic for all online educators – designing online classrooms where inclusive discussions can take place while effectively engaging students with challenging or controversial materials.  His presentation – Sea lions, trolls, and flames – oh my! Navigating the difficulty places in online learning – was a thought-provoking and inspiring call to action for online educators.

This article is the first of a two-part series on producing video interviews featuring guest experts for online courses. Part I focuses on planning while Part II will address the faculty role in the video interview production process.

Part I: Planning With A Purpose

Interviews of guest experts are valuable forms of course media because they can serve a number of instructional purposes. Traditionally classroom instructors might consider including guest experts as part of instruction to…

  • Connect learning with an authority in the field.
  • Communicate what the practices are in a given field.
  • Describe the nature of work of a professional in a given field.
  • Show important work environments or processes.
  • Introduce a second, collaborative voice to instruction (Laist, 2015).

One of the common ways instructors incorporate the expert’s voice into a course is by inviting a guest speaker into the classroom. Or, class members might travel to a field location where the person being interviewed works. In both cases the experience of the guest expert interview is live and located where the interview occurs. The synchronous live interview, a staple of on-campus courses, is problematic for online instruction.

Online instruction is shaped by the nature of the online environment. Asynchronous class sessions, the remoteness of learners, and limited access to field sites would seem to limit the use of guest experts. Ecampus instructors are moving beyond those limitations by creating carefully planned and professionally produced video interviews of guest experts in order to leverage the instructional benefits of interviews for their online courses. An example of this is a media project produced for Dr. Hilary Boudet’s course PPOL 441/541 Energy and Society, offered by Oregon State University’s School of Public Policy.

Dr. Boudet worked with the Ecampus video team to re-imagine a traditional live field site visit to the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Lab at Oregon State University as a series of guest expert video interviews. Dr. Boudet carefully planned the interview process and served as the on-camera host in the video interview series. Three OSU scientists served as the guest experts in the on-site interviews. Because of careful planning, primary interviews and recording were completed in half a day.

The guest expert interview recordings, and subsequent video editing, resulted in the production of four videos ranging in length from ten to twenty minutes each. The interviews represent approximately one hour of video content for the PPOL 441/541 Energy and Society course. You can view the first of the four video interviews by clicking on the image from the video below.

 

Image of Dr. Boudet and Pedro Lomónaco
Hilary Boudet interviews guest expert Pedro Lomónaco.  Click on image to watch the video.

 

As the video interview planner, Dr. Boudet made a number of key decisions regarding video interview structure and content. We will highlight these decisions as answers to the 5 W’s of video interviews: Who, What, When, Where, Why and also How.

You may want to think through answers to these questions when you plan a similar project. Let’s take a look at each of these questions in the context of the PPOL 441/551 video.


Why are you doing the video interview?

In the case of PPOL 441/541, Dr. Boudet wanted to capture the instructional value of a field site visit and conversations with scientists related to that site. So being on location was essential. She wanted to show the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Lab and use it as a vehicle to discuss how the lab and Oregon State University researchers contribute to the larger social conversation about wave energy and social issues related to its use in coastal communities.


What is the subject of the video interview (s)?
Dr. Boudet identified four independent but related topics she wanted to address with the guest experts. The topics are listed below.

  • Introduction to the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Lab
  • Introduction to Wave Energy Technology
  • Human Dimensions of Wave Energy
  • Community Outreach and Engagement

Each of these topics fits well within the learning outcomes for the Energy and Society course. In this instance, Dr. Boudet had a clear story arc in mind when selecting topics. She structured the video segments to address each topic and conducted each interview as its own story that supported the larger learning arc. Having a clear vision for the use of guest expert video interviews helps guide video production on-site and also informs the final video editing process.


Where will the interview be recorded?
Prior field visits to the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Lab helped Dr. Boudet work with both the guest experts and video production team in thinking through locations for interviews and what needed to appear in the video. Understanding the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Lab also helped in deciding what aspects of the lab and props would be ideal to record for each video interview. It is clear What and Where are two closely related planning questions. In general on-site video production requires a large space for staging and a quiet space for recording. The interview recording site must also be relevant to the subject being addressed. If you do not have a recording space available Ecampus has a studio facility that can be used.


Who is to be interviewed?
Dr. Boudet had a clear plan to bring expert voices into the video interview. The guests to the class served as scientific experts as well as guides to the facility being visited. In the case of the PPOL 441/541 video interviews, Dr. Boudet chose to have the scientists appear on screen and to also appear herself. This is a key decision that shapes the planning and production process of the video interviews. As you might imagine, the technical demands of having one person on camera is different from having two people. Recording equipment needs and subsequent editing approaches are impacted by the number of people included “on camera” in any interview scenario.


When will the interview occur?

Scheduling interview recording involves coordinating your own schedule with Ecampus video staff and your guest expert(s). In the case of PPOL 441/541, Dr. Boudet arranged to have all interviews recorded at the same facility but in different spaces. Additionally, the interview times were coordinated to facilitate the video production team being present for a large block of time when all guest expert interviews could be recorded. After primary recording, the video production staff returned briefly to the O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Lab to record b-roll content; shots of the facility without any people. This is a common process in video production.

The last important question to be asked is…


How will you prepare?
Part of preparation for a video interview is embedded in the answer to our previous questions. But preparing the content of the actual interview also requires planning. Dr. Boudet prepared a list of questions that she wanted to have addressed as part of the interview. She shared the purpose of the interview and her questions with the guest experts in advance. This collaborative effort contributed to a clear understanding of the intent of learning for all parties.

Sharing your questions with interviewees can be helpful. Asking guest experts not to memorize answers but to prepare with bullet points in mind will help the interview feel spontaneous.

There are obvious types of questions you will want to avoid. For instance, yes or no type questions can stunt an interview. Remember, the idea is get the instructional information you need. Be prepared to ask a question again if it is not answered the first time. Or, ask for clarifications to a response as part of the interview. Also provide opportunities at the end of the interview for experts to add anything they like. Remember you might get some great information and if it is not useful it can be edited out.

Preparing the physical interview space and interviewees is part of what the Ecampus video team does. They can provide tips on how to dress for a given interview, where to stand, where to look, and how to stage the interview space.

Now that we have answered some of the key questions in the video interview planning process watch the sample video posted above again. Can you see or hear the answers to the questions we have addressed?

About Part II:

Planning a guest expert video interview with a clear purpose in mind will shape the relevance, structure, and focus of the final video interview. In Part II of this video interview series, we will address the second half of video interview creation process; faculty collaboration with Ecampus video staff in the final stages of video interview production

References

Laist, R. (2015). Getting the Most out of Guest Experts Who Speak to Your Class. Faculty FocusHigher Ed Teaching & Learning. Retrieved from https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/curriculum-development/getting-the-most-out-of-guest-experts-who-speak-to-your-class/

 

Special thanks to Hilary Boudet, Heather Doherty, Rick Henry, Chris Lindberg, and Drew Olson for their contributions to this article. 

The instructional designers at Ecampus held a Research & Development Day recently to explore the topic of user experience (UX) design as it applies to Ecampus courses. As part of that day, fellow instructional designer, Dorothy Loftin and I explored how Canvas functions when used on Mobile Devices. Below are some findings from our testing.

Generally, we found that iPads work great as long as a student accesses the course through a browser. It was using the Canvas App (necessary on a smart phone) that presented changes and challenges in functionality. The good news is that many of these can be addressed with a few additions in course design. These additions should not significantly alter the experience for students who are using desktop and laptop computers. Today, I will present one of those strategies.

The most significant impact we experienced in using the Canvas App is navigation, how a student gets to content, activities and assessments. It can take quite a few clicks or taps to get to a specific page in Canvas using the mobile app, or to get from one page to another, and the navigation can vary depending on the device used. This may negatively impact the student user experience, distract, and generally increase cognitive load.

Navigation Strategy

One strategy to improve navigation is to provide alternate links for students to jump to commonly needed items in your course. Turns out, this can also benefit students who are on desktops or laptops.

The Home Page that I often use is immediately available for users on all devices. I have added links and buttons so students can jump directly to important sections of the course from here. This turns the Home Page into more of a landing page with quick links.

Page View in Desktop Browser Page View on iPhone
Desktop browser screen grab iPhone Screen Grab

The buttons take a student to the Module Page for a particular week. Module Pages, on the App, present students with links to all content and activities for that week. I limited the buttons to 3-across to make clicking them on a phone easier. As you probably notice, the App translates buttons into links. So, simply providing a list of text links would also work on multiple devices.

This Strategy to improve navigation can be used on any page where you want a student to be able to move quickly to new material, reducing frustration and cognitive load by making the navigational journey more immediate.

How to do it yourself resources:

By Christopher Lindberg

Do you ever wonder where your students go once they log into an online course? John Whitmer (Blackboard analytics, blog link) and Kevin Reeve (instructor and director of Teaching and Learning Technologies at Utah State University, Canvas Analytics video link) did some hard work to seek answers to this question. Kevin presented his team’s preliminary results at Online Learning Consortium conference in Nov. 2016. Some of the findings were obvious, some not so.

My question is: what can we do with this information? How can we use this learning analytics to guide our course design practices as online instructors and online instructional designers?

Here is a summary of Kevin’s report and my ideas of course design based on learning analytics of students’ course visiting behavior patterns:

Student course visit behavior Observations from Canvas learning analytics: Course Design Ideas:
Students’ first visits to online courses may be exploratory.

activitiesannouncementdqtodoviewcalendar

Use announcements to connect with students before course start and during course session; Create navigation tutorial video to guide students; Design course homepage, Start Here module, and syllabus for easy navigation and communicate important information with clear instructions.
Some students visit “Grades” early on to view the weighting of grades and other details Have an accurate grade book available from day 1
Some students visit assignments first Put link to learning module, or related learning materials, learning outcomes, instructions etc. in each assignment.
Many visits to course do not start with homepage Design your course homepage to be attractive and put information that students care to read there; Direct student attention to course homepage if you intend to put important information on homepage, otherwise do not overly rely on homepage.
To do list is driving students entry points once course starts. Enter due dates for graded assignments so the assignments will appear on the calendar and to do list.
Syllabus is being missed by some students during the first few visits Make syllabus prominently visible and accessible.

In the same time, put important information from syllabus in multiple places such as course home page, Start Here module, and first assignment directions, in case students visit assignments directly.

If you have ideas for Canvas course design based on the above observations or your own observations of online students course visit behavior patterns, feel free to share with us

Happy Holidays!