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.
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.
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
- Audio Podcast – Research in Action from Oregon State University Ecampus
- Video Podcast – TED Talks Daily HD
- Enhanced Podcast – Martin Bailey Photography Podcast (enhanced)
- Enhanced podcasts are best viewed on a mobile device although they can be viewed in iTunes once downloaded.
- 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.
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/