College students are becoming increasingly accustomed to a digital lifestyle via iPods and MP3 players. Podcasts and audio clips are ways professors can bring the digital demand into the educational environment.
Podcasting is a new type of media delivery. Podcasts are audio broadcasts that can be played on a computer or transferred to an iPod or MP3 player, according to the American School Board Journal.
Podcast is a combination of the words iPod and broadcast.
Although podcasts require some technical knowledge, they’re generally easy to access.
Daniel Hosken, music technology professor, started using podcasts last spring for his online Music 105 class. Music 105 requires students to listen to music and identify different elements within music, such as structure and style.
“I was looking for a way to deliver content specific to the class,” Hosken said. “Online classes are very reading dependent. (Podcasts) help students who learn better by audio.”
Hosken said with podcasts, students get a guided tour of the music studied, which they cannot get from a textbook.
His podcasts range from 20 minutes to one hour and 25 minutes, Hosken said.
Paul Wilson, biology professor, doesn’t use podcasts, but provides hour-long audio shows available on the Web site for his evolutionary biology course. There are currently 13 interviews on the Web site and Wilson plans to record five more.
“Maybe students learn better if exposed to material outside of class,” said Wilson, as to why he uses audio clips. “(In class), I get the feeling they’re ignoring me.”
The supplemental interviews with other biologists allow students to listen to material while doing other things.
“Students complain of having no quality time for studying,” Wilson said. “They’re commuting or going to the gym.”
Wilson said his audio clips, which have been available for about a year, are more about logic than memorization.
“I’m trying to convey a style of thinking,” Wilson said. “I’m interested that students apply the logic to other things.”
Wilson said he provided his students with a multiple-choice assessment, which showed his students found the audio clips about as helpful as their textbooks.
Of the students who listened to the interviews, “55 percent found it helpful with the course,” Wilson said. About 8 percent downloaded the material to their iPod.
Forty percent of Wilson’s students found the material interesting, but not helpful with the textbook, he said.
Hosken said student feedback for the podcasts has generally been positive, indicating that the podcasts are relatively effective.
“Seventy-five percent (of students surveyed) said they listened fairly often,” said Hosken. “Some 70 percent said it was useful.”
James Enriquez, junior business administration major, said professors providing sound bites of lecture material is very innovative.
“Students can listen to lecture material at their own pace instead of the professor spewing it out and them having to catch it,” Enriquez said.
Enriquez owns a 30 GB video iPod, which he listens to for about four to five hours daily.
“Whether I’m skating to class, working on an assignment or walking to the Sierra Center, it’s always in the background of what I’m doing,” he said.
It takes about three hours to produce one hour of material, Hosken said. That includes preparation and editing.
Wilson said it takes about three days to create the hour-long interviews. He has to read material before interviewing the biologists, then conduct the interview and edit.
Hosken has access to all the equipment needed to create a podcast through the music department. Professors looking to create podcasts “don’t have to spend more than $100 to $120” for the software, Hosken said.
Wilson’s audio interviews are funded through a grant provided by the National Institutes of Health.
Hosken said podcasting is part of the online text revolution.
“There’s an increasing demand for content outside the classroom,” he said.
Wilson said the Web site iTunes U is one indication of a nationwide effort of professors to utilize audio components with lectures.
Through iTunes U, students and faculty from different universities can listen to and download professors’ lectures.
“The difference is my audio clips are made for lecture and edited,” Wilson said.
Will the increasing use of audio material make old methods, such as course readers, obsolete?
Hosken said podcasts might become more universal when software becomes clearly available and utilized by more professors.
“For the moment, there is a technological barrier,” Hosken said. “Knowledge of recording audio and audio levels is needed.”
Hosken said it would be a while before the effectiveness of podcasts is known.
“We’ll have to experiment to see what (podcasts) can replace in the physical classroom,” he said. “We’ll have to replace lectures and see how it works.”
Enriquez said it would take time for him to get used to podcasts or audio clips becoming a permanent part of lectures.
“I would need to be in constant communication with the professor,” he said.
Wilson said it would be nice if CSUN had a central Web page for audio material for different lectures from professors.
“Then I’d assign (audio) interviews like chapters in the textbook,” he said.