Friday, May 26, 2006

Podcasting lectures

I'd be interested in hearing Ben's thoughts on this one, as he's close to the action...

Podcast lectures for uni students (there's video of it in action too)

Note that the podcast is instead of normal lectures, it seems. Which I find a bit odd. Being able to "repeat" a lecture, to go over the bits you missed, is a good thing. But interaction here seems to be confined to sending text messages to ask questions, which then get answered in the next podcast.

So why do I think this won't last?

1. As the student in the BBC video notes, obviously there's no real-time feedback. Transmission of understanding (i.e. learning) isn't a straightforward thing - comprehension of an issue is different for each person, such that half of an audience may get explanation A, while the other half may get explanation B. Description of a theory vs use of examples to get a point across, for instance.

2. The article mentions that students will be able to watch the lecture via a video, but there didn't seem to be any inclination of that in the BBC video. If you don't watch a lecture, there are many visuals that would help to explain and clarify things immensely - a picture is worth at least a thousand words, which is a lot of bytes and a lot of minutes in podcast terms.

3. If the lecturer simply records the lecture into a microphone, then there's no engagement on the side of the lecturer, let alone the students. Engaging with an audience separates a good lecturer from a mediocre one. And engagement = enthusiasm, motivation, and comprehension.

4. I don't listen to podcasts any more. Why? Because I can't skip through them easily (fast forward, rewind, etc) to find content I'm interested in, and because I just stop listening if I'm concentrating on something else, such as writing a post or looking at pictures. Sensorial attention in general seems to be something that most people take for granted. The first of the problems above is "only" applicable in that a lecturer can skip back to something previous, or skip over stuff that's not relevant, or to stuff that is. The second is important as if lectures are provided in audio form, there's surely a tendency to do other stuff at the same time, resulting in the student taking in less information.

So I'm not convinced at all. Doing a traditional lecture, recording it and making it available would make sense perhaps. But bending ("hacking", in the greasy sense) technology to cater for distance learners and people that can't be arsed to get out of bed just stinks of sloppiness and bad ideas to me.


phil jones said...

Yep. I can't see it working for my lectures.

I did think it worth experimenting with a screencast ( ) once, but when I heard how appalling the Portuguese was - basically English with some triphonic sugar - I never gave it to the students.

Obviously, the idea of using podcasting technology for teaching is great. And I don't even think there's a problem replacing lectures (given that he aims to be using the extra time for tutorials).

But you can't just record a lecture. You have to use blogging and casting together to create new sizes and shapes of educational chunk.

The only podcasts I listen to now are interviews / conversations. The medium seems to work there. I wonder whether you could do more education like that. Sort of Socratic Dialogues.

Anonymous said...

Rather a late response ...

I don't know the particular lecturer involved but I am going to be trialling podcasting (along with several others in my department) this semester. This will be as a complement to the 'real' lecture, not replacing them.

The main worry that I have is that if they know they can get podcasts the students won't turn up.

- ben

Scribe said...

There was also a piece in the Guardian on this the other day. I'll be very interested to see how your trial goes, Ben. I guess the same thing can be said of making lecture notes available on the web - the temptation is to just read them and get the "gist" of them - often, as the Guardian article notes - just before exams loom :)