Using podcasts as a medium to deliver lectures can be an engaging and convenient method to connect with students. There are currently over 75 million podcast listeners in the United States with that number expected to reach 100 million by 2024 (Adams, et al., 2021). My own experience using this method to reach my students has been successful and the student response has been welcoming. The COVID-19 pandemic offered an opportunity to explore this method of teaching and reach students in a new and engaging way.
When I was a child, I had a small record player. I would spend summers at my grandmother’s house playing my mother’s old 45s collection. I was introduced to some of the early greats of 1960s and 70s rock n’ roll and practiced my best radio voice to talk up the records and “hit the post” – finishing my fake news and weather reports before the singer began the verse. I always thought that I wanted to be on the radio or be a radio personality. But what I really learned is that I enjoyed talking to an audience and education became my calling.
After a successful career in K-12 education as a teacher and principal and later an assistant professor, I perfected my craft of speaking in public. Whether I was delivering a professional development for my faculty or speaking before an audience at a major conference, I was always comfortable speaking in front of people and more importantly, leading my students or participants in quality discussions.
Prior to COVID-19, my graduate courses were what you would expect a typical course to be – lectures, discussion, group work, projects – all intended to be engaging and garner a student discourse that strengthened student understanding of the content. When the pandemic forced schools to move courses online, much of the natural discussion that was valuable in a graduate course was lost to blank Zoom stares and a reluctance to dive into conversations without talking over classmates or forgetting to turn on the microphone. However, despite these mild setbacks, we learned that we can still deliver high quality instruction in an online environment.
As the pandemic continued, I looked for ways to connect with my students in a virtual environment. I wanted to curate content that would be relevant to their learning in my class while also be as engaging and supportive as our usual face-to-face lecture environment. I learned a few valuable ways to connect with students academically while maintaining high expectations for my courses.
Why use podcasting to connect with students?
The attention span for the human brain is usually only about 10 minutes long. If the content someone is watching or listening to isn’t interesting, a person will seek something else more interesting. This is why transitions in education are so important and why teachers need to differentiate and vary their instruction. However, the growing popularity of podcasts is largely rooted in their convenience and in their entertainment value for specific audiences. This is why there are numerous podcasts on murder mysteries, politics, sports, or education – podcasters can find a specific audience for their content when it is convenient to the listener.
This is exactly the same reason why people enroll in online course – the convenience of being able to work through a degree program on their own time. However, that means students still need to schedule a time to sit in front of a computer to complete the coursework. Podcasts open up an avenue of new access of your course content.
Students are leveraging social media content in new and interesting ways. As younger audiences turn to TikTok, Instagram, and other social media outlets to access content, professors should look for ways to connect with students where they want to be met. This means finding convenient and accessible forums to curate academic content for student consumption.
Methods to connect with students virtually
The key to closing the gap between students that you never see if you are teaching in a fully online course is to look for ways to connect with them virtually. Even if you don’t have a set time that your class meets or if you class is designed as a “go at your own pace,” you can use simple online tools to connect with students.
Podcast audio lectures
I piloted a podcast lecture series during the pandemic that was met with much success among my students. The lectures were short in length – no more than 10-12 minutes – and focused on specific topics of interest related to the course. I used a free recording and editing program called Audacity to record the lectures, edited the content, and uploaded the content to my course and to a free podcasting hosting service called Anchor. Students who were surveyed at the end of the course stated they liked being able to listen to lecture podcasts at their own convenience. Many students admitted to listening and re-listening to the lectures at the gym, in the car during morning and afternoon commutes, or during lunchtime breaks.
I recommend that you plan your lectures and podcast episodes ahead of time before sitting down to record the content. Create a content sheet to help guide your conversation on the podcast and consider using segments that are topic specific to help limit your time. To upload your content, Anchor is a free service for simple hosting of your podcast content or you can pay for large hosting space on their site.
Keep your content short, specific, and to the point. While professors can easily speak at length about various topics, you will want to use podcasting as an option to deliver short and distinct lessons that students can consume quickly and conveniently.
Live video broadcast presentations
One easy method to connect with current and potential students is to conduct live presentations. These live presentations can be scheduled at a time that is convenient for your students to watch. Facebook Live, YouTube Live, and Periscope (Twitter) are all easy mediums to use to create live broadcasts on anything connected to your course or university program. Professors should create professional accounts on these forums and share links and pages with students in your courses. Avoid using personal accounts for your broadcasts. These forums are great resources for you to use to make announcements to your students, broadcast live lectures, or provide quick updates about due dates or upcoming assessments.
For your podcast, you can easily record video lectures, seminars, or training resources and use online platforms such as Facebook or YouTube to upload and host your content. Other hosting sites such as Twitch and Discord, which are generally content specific, can also be considered for your podcast channel. For safer or secured access to video content, consider using Panopto to upload content through university-sponsored webhosting account.
Think of video podcasting or broadcasts as a short TV show on your course content. Similar to creating audio podcasts, keep your videos short and succinct.
I realize that not everyone is comfortable on camera or speaking into a microphone. Further, not everyone has had the early practice as a youth speaking to imaginary audiences to practice their radio and pre-podcasting skills. However, the pandemic has stretched the comfort levels of some professors as they explore technology in a new way. In addition, with college attendance levels dropping across the country, it is important for professors to seek new ways to meet students in a virtual environment that is most comfortable and convenient for them. Podcasting is a great resource that can be used to leverage your course content while connecting with students in a virtual environment.
Adams, K., Baer, U., Branscum, O., Bosu, S., Dissinger, D., Galvin, A., Kramer, B., Perry, L., Plotz, J., Robinson, K., Terlunen, M. (2021). “It’s Time for Academe to Take Podcasting Seriously”. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2021/09/28/how-harness-podcasting-teaching-and-scholarship-opinion
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