Making your online course materials accessible to all learners: Podcasts
This article is the third in a series discussing best practices in creating an online classroom that gives each student an equal opportunity to learn.
Why use Podcasts?
According to Colin Gray, in a 2017 article in “The Podcast Host” there are many reasons why podcasts can make your content accessible to all types of learners
Flexible Availability – 24 hours a Day
One of the greatest advantages of education podcasts is the portability and convenience they offer. Podcasts can be downloaded to a mobile device, allowing the student to access the learning resources anytime, anywhere, with very little effort.
There are podcast subscription apps available for nearly every smartphone, and these make the process even easier. In fact, iPhones come with an excellent podcast app installed by default.
Once the student has subscribed to a show (which you can make available really easily), they don’t have to initiate the download: it’s sent automatically to their app whenever a new episode is available. So, as soon as they sit down on the bus, there’s a teaching resource there waiting for them. This makes podcasts very convenient and also paves the way for truly flexible learning.
Students Listen for Longer than They’ll Watch or Read
One of the great powers of podcasting is the attention is attracts. It’s tricky to encourage students to spend 30 minutes reading an article or watching a recorded lecture. That’s because text and video require the student’s full attention – they need to sit patiently, doing just one thing. As you probably know, this is tricky, not least because of the range of distractions just sitting waiting on the next browser tab.
Podcasting, on the other hand, can be done in otherwise wasted time, or alongside a routine activity. Students are far more likely to listen to consume your material if they can do it on the bus, driving the car, washing the dishes or in the gym. Because they’re already distracted with a rote task, the content gets great attention. While text and video struggle to attract 2 or 3 minutes of viewing, podcasts routinely run an hour or more. One of the most popular shows in the world is a history podcast than can run for 3 hours!
To make podcasts even more useful, instructors can provide study aids to accompany the audio file, such as a review quiz, a discussion forum or other types of review and assessment activities.
Student Created Content
One of the most interesting and valuable uses of Podcasting in Education is the concept of student created content.
You might allow students to create their own podcast, perhaps including questions, discussions, presentations or projects. These can then be made available to their classmates. This allows students to take control of an aspect of their education and, therefore, encourages engagement in the material. They can question, they can contribute and they can teach each other.
One of the simplest uses of Podcasting is to record your existing lectures. This makes them easily accessible for students and creates invaluable study aids.
Students can use the podcast for reference purposes or when preparing themselves for upcoming examinations. Any student who had challenges understanding a topic in the classroom can listen to this podcast. The can study the content and understand the topic at their own pace.
This capacity to review, again and again, is particularly valuable to students from an international background or with learning difficulties.
Make up for Missed Classes
When a student misses a class, it’s not always because they’re lazy. By offering a podcast, your unlucky, sick student who has missed a number of classes can, instead, download recordings of the lectures. As a consequence, they’re able to “fill in the gaps”.
Moreover, a lecturer who is unable to attend his or her classes for a week or two can create a podcast of the lecture instead. This is made available to the students and thus makes up for any unattended lectures.
Consistency of Student Experience
Lecture recordings can help a teacher or professor to ensure that they always cover any given topic in the best way possible. This comes in handy when the lecturer in question teaches multiple sessions of the same class. It helps the teacher to ensure that every student gets the same experience, the same information, and that the syllabus is covered uniformly.
Benefits for Mental and Visual Impairments
Perhaps one of the greatest pedagogic characteristics offered by educational podcasting is the chance to learn through listening.
To many of the current student generation, learning through listening is enjoyable and less tedious than reading. Educational podcasts are appealing and may encourage students who don’t like reading.
Many students may struggle with reading through mental impairments, such as Dyslexia, and podcasts can be a big aid in this. Podcasts are equally useful in cases where a visual impairment makes traditional learning methods arduous.
Make your own Podcast
At USF, the Instructional Design, Educational Technology Services (ETS) can provide you with help and guidance in the creation of podcasts and videos for your class content and lectures.
Other resources for creating podcasts
There are several free or low-cost podcasting tools available.
This site gives you a list of free or very low cost tools that can take you from the start to the end of your podcasting journey. This includes tools for planning your podcast, communication tools, recording tools, editing tools and tool for disseminating your podcast to the largest possible audience.
Soundcloud is a very low cost tool, you can also use it for free with less functionality.
You can use SoundCloud to make edited podcasts, and also to stream your podcasts or create a podcast feed.