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Friday, October 28, 2005

Beyond lecture podcasting

It seems clear that lecture podcasting exploded in the Fall of 2005. The buzz around iTunes probably accelerated the process by providing a popular default standard to list podcasts. Providing a one-click subscription mechanism within iTunes also helped. In fact the number of podcasts is so large now that I will not be keeping an updated list in my wiki. Others who are collecting academic podcasts will probably have a lecture category soon.

A few issues and trends are evolving out of this movement.

1) Attendance. It seems strange to me almost every article or comment on lecture podcasting assumes that a decreasing attendance is obviously a negative outcome. As educators we should be focusing on education, not counting bodies. If students are doing just as well and not attending class then that tells me that my multimedia channel is effective. This is exactly what I have observed in my online optional classes (using podcasting and screencasting), where attendance dropped to 10-20% by the last lecture.

2) A new way to teach. Having an archive of lectures available gives me a lot of added flexibility. This term I have assigned the archived lectures (podcasts and screencasts) and instead of lectures I run workshops during class time. I have the chance to interact one on one with every student who needs help with the specific problems that they have. I can use other modalites such as watch them play games or build molecular models from kits. In other words, I can be a teacher again, instead of a parakeet.

3) Open Courseware. As expected not all teachers want to make their podcasts publicly available. Some have even tried charging their students. I really view this as a non-issue over time. A podcast behind a firewall does not make a sound and is effectively invisible to the world. I expect that there will soon be free podcasts on every topic that a teacher somewhere. Open courseware will be part of the new educational model.

4) Providing all course materials. One of the reasons that some teachers are putting up their podcasts up publicly without hesitation is that they know that students really can't learn as well with only the audio component of their lectures. And for most university courses I think that is probably true. If the teacher's intent is to truly teach then they must make available all the resources necessary to learn. From my experience I think that screencasting is a very efficient way of doing this. Podcasting PDF files of lecture notes along with the MP3's is another approach and it can be done with iTunes.

5) Copyright. This topic is tightly associated with open courseware. For audio podcasts this is not that much of an issue but as teachers start podcasting PDFs and Powerpoint presentations, they need to make sure that they do not include materials from textbooks or publisher course packages. I think that publishers are missing an opportunity here. By permitting some material to be used publicly, they would in fact be encouraging book sales. With the hardline stance that I have been running into, they are forcing teachers to create their own problem sets and class materials. They are effectively removing any compelling reason for using their textbooks.


  • My experience with the publishers is that they are taking a very hard stance. I first thought it was fine because I got an oral agreement to use a portion of the problem set but when I pressed to get it in writing they refused. So my recommendation to my faculty is avoid any publisher material. Use the textbooks as general reference but create everything yourself.

    By the way, I am not sure if I asked you this earlier but I noticed that you were teaching the octet rule to your students. Do you think it would be possible for some of your students to try our Lewis structure map quizzes in Unreal Tournament? I run races with my student and give out prizes and would be interested in any feedback. Some of the students might also be interested in playing agains my students in the commercial version at some point.

    The info is here:

    By Blogger Jean-Claude Bradley, at 7:59 AM  

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