Will Podcasting Finally Kill The Lecture?
Swapping weekly lectures for podcasts may appeal as much to lecturers as to time-strapped students with other commitments. Podcasting, where students download lectures to listen to at their own convenience, seems like the perfect solution, with proponents suggesting it allows for self-paced and flexible delivery. While these advantages are significant, it’s essential to evaluate whether podcasting can genuinely provide an effective learning experience.
Academics need to consider the aims of their lectures and whether it requires more than just spoken words. Lectures often use blackboard scribbles, PowerPoint presentations, and OHP slides to improve the delivery of complex concepts. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, and images and evolving diagrams can be incredibly useful tools for building student conceptualizations.
It’s necessary to ask, whether a student could passively listen to a podcast and genuinely grasp the depth of knowledge conveyed in an audio-only lecture. Would it facilitate deep understanding, or would it create surface memorization, similar to the notion that listening to language cassettes while asleep would enable learners to master a foreign language within weeks? Rather than listening alone, students should be able to visually engage with the content, leading to deeper understanding of concepts.
An effective replacement for live lectures can be created through an audio presentation that mimics a lecture. Students should be able to engage and re-engage with soundbites, but the critical addition is the synchronized inclusion of evolving diagrams and summary headings with the narrative.
It’s not by accident that lectures have survived until now. A CD that follows the general lecture format and can act as a replacement for live lectures has proven successful over the years. Each week, students use the multimedia CD on their PC and respond to set questions in preparation for tutorial sessions. The format has proven effective, and it’s unlikely that students would prefer an audio file of someone narrating.
Students today are typically dissatisfied with reading lengthy texts on their computer screens or struggling to digest distance learning notes. However, they are amenable to listening and watching material on a CD that’s presented in the same fluid style as a lecture. In fact, if the material is less engaging than a live lecture, students may feel shortchanged.
The convenience of being able to replay content is valuable, particularly when revising for exams, and overseas students with language difficulties can benefit from it too. It’s essential to be precise in presenting sequences of ideas since students have no opportunity to clarify points with their lecturer.
When students attend lectures in person, it helps to keep them engaged with the subject. On the other hand, the flexibility of a CD may be so appealing that students won’t engage with it until later, causing group interaction to suffer. Regular goals or tests based on CD material may help.
Attending university isn’t only about education. Students crave social interaction, too, so interspersing occasional lectures between studying with CDs is a good idea. This approach allows students to socialize with their friends while also talking to their tutor.
In conclusion, the way of delivering content isn’t as essential as the methods of assessing what students have learned, and tailoring further content based on their identified weaknesses. This is typically done via tutorials and assessments and not through podcasting.
Finally, although podcasting may have some benefits and may supplement students’ understanding of fundamental concepts, they are better suited as a supplement to more engaging in-person lectures.