Dr. David Miller is a psychology professor at the University of Connecticut who produces the weekly, interactive iCube podcast for his students. I learned about Dr. Miller’s innovative podcast last week and updated my post on “Higher Ed Podcast Purposes & Examples” to include a fifth category called “Interactive and Reflective Q&A.” iCube podcasts don’t fit in the category of “course-casting,” which is just making faculty class lectures available via podcast.

Dr. Miller and I have made contact via email and now via an iChat videoconference, and he has granted me permission to share the following results concerning university student perceptions of his interactive/reflective Q&A course podcasts. He wrote on Thursday, January 26, 2006:

Just yesterday, I received my course evaluations from the Fall 2005 semester.  It was halfway through that semester that I began my “iCube” series.  On my evaluations, I added a few questions about the podcasts.  Of the 204 students present in class on the day of the evaluations, 76 answered the podcast questions.  A few questions were open-ended and required written comments (e.g., How often did you listen? What did you like/dislike? etc.), but question one was on a scale of 1-10. That question was, “Did the podcasts enhance your learning in this class?”   1 = Not at All; 10 = Extremely. 26 of the students responded between 1 and 5 on the scale, and 50 responded between 6 and 10.  The median was “7.”  

The qualitative written comments, as you might imagine, covered the entire spectrum, but I was very pleased with the overall sense that I was getting from these comments, and there was some constructive criticism that I shall deal with in future podcasts. For example, a number of students did not like the nonlinearity in which questions were asked and would have found it more helpful if the topics covered in the podcasts were, more or less, in the same order in which they had been covered in class.  I think that’s useful.  Many thought the podcasts were too long, some thought they were either just right, and one wanted them even longer.  I don’t think students are quite all that savvy about how to use podcasts.  Those who thought they were too long could, of course, have opted to listen to them in bouts rather than all at once.  And, a number of students said they did not have iPods and, therefore, could not listen to the podcasts!  This is despite my repeated announcements about how all one needs is a computer with appropriate software.   

Indeed, at the beginning of the current semester, I asked my class for a show of hands– “How many of you know what podcasting is?  How many have never heard of podcasts?”  I’d say slightly less than half the class (300+ students were present) indicated they knew what podcasting is.  I was surprised.  Maybe our students are not quite as tech-savvy as we often assume.

These results are important, even if they are not wrapped in a quasi-scientific or scientific research design yet. Most of Dr. Miller’s university students who used podcast technology to access course content resources were very positive about their experiences, and about the positive impact podcasting had on their learning. This puts them in control of their own learning to a greater degree, being able to time and place shift when and where they listen. And the podcasting pedagogy Dr. Miller is using, having an interactive dialog about course topics and themes WITH a small group of his students, is an engaging and innovative take on more traditional “course-casting” that others are using to just put lectures online.

I am looking forward to continued dialog with Dr. Miller on his uses of podcasting for univeristy teaching and learning!

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2 Responses to University students positive on podcasting

  1. Tom Hoffman says:

    While blogging seems to be an optimal way of starting these kinds of conversations, the same could have been done via regular web pages, email, bbs, etc. Long distance phone calls are cheap these days, too. It’s a niggling point, but I think it is much stronger to emphasize the continuity of this work than the novelty. This kind of collaboration is precisely what the interent and the web were designed to do, and that they have done for 35 years or so.

  2. Wesley Fryer says:

    You are probably right, I may have overstated the novel aspects of this conversation’s sequence using blogs and email. The fact that we had an impromptu videoconference today while I was at a coffee shop was pretty amazing, though. I know that was not possible 35 years ago, or maybe even 5. I have edited my original post and removed references to the sequence of contact events that led up to our videoconference– what I am wanting to focus on most in this post are the issues of podcasting, and those last comments were really better saved for another post.

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