Podcasts: Anytime and Anywhere

Written by Alexis Alexander
April 4, 2017 • 4 minute read

This article will assist you in implementing podcasting in your curriculum by explaining the advantages of this medium in an academic setting.

Podcasts have risen in popularity in recent years as a result of their convenience and capacity to support long-form content. These attributes have made them an ideal medium for educational content. Podcasts can help increase student engagement and even provide opportunities for student-created content.

According to Colin Gray, in a 2017 article in “The Podcast Host,” there are many reasons why podcasts can make your course content accessible to all types of learners.

Flexible Availability — 24 Hours a Day

One of the greatest advantages of educational podcasts is the portability and convenience they offer. Podcasts can be downloaded to a mobile device, allowing the student to access the learning resources at any time, 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 it attracts. It's tricky to encourage students to spend 30 minutes reading an article or watching a record lecture. That's because text and video requires a student's full attention – they need to sit patiently, unable to multitask. As you probably know, this is tricky because of the number of potential distractions waiting on the next browser tab.

Podcasts, on the other hand, can be consumed in otherwise wasted time or alongside a routine activity. Students are far more likely to consume materials if they can do it while on the bus or driving, washing the dishes, or even working out at the gym. In these situations, students are distracted by a rote task but can give their undivided attention to your content. While text and video forms of distribution struggle to attract more than 2 to 3 minutes of viewing, podcasts routinely run more than an hour long. One of the most popular shows is a history podcast that can run for 3 hours!

Student Created Content

One of the most interesting and valuable uses of educational podcasting is the increased opportunity for student-created content.

You might allow students to create their own podcast, perhaps including questions, discussions, presentations, or projects. These can 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.

Lecture Review

One of the simplest uses of educational podcasting is to record your existing lectures. This makes them easily accessible to students and creates invaluable study aids.

Students can use the podcast for reference purposes or when preparing themselves for upcoming examinations. Any student who experiences difficulty understanding a topic in the classroom can listen to a podcast at their own convenience, allowing them to study 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 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 very appealing to this demographic and offer an alternative to the course material for students that are averse to 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.

(Source: The Podcast Host)

There are many free and low-cost podcasting tools available. Buffer lists resources that can take you through the process of your podcasting journey, from planning the podcast, tools for communicating, recording, editing, and distributing episodes, and more. Some of these tools can be incorporated into your everyday teaching as well!

SoundCloud is available for free and comes with additional features for a monthly subscription. Edit podcasts and stream podcasts through your profile. Episodes can also be embedded online.

Dr. Mathew Mitchell, a professor in the School of Education, teaches courses in the Learning & Instruction and Educational Technology programs. He uses podcasts in his students in his courses as another form of delivering content to his students.

Visit Mathew's website

Maybe you or someone you know has already found success with educational podcasting. If so, we’d love to hear from you: email instructionaldesign@usfca.edu.

The University of San Francisco provides access to Zoom, a video conferencing application that can be downloaded to computers and mobile devices. Consider recording a Zoom call with guest speakers for your class; at the end of your call, the recording will automatically save to your USF-provided account. Learn more about Zoom at the ITT resource page.

After you've recorded your podcast, distribute episodes by uploading to Canvas, USF's learning management system. For inquiries about how to customize Canvas to address your course needs, visit the Canvas ITT resource page for self-guided training materials and to request a consultation with an instructional technologist.

Whether you don’t know where to start or have a particular educational technology in mind, we are here to help! To learn how to apply educational technologies to your course, request an Instructional Design consultation.

Request Instructional Design Workshops
USF's Instructional Designers offer a one-hour workshop on using multimedia in your courses. Explore different types of media to help students with mastering concepts and best practices for creating personal recordings.

For more information, email the Instructional Design team.