Center seeks podcasting in classrooms

The Center for Instructional Services wants to make TCU more podcast-friendly in the classroom. Jess Price, media producer for CIS, said he hopes to build a comprehensive database of recordings of events held on campus as well as information from classes. Berkley and Stanford universities already have podcasts available through iTunes, and Price hopes he can do the same for TCU.

“We want to use podcasting as a value-added component to what students are learning in the classroom,” Price said. “It’s like reading an extra chapter outside of class.”

According to PC Magazine’s Web site, podcasting is recording a non-music audio broadcast of news, sports or discussion in an MP3 format for playback in a digital music player.

Several instructors at TCU have used podcasting in their classes. Dave Upton, associate professor of kinesiology said he experienced a sharp grade increase when he replaced the lab component of his class with the podcasts recorded by CIS.

“Grades went from an average of 67 – which is not passing – to the high 80s,” Price said.

Price believes the increase is because students could review the podcasts several times and see the procedures being done with a voice over by the professor.

Also, using podcasts allows the course to be offered more often because labs require space and supervision which limit the number of times labs can be scheduled, Price said. With the use of podcasts, students were able to complete the same amount of work without the constraints of lab time, Price said.

Amber Finn, director of speech communication, teaches an eight-week basic speech communication course which has 600 students enrolled. The class is divided into two lecture groups. The podcasts consist of pre-recorded lectures, however, certain elements of the course are discussed in greater detail during the class lectures, Finn said.

According to a poll conducted in Finn’s class, 80 percent of students favored the use of podcasts, 15 percent disapproved and 5 percent undecided. Among those who disagreed, many believed podcasting would encourage procrastination and absenteeism.

Many students said they felt it would encourage students to be absent from classes.

Nishant Maller , a senior biology major, said the material would only be useful if it was an addition to the classes and not to replace the lectures because students would still be required to go to class in order to receive a majority of the information.

Price said the podcasts can be viewed on any iPod-like device or any computer with proper software installed.

“The advantage to this is that we could even expand the use of podcasts to virtual tours of campus, where a visitor could download a tour and play it in their iPod as they walk around campus,” Price said. “This way you can schedule your tour anytime you want and you don’t have to have a student in a purple shirt walking backward.”

Distribution of the podcasts has been discussed, and iTunes U is a possible outlet.

ITunes U is a service provided by iTunes, allowing institutions to upload their content and made available through the iTunes store. YouTube and eCollege are other possibilitiesfor distributing the podcasts to TCU students, Price said.

Other universities such as the California Berkeley, Southern Methodist, Stanford and Yale already use iTunes U and have extensive content available to nonstudents. Price said Stanford has a large database including guest speakers and sporting events. Podcasts of guest speakers are available through the iTunes store including a recent speech by the Dalai Llama, which are available for free.

Price said his department is looking to install software on computers on campus which would allow professors to record their own audio podcasts and upload them to be made available to students.

“We are also looking at software which would enable professors to record their lectures as they are giving them in class and incorporate any visual aids they use such as slideshows,” Price said.