Podcasts revolutionize classrooms, lectures

By Gail Katherine Ziegler
November 11, 2005

Shane Evans

Podcasts are creeping onto college campuses, could Cabrini be next? Professors and students alike are skeptical about whether it would improve education here on campus.

Universities have been recording lectures digitally and then putting them online for students to download onto their iPods, desktops and laptops.

Podcasts could be used as supplements to course materials providing another way for students to study or catch up on difficult material, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Chronicle also identifies the pros of podcasting as saving class time, a way to slow down lectures for non-English-speaking students and a more portable way to study for students.

Equally, numerous are the cons, according to The Chronicle. Dwindling class attendance, the question of students actually listening and the question of who owns the intellectual property of lectures are among them.

Most Cabrini students have not heard of the educational uses for their iPods, but many would like the extra study option. And as for class, it would be another obstacle in filling the chairs.

Sam Robinson, a sophomore business major, said, “I would probably still go to class, but it would be tempting not to.”

Professor Harvey Lape said that the podcasts would tempt students and probably have a slight effect. To keep students in the seats, Lape said, “I would still take attendance.” Lape thought that it would be a good idea for students who needed to slow down difficult lecture material.

Andrew Madonia, a junior literature and philosophy major, brings up another valid point; the podcasts would bore students just like a lecture. “I’d be bored and tune it out,” Madonia said.

Professor Jerry Zurek views podcasts as supplements to a class. He has his communications students listen to files on the computer already. The only difference is what device they download it to. Downloading to an iPod would add the convenience of portability.

Zurek raises the point that classes are more than just the transferal of information. Madonia agreed and said, “Classes are involved [at Cabrini].”

The Chronicle said that most students view podcasts as extra material for class and not as a replacement for attending.

Joe Driscoll, a senior business administration major, agrees. “I would go to class. If I listened to a podcast, I wouldn’t take notes. I need to go to class to get all of the material,” Driscoll said. He also thought that without taking notes a student could not pick up all of the material.

Senior Conor McLaughlin, a philosophy major, has an iPod and was thrilled at the idea of skipping a few classes and listening to lectures in the car or at the gym. He said he would be more willing to go on vacation and miss class if podcasts were available.

Marty Shea, a sophomore English and communication major, said he would choose the podcast if class was optional. He also said, “Even if it is better to go to class, I’d probably listen to the podcast instead.”

According to The Chronicle, non-English-speaking students could benefit from hearing the lectures again.

Jessica Vera, a Spanish tutor, likes the idea that her tutees could hear a Spanish lecture as many times as they would like. Vera is a senior elementary education major and a Spanish minor who spoke Spanish growing up at home, as well as English.

When Vera’s mother took English classes to improve her speaking skills, she would tape the lectures in class and listen to them over and over. Vera knows first hand that podcasts could help language barriers in classrooms.

Vera said that “it would help a lot,” especially in high level Spanish classes. Being a Spanish speaker, she said that she is impressed with how much her classmates pick up in classes spoken entirely in another language.

As for her tutees, Vera said, “If they did more audio, the students would do better.” She said that the students would pick up more of the language. There are listening exercises on tests, but none done in class.

Cabrini is still a very small school with small lectures. Lectures at Cabrini are more like a traditional class. At larger schools, lectures are classes that have hundreds of students in them. There is no opportunity to ask questions in a larger lecture, but at Cabrini, classes are interactive.

Even though Vera believes that podcasting could really help students, she is not convinced that they would listen. She said, “I don’t think people would use them.”

Loquitur welcomes your comments on this story. Please send your comments to: Loquitur@yahoogroups.com. The editors will review your points each week and make corrections if warranted.

Posed to the web by Brandon Edwards

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Gail Katherine Ziegler

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