Podcast vs. Lecture. Let the battle begin

I found this link on twitter from New Scientist.

'iTunes university' better than the real thing

This pretty much sums it up:

"Students have been handed another excuse to skip class from an unusual quarter. New psychological research suggests that university students who download a podcast lecture achieve substantially higher exam results than those who attend the lecture in person."

The article also mentions a research study by McKinney that gave half of a class of 64 podcast lectures instead of a traditional lecture. Looking at the details, it doesn't seem like too convincing of a study. Primarily because of the low numbers. But this would make an interesting project.

Now for the rant. I support our new podcasting lecture overlords. If all you (as an instructor) are doing is stuff that could be a podcast, then why not have it as a podcast? I don't think that you should force students to come to class just because....I have no idea. The above article mentions that some professors have their lectures on iTunes university, but limit the number of downloads to encourage students to come to class. I don't get it. If they can get everything they need from the podcast, why come to class?

I think technology is cool. However, just using technology because you can is a bad idea. In this, case, I don't think the technology is used incorrectly. If you have a class that is just a lecture, the podcast makes a lot of sense. You can pause it and replay it. That should be useful. The problem is (in my opinion) with classes that can be podcasted. Maybe there is a need for some classes that have very low level learning (like memorizing stuff), but I think there should be more classes that engage students at a higher level.

Another point I like to make from time to time. If all you are going to do in the class is lecture, that can be done online - probably better than what you can offer. Oh, I know - but you offer the opportunity for questions. True, but can students pause and replay you? I guess this is a passive vs. active class issues. There are some relatively simple ways to make a class interactive.

  • My favorite is the Student Response System (usually called 'clickers'). These are little remotes that they students have and use to vote on the response to different questions. I know it sounds silly, but it can really change the interactivity level of the class. Put up a question, if most students get it right then move on. If there are two different answers that are popular, have the students discuss with their neighbors and revote. This is so easy to implement in a traditional lecture environment.
  • Worksheets. Sounds silly, but I like some type of worksheet. Focused on some particular concept. I like them because it gives students a chance to interact with their peers and with me. Sure, they can always ask questions in class, but they don't. If I give a worksheet, then I can walk around and see what they are doing. The problem is finding (and now printing) good worksheets.
  • Work and present problems. This one depends on how large your class is, but having students work in small (2-3) groups to solve a problem is a good idea. They can then present this solution to the class. You can't do that in a podcast.

More like this

Yeah, I have a hard time believing podcastes could ever replace actual classes. Here at UC Irvine, for example, students work on lots of labs and problem sets together. That part of learning is as essential as the lectures themselves. Unless you are taking a real class, there is no way you can supplement this. You just can't substitute what is gained from working through some tough problems with your peers.

A Diversity founding postulate is that universities sell access rather than content. In what resume would objective competence impress rather than repulse Personnel? Aside from Google, none. Hours donated to community service are important in an employment interview.

If you graded 5% A, 15% B, 50% C, 20% D, 10% F you would be fired on the spot and grades compassionately reassigned. In 2009 that is monstrous... and Big Pharma cannot imagine why near nothing comes out of its labs. Install more managers!

Uncle Al's first term organic lecture had 1200+ enrollees. 17 were graduated BS/Chem three years later. Imagine how avidy we were recruited by academia and industry thereafter! Riiight.