Podcast Theory Gap

E-Learning Queen writes about the Podcast Theory Gap:

Online learners seem to prefer using audio and web-based information in ways that counter what researchers recommend.

Although instructional designers do not often like to mention this, the fact is, it is the rare learner who will sit at a computer and willingly watch a 20 or 30-minute presentation. However, the same learners are happy to listen to an audio file (podcast or book on tape). Although multimedia presentations are not intended to be used in this way, many individuals download the audio aspect separately and listen to it while doing something else, usually something routine: commuting to work, routine data entry on the computer, preparing food in the kitchen, working in the garden.

Later, they will scan through the printout they made. This will be read without the audio.

I’ve been thinking about podcasts and their possible applications to teaching and learning on and off over the past couple of months.

For the past couple of years I’ve used the in-house iPLOD (Internet Powerpoint Lecture on Demand) system to record lectures as PowerPoint web presentations with a (theoretically synchronised) WMV audio component. That works after a fashion, avoids having somebody repeat the lecture at our remote campus, and also provides an alternative for local students who, for whatever reason, can’t or won’t attend lectures. The inevitable consequence of recording seems to be that a substantial proportion of students don’t attend lectures, preferring to timeshift or avoid them altogether. Accessing the lectures requires sitting in front of a computer for an hour (or more) to receive a streamed transmission and many of our students have slow connections on which they experience interruptions due to buffering problems. Given that, I suspect that many students miss at least a proportion of the lectures entirely.

Over the past year or so the university has also begun to offer Breeze and some staff have used it to record slicker, and possibly more compact, presentations that include Powerpoint slides and audio. These materials are made available on the Internet through WebCT or on CD-ROMs distributed to students in a course. In the latter case students are spared the agony of long downloads but the materials need to be prepared well in advance in order to allow time for production of the CD-ROMs.

Both iPLOD and Breeze combine visual (Powerpoint slides) and audio content in a single presentation which effectively requires students to sit in front of a computer for as long as it takes to view the presentation. Some, probably most, people developing presentations create something similar in style and length to a traditional lecture. Others are breaking their material into shorter segments dealing with specific topics.

I had been wondering for some time whether providing the Powerpoint files and a podcast separately might be a reasonable alternative. It seems from what E-Learning Queen is saying that it might be a technique worth exploring. Her post is worth a closer look and, if I can overcome my irrational fear of a microphone in an empty room, I might try my hand at podcasting some elements of my classes.

(Via OLDaily.)