Check out this comment from Jeff Curto, one of the people whose podcasts I featured in an earlier post. Note, in particular, the reaction of his students to being part of a larger audience. His perception of their response squares with what I’ve learned over the years about students and online writing. The larger the perceived audience is, the better their writing seems to be (by and large).
History Course Podcasts
After some back and forth with myself over what to do about podcasting, I’ve made the decision to podcast my summer school course on 19th century Europe. The back and forth was not about the virtues of podcasting, but about the technical aspects. Of course, it means I’m going to have to go and upgrade my iPod so I can have video (like I needed an excuse) and, more importantly, the ability to attach a microphone to the iPod. The camera and the mic we’ve already got here at CHNM, so now I just need some practice with iLife.
A good overview of what the educational blogosphere is saying about podcasts can be found at Endless Hybrids. Reading through the posts compiled here, you get a sense for the range of opinions–from enthusiasm to outright anxiety.
History Course Podcasts
The podcasting of history courses has begun.
In a quick search of the web I found several examples of history courses being podcasted by their instructors:
Jennifer Burns’ Introduction to the History of the United States at Berkeley
Thomas Laqueur’s European Civilization course at Berkeley
Jeff Curto’s History of Photography at the College of DuPage
Gordon Lam’s History of the United States at Folsom Lake College
These early course podcasts are largely “classroom captures”, by which I mean they broadcast captures of the classroom experience in audio (or in one case video) format. For the student who missed class, these would be very useful, because he/she can not only hear the professor’s lecture, but can also listen to the questions and answers in the class. This alone is a significant advance on the old practice of posting lecture notes on a website for those students who missed class. And, two of these are available via iTunes, which gives them a potentially huge market beyond the confines of their institution.
Of the examples cited above, only Burns’ course offers video to go along with the audio. XXX at DuPage uses music and studio voiceovers at the beginning of the podcast, but then the audio quality declines. As such, they are truly beta samples of what we can expect in the future. Further, they don’t take advantage of the full capabilities of the available technology—such things as placemarks in the audio stream, links to text or image files, and so on. Soon, though, we can expect to see more and more historians pushing the envelope of what the podcast offers.
When I talk to colleagues about podcasting and ideas like iTunesU, some are intrigued, but most worry that podcasting a class will lead to significant declines in classroom attendance. After all, if a student can listen to/watch class without attending, why would he (or she)?
This anxiety is important, but not for the reason given by those feeling anxious. What’s really at stake here is a bigger problem…if students will choose to skip class and just listen/watch, then isn’t there something wrong with the class? If our classes are so dull that a student might just as well access them while on the treadmill or the bus, then I submit it’s time to teach differently.
2 thoughts on “History Course Podcasts”
Thanks for the list, I’ll add these to my podcast stream.
I am currently in a program that offers full audio of the entire class, and even offered full time students i-pods when enrolling. I have yet to listen to a podcast of a class and about 1/2 those surveyed said the same thing … but … I do listen to course related podcasts all the time. Right now, it is supplemental, in the future it could be more integrated – assignments could be introduced by the professor for example.
Thanks for noting my Photo History podcast. I thought I’d tap out a few lines about my experience. I originally thought about recording the lectures for students who might have missed a class, but now have people listening literally all over the world, which is pretty amazing. It’s opened the door of the classroom to the rest of the world.
I’ve done all of the work on podcasting my courses without any support from my institution. It’s my own mic, my own software, etc. All the institution gives me is web space and now they are starting to complain about bandwidth consumption. I would love to have better quality stuff, but don’t want to spend my own money on equipment, etc.
In terms of students attending class, it seems as though my students are coming to class regardless of whether or not I record the lecture. Yet, by show of hands, about 65% to 70% of the students are using the recorded lectures as a resource. The fact that I have “worldwide” listeners seems to earn me some cache with the students in the classroom, too, especially when I read emails from listeners in Japan and New Zealand to my in-room students.
It’s a brave new world…
College of DuPage, Glen Ellyn, IL
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4 thoughts on “History Course Podcasts”
Awesome! So are you going to do just video podcasts, audio, or both? I’m really interested to see how this turns out, and even more interested in the technical aspects of getting this stuff created and distributed.
My idea is to do both audio and video. One thing that worries me about video, though, is that I teach the class in a fairly discussion-oriented manner and so if the students show up on video that we broadcast via podcast, I need to go through the cumbersome process of securing releases from them. It’s possible, by the way, that I need to secure those releases anyway…this is an issue I need to investigate more.
The technical issues are either simple or difficult. If it’s just audio, I can plug a nice microphone into my iPod and record each class as I wander around the room. This will pick me up easily and some of the student questions. If I decide to use video, then there are two choices. I can use an immobile camera that is trained on the podium and pick up that portion of the class that takes place via the podium. This will be hard for me because I tend to wander as I teach. If I decide to use a moving camera, that requires someone standing behind the camera tracking me as I wander, which obviously adds another layer of complexity.
So you are planning on recording your classes for the podcasts? That’s interesting. When I had though about podcasts being utilized in class, I had though of them more as a supplement to any lecturing you would do in class, i.e., that you could highlight ideas you from the readings of the coming week for students to concentrate on, or present the introductory lecture you would use before beginning the seminar portion of the class, thus leaving more time for discussion.
But the way you conceive it also seems useful. I am a terrible note taker in class, usually because when I am engaged in thinking and talking about a topic, writing takes a back seat. It would allow students to refer back to these moments more easily.
Hi Ken. I’m going to mostly record what’s happening in class and, if I can get the time, will also try to develop some supplementary stuff. We’ll see how it goes.
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