An interesting article that examined whether audio podcasting in higher education was beneficial was written by Hew (2008). In his article, “Use of audio podcast in K-12 and higher education: a review of research topics and methodologies” Hew shared his results from a review of studies on podcast use. In the literature examined, podcasts were used to provide full lectures, supplement lessons, or present student work, and were offered in face-to-face or fully online courses. However, most studies reviewed were descriptive only (not experimental), and took place in higher education and in traditional classrooms.
Hew found the following:
- while it increased student satisfaction, there was little significant difference in student learning when using podcasts
- student barriers when using podcasts were unfamiliarity, access, downloading, and relevance
- preferred length of podcasts were from 5 to 20 minutes
- students accessed podcasts mostly from their personal computers not mobile devices
- when listening to podcasts, students did not multitask but focused on the content
- downloading from a website versus subscribing to a feed (RSS) was preferred
- short-term use of podcasts (during a few weeks) might increase the novelty of the product but not impact
- the provision of podcasts affected attendance only by 10% (those how skipped class)
- students preferred face-to-face lessons because of interaction, structure, and ability to question/discuss
Hew determined that “the prediction that podcasting could result in pervasive mobile learning that truly takes place anywhere, as argued by advocates, did not bear fruit.” (p.341)
He also had suggestions for future research on podcasting effects.:
- examine student created podcasts (Jonassen et al., 2008), not only those developed by instructors
- conduct studies over a longer period of time
- determine the elements or characteristics of a course that might benefit from podcasting (specific content, simulations)
- examine the impact of podcasting in online courses
- study connections between learner characteristics and using podcasts
While only one source, this article shows that multimedia needs to be critically examined. Though, the potential impact, convenience, and portability of multimedia is widely applauded, it is still questionable on how or whether it impacts learning.
For instance, I am currently teaching a blended course at a vocational college. In this course, I had students post their ideas/responses in online discussion boards and blog their reflections after class. Though of the prime age to embrace technology, the student struggled with these technological-based activities. In turn, I found I needed to guide them more and provide digital literacy lessons to help them engage with these activities. Most were unsure what to do and also felt intimidated to present ideas or permanently post the wrong answers. They also were unsure how to engage in a text-based discussion – what were they to say?
After some hesitation they became more comfortable and involved with the activities. As well, I recently added an exercise where the students worked in partnerships, analyzed a chosen article on a relevant topic, and posted a few main ideas in the online discussion board, while in class. Their postings, in this case, were superior to those created in isolation.
The point of the article and my teaching experiences is learners may not be completely adept in using learning technologies and might require time to adjust along with guidance. Building learning environments riddled with Web2.0 technologies might not be a quick answer to improved pedagogy, as promised. Starting with smaller technological steps, while considering current research, might be best. This, I am sure, is a relief those who teach.
Yet, I wonder if contradictory ideas presented by pundits like Verganti are valid. He states that “user-centered innovations are not sustainable” meaning if we continue to build learning environments designed by user preference we will not be innovative or improve. His claims we must look beyond what is currently fashionable, useable and in demand, and build innovations based on newer and sustainable ideas. Sustainability in the educational field would be balancing increased enrolment, reduced budgets, emerging technologies, and limited physical space.
Perhaps, pushing learning technologies, albeit through guided instruction, is a better direction for educational efforts. Thinking outside the box, while insisting on rich learning environments and experiences, might be the key to sustainable and quality education. However, guided instruction will require skilled instructional staff. This is another potential challenge and worthy of another discussion.