The Potential in Podcasts

What do podcasts have to do with teaching and learning in online education? What lessons can educators take away from the popularity of this medium?

Are you a podcast fan or do you know someone who is? While I enjoy following a couple of podcasts during my daily commute, especially NPR’s Hidden Brain, my college-aged daughters are devoted listeners of several. They plug into their phones while doing chores, hanging out and—yes, I’m sorry to say— while doing their homework. There’s a podcast for virtually any subject: from political analysis to humanities and the arts, from entertainment to the psychology and science of learning (my personal favorite).

In addition to the continuously expanding set of topics, podcasts are growing in popularity. According to an Edison Research 2018 report, 44% of all Americans age 12 and older have listened to a podcast, and 26% of those had listened to one in the past month.

So, what do podcasts have to do with teaching and learning in online education? What lessons can educators take away from the popularity of this medium? What are ways we can use podcasting in our teaching? A recent Chronicle of Higher Education article, “What Podcasts Can Teach Us About Teaching” offers some intriguing answers.

As the article explains, podcasts entertain, educate, inform, and persuade through storytelling, which is a proven effective teaching tool. While a podcast, at times, can feel informal, it has the potential to help the listener make a personal connection to the stories. The variations in tone convey a sense that is not communicated in text alone. And let’s be honest, we often listen to podcasts while doing something else, like driving or cleaning which is very helpful for busy graduate students with full-time jobs. As an instructor, you can use podcasts to  share your own professional experiences, introduce interesting case studies, connect course content to current or historical events, and inspire your students on a path of their own passion.

How can you get started?

The following are a few options for how to use those podcasts in your teaching by creating/finding a podcast, or specific podcast episode, that meets your learning needs :

  1. Share the podcast or episode with your students as part of an assignment or learning activity.
  2. Initiate discussions with a podcast.
  3. As part of a larger or long-term assignment, have students select, share, and listen to podcast episodes that are relevant to the module or course topic.
  4. Create your own weekly podcast for students: module introductions, case studies, stories, etc.
  5. Have students create a podcast individually or as a group. Be sure that the podcasts will have an audience; potential podcast listeners might include classmates or students in another course.

If you are excited about incorporating podcasts into your teaching and want to work out the details of implementing them, our Instructional Designers are happy to help. Review the calendar for IRC Instructional Designer Meeting Availability.

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