Podcasting has recently been discovered by educators as an attractive and flexible medium for class assignments. Podcasting assignments can encourage creativity, collaboration, and provide a sense of community in your course while at the same time, giving students opportunities to practice writing and presentation skills, and providing valuable experience expressing themselves through multimedia. Practically speaking, podcasting is also an attractive way to integrate technology into the curriculum because the tools involved are generally open source, easy to use, and present a very low barrier to entry.
Podcasting refers to the process of making audio recordings available online in a syndicated manner so that listeners can subscribe to podcast ‘feeds’ and be alerted when new recordings are available. While this sort of very public distribution might be appropriate for some types of digital assignments, podcasting as a course assignment more often focuses on the process of creating the podcast and in giving students opportunities to express themselves in new ways and in new media.
As with other media, podcasts can reflect many different genres. Podcasts might contain interviews, conversations, scripted audio dramas, news documentaries, or film or music reviews. Most often however, podcasts are presented in some sort of narrative form. In this regard, storyboarding and organizing materials are often essential to creating an effective podcast. Many professional podcasts may leave listeners the impression that they are freeform and ad-libbed. This may be true for a podcaster with many years of experience, but for students with no experience producing podcasts, a well developed script is almost essential.
In developing a podcast, attention should be paid to the listener’s experience. Being a very linear format, audio gives content producers the opportunity to lead the listener through an unfolding experience.
- Podcasting assignments can encourage creativity, collaboration, and provide a sense of community.
- Podcasting assignments can provide students opportunities to practice writing and presentation skills, as well as experience expressing themselves through multimedia. As a strictly linear medium, students must focus on the sequence and pacing of the presentation.
- Podcasting can be an assignment in which students are not only expressing their work in written text but also in spoken form, through music and through sound effects. This involves not only working in multimedia, but also via multiple senses.
- Although instructors often choose to restrict access to the final student podcasts, podcasts are a medium that is meant to be distributed widely. In executing a podcasting assignment, even if those podcasts do not end up being distributed to the world, students get experience crafting arguments for a broader audience.
- Podcasts require that students pay close attention to how their story or argument is crafted. A podcast can be a variant form of a term paper, a re-expression of that paper in audio form, but simply reading a term paper into the microphone will not make for a good podcast. Students should be aware of transitions between segments, cadence, and musical interludes.
Creating a successful podcast consists of skills in two quite different areas: technical and storytelling. Students will need familiarity with recording and editing audio perhaps using specialized equipment such as lapel microphones and will need some training on audio editing software. Additionally, podcasting often involves forming interview questions and scripting the podcast so that conversation flows.
Rubrics and resources
- Podcasting, A Teaching with Technology White Paper, Eberly Center, Carnegie Mellon University
Podcasts, Digital Humanities Lab, Pacific Lutheran University
- Creating a Podcast Assignment. Swarthmore College ITS Blog
- Podcasting assignment for storytelling and collaboration. eLearning Sample Assignment Site, Instructional resources at William & Mary