This study compared the test results of students who listened to a lecture in class with students who listened to a podcast of the lecture. Both groups had access to a PowerPoint presentation used by the lecturer. The mean test score of those listening to the podcast were higher. The researchers attribute this to the students’ ability to pause and replay. Also, students who took notes while listening to the podcasts scored significantly higher than their in-class counter-parts.
Does this mean we can replace professors or eliminate face-to-face lectures? No, the study only provides evidence that students may learn declaritive content better when they have the ability to control playback. It doesn’t account for the student-to-professor or student-to-student interaction that may take place during a face-to-face lecture.
The study does help justify the hard work of professors like Ben McFarland who record lectures and make them available to students on Seattle Pacific University’s iTunes U site. Podcasting is a lot of work. Therefore, if we truly believe students benefit from podcasts we need to find ways to make podcasting easier to do. SPU is now using Camtasia Relay to make content-casting easier. Professors can record both audio and what is on the computer display with only a few clicks. Profiles are then used to determine where the content is posted after the lecture is completed.
Here’s an article describing one teacher’s experience with having students create podcasts. The teacher found that when students podcast they increase their knowledge of the subject they are covering. He also said creating podcasts improved students’ ability to communicate ideas about a topic.
This newspaper article discusses the use of iTunes U in the UK from a former student’s perspective. The columnist makes a good point about how learning through listening can be done at times when students are ready to learn rather than when a lecture is scheduled. She also points out that students who skip class will probably not be the ones listening to these lectures, thus agreeing with the findings of Dr. Cara Lane from the University of Washington. Lane surveyed students and found that only 16% felt that the availability of a podcast for a lecture would make them less likely to attend class. My guess is that these same students are looking for a reason to skip.
A recent study at the University of Wisconsin E-Business Institute found that 82% of undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison would prefer to have courses with an online-lecture option. Besides the expected “Making up for a missed class”, students also see using online lectures as a way to improve retention of class material and review content before coming to class.
I was surprised that 60% of students indicated a willingness to pay extra to access these online lectures when there are a number of technologies (i.e. iTunes U, YouTube, Blip.tv, screencast.com) that can provide online lectures with no additional cost to the students. Educators need to find ways to include this service without additional fees. We are doing this with iTunes U and a beta product from Techsmith that I can’t talk about yet. Oops, I may have said to much already.
Here’s a presentation I gave at the 2008 MERLOT conference about Seattle Pacific University’s experience with iTunes U over the last two years. MERLOT 2008: iTunes U – Lessons Learned after 2 Years on the Trail
Note: I don’t start talking until about 20 seconds into the video.
Alabama plans to be the first in the nation to have distance learning (synchronous and asynchronous) at all of its high schools. This should give students access to courses their school may not offer. Will this allow students to take online courses from other schools rather than face the tough teacher at their school?
Here is the website for the Alabama distance learning program. It looks like they have a list of courses and are recruiting teachers. Other than being the first, I wonder what the advantages are of rolling out a program like this. It seems like a centralized approach is working for other states.
Is iTunes U good for education? How can universities afford to give it away? I believe that iTunes U is a great tool for the open content movement in education. Free content is different than free courses, certification, or degrees.
Malasian schools participating in a 1:1 computer initiative with Intel Classmate computers. They are happy with initial results and will be expanding the pilot to include more schools.