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Podcasting enters classroom

April 17th, 2006

By Judy Hughes

iPod users can download the latest music, popular television shows — and now, their professor’s most recent lecture. One of the most popular entertainment gadgets also is one of the newest educational tools.

Graduate social work students in Stan Frager’s psychopathology class at the University of Louisville are benefiting from this veteran educator’s willingness to blaze a trail in university educational technology. They appear to be the first on Belknap Campus to try out the mobile learning option of podcasting.

“It allows learning to take place virtually anywhere,” said Ron Schildknecht, manager of multimedia services for U of L’s Delphi Center for Teaching and Learning, which has helped Frager set up and manage his podcast.

Computer accessible

Despite the implication of its name, a podcast can be accessed via computer as well as MP3 player, an option most of Frager’s students seem to choose. Judging from the proliferation of earbuds across campus, the folks at the Delphi Center also expect undergraduates to welcome the alternative of accessing material on the go and they are banking on other faculty members following Frager’s lead.

Frager became intrigued by podcasting at the Delphi Center’s open house and jumped at the chance to try it out in his class.

“I’m willing to try it. No one else had.…I love new technology,” said Frager, who winds up 33 years teaching full-time this semester.

Each week Frager captures his lecture with a digital audio recorder and delivers the material to Schildknecht. Delphi Center staff edit the recording and upload the MP3 file to a server so Frager’s students can access the content.

“We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for the students, for even the less technically savvy students, to load without much frustration,” Schildknecht said.

Versatile format

Besides the audio podcast of Frager’s lectures, the Delphi Center crew also has dubbed brief segments off videotapes Frager supplied to offer students video podcasts that complement his lectures. They also synchronized a guest lecturer’s PowerPoint presentation with audio of her voice for an “enhanced podcast,” Schildknecht said.

The opportunity to access the guest lecturer’s material was a relief for student Sandi Whiteside when she unavoidably had to miss that class. A regular user of what she dubbed the “Fragercast,” Whiteside referred to herself as a nontraditional student who is “grateful to be able to listen to the podcast before and after class to take notes, or to listen in my private time. It really does help.”

Diane Dawson agreed.

“The availability of those podcasts is wonderful for students,” she said. “Because of the amount of information discussed in class, it has been very helpful for me to go back and listen to lectures a few days later. I often pick up pieces of information that I missed the first time.

Frager’s students will complete a survey about the podcasting experience at the semester’s end, and the Delphi Center will study the results as it encourages more U of L faculty to incorporate the service into course offerings.

“There are a lot of possibilities we have only begun to explore,” Schildknecht said. For example, a guest lecturer’s presentation recorded at a remote location could be made available to multiple classes or sections.

“We all learn differently,” Frager said. “I think it’s just one more tool that makes education interesting to students.”

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