New Trends in Online Learning: Podcasts
In recent years you’ve probably heard the term “podcast” at the end of your favorite television or radio program. Perhaps you are digitally savvy and know just what that means, or maybe you are not sure exactly what the term signifies; but either way, you might not have considered how podcasts have changed online learning.
What is a "podcast?"
A “podcast” is a digital media file (or series of files) that is distributed over the Internet. You play a podcast with either a hand-held digital device (such as an iPod—hence the “pod” in the podcast) or on a personal computer. Because you can download these “broadcasts” and listen to them at any time that is convenient for you, they are incredibly valuable in the world of online learning.
Podcasts & Online Learning
Online learning provides flexibility and access to anyone interested in earning a college degree, an advanced degree, or fulfilling continuing education requirements. With online learning, you can be miles away from the school of your choice and not have to uproot your life, career, and family to earn that degree. You can also earn your degree in the evenings or on weekends—or even in the middle of the night! Online learning has become increasingly popular over the last ten years, and even the stodgiest of the brick-and-mortar colleges and universities are hopping on the bandwagon and providing either partial or full degree programs online. Podcasts have made online learning even easier, and unlike older digital video and audio files, are much more compact and simple to both create and download, and don’t usually require special technology to view or listen to.
Professors use basic video technology to record their lectures, then convert the file to a digital format and place the lectures on a web host site. Students can download the lectures and listen to them as many times as they need to in order to best absorb the information. Of course, students can also listen to the lectures at any time of the day or night—which is highly valuable for those that are working and earning an online degree.
Many colleges are now using podcasts to enhance the learning experience of both the traditional classroom and those utilizing online and distance learning opportunities. In the fall of 2004, Duke University made waves by giving each of their incoming freshman an iPod to assist them with their studies. While Duke didn’t experience the sweeping success they’d hoped for, there is no doubt that online learning is significantly benefited by the use of podcasts.
Listening to digital audio content won’t, of course, replace reading, listening to live presentations, or the multitude of other ways students absorb in information, but it can augment those methods significantly—and certainly makes online learning much easier and more accessible. If you are planning on earning a degree online, you may want to consider an MP3 player to be an important part of your “school supplies.” With an MP3 player, you can listen to your lectures while at the gym or stuck in traffic. It’s the ultimate in multi-tasking!