Podcasts pip professors to the post

19 Feb 2009

Students listening to podcasts of their lecture material, while using study aides, have been shown to perform higher in an exam than those taking notes while attending actual lectures, according to a newly published study.

The study, entitled iTunes University and the Classroom: Can Podcasts Replace Professors?, was carried out using downloadable educational podcasts from iTunes University versus lectures delivered by professors.

Participants in both conditions were told to note their study time and the activities used to prepare for an exam.

“One week from the initial session, students returned to take an exam on lecture content. Results indicated that students in the podcast condition who took notes while listening to the podcast scored significantly higher than students in the lecture condition,” said Dani McKinney, in the paper.

Using two groups of students, the test was carried out for one lecture (on visual perception), rather than an entire college course or module, to measure how effective a podcast would be in replacing a single lecture.

This does not necessarily mean that the podcast is superior to the professor, of course. Students who simply listened to the podcast without taking any notes did not fare any better than the other test group, whereas those who listened more than once to the podcast achieved higher scores.

“It isn’t so much that you have a podcast, it’s what you do with it,” McKinney told the New Scientist.

iTunes University was launched on 30 May 2007, and arrived in Ireland in June 2008 when Trinity College Dublin made available a selection of audio and video lectures and talks, making it the first Irish university to join.

By Marie Boran