IT Sligo has become one of the first third-level institutions in the country to deploy video podcasts of lectures to online engineering students, allowing them to view their lecturers using their iPod, mobile phone or any MP3 player with a video display.
Brian Coll, a lecturer at IT Sligo’s School of Engineering, told siliconrepublic.com that the college has 150 online students for whom the option of downloading podcast lectures will prove attractive. “Many would be working full-time in industry and usually only get to go online when they’ve put the kids to bed.
“We’ve taken the view that the role of the standard lecturer at third level and that of an online lecturer is fairly transparent. Give the lecturer a headset with a microphone, replace the whiteboard with a smart board and students can also download the PowerPoint slides that appear in the video recording.”
Coll said that up until now online students had the option of accessing lectures via streaming media but he believes the option of being able to carry lectures on iPods or other storage devices affords students much more flexibility. “It has a number of advantages. They can access the lecture at any time that suits them. It also means that online students that don’t have broadband at home but do so at work can download the lecture in their office and access it in their own time.”
According to Coll the provision of online lectures via podcasts is proving an impact in terms of IT Sligo students opting for key courses like mechanical electronics (mechatronics) and manufacturing management. “In the case of mechatronics we would have 20 full-time students but 50 online students. It is the only mechatronics course in the country where student numbers are actually doubling.”
Coll believes the provision of online resources to students will resonate strongly amongst Ireland’s existing workforce, many of whom realise the need to pursue further learning but don’t have the time or the economic means to take off work.
He cited a recent report on the changing workplace in Ireland which says that “by 2015, over 45pc of all jobs will be for third-level graduates and over three in four net new jobs will be for people with third-level qualifications”. Another report from the Expert Group on Future Skills needs stated that “projections of economic demand for skilled graduates suggest a deficit of some 100,000 graduates over the next 10 years”. With only one in three of 25-34 year olds holding a degree-level qualification, most of these people currently at work will be required to upskill to meet the demands of the new knowledge economy.
“Online learning is providing greater access for people with family or work commitments and who wish to boost their education without taking a career break,” he added.
Coll said that he didn’t believe the provision of video podcasts of lectures will provide a means for lazy full-time students to bunk off lectures. “I would argue the opposite for different reasons. Most students, according our college’s own research, work part-time 15-20 hours a week. If they miss a lecture then at least there’s an opportunity for them to keep up. I believe the benefits outweigh any concerns. DVDs haven’t killed the cinema business.
“It is our aim to deploy video podcasting across more online and full-time courses in the college. The flexibility that podcasting will bring to the third-level sector will matter to people who struggle with time to attend lectures or keep up to date,” he remarked.
The college will be demonstrating its video podcasting strategy at the Seventh Annual Irish Educational Technology Users’ Conference which will be taking place in IT Sligo on 25 and 26 of May.
By John Kennedy
Pictured — IT Sligo engineering lecturer Brian Coll performing on a video podcast for the college’s online students