4 mins reading and 2 mins listening
Writing in the past couple of days about the benefits of audio feedback and power of experiencing sound spaces has led me to reflect here on my very first podcast. I’ll admit I hadn’t planned this pseudo-trilogy of posts in advance, but handy things tend to happen when you make some media. And with that in mind, the exploratory enterprise of dipping my toe into the podcasting pond several years ago is exactly the reason I am now swimming in it each and every week…
It all happened very spontaneously when I was developing some new Digital Media units in 2016. I’d already been making teaching videos for three years and was now producing two – sometimes three – videos in a given week. A few weeks into the trimester, I needed to unpack the somewhat complex ways in which I was gamifying my units and from that the ‘Teaching from My Car‘ series was born.
I had never listened to a podcast before (I wasn’t even a big consumer of radio) and I’d never developed any media that was exclusively for audio delivery. The idea to give this ‘podcasting’ thing a go stemmed from the act of recording some working ideas for a video’s narration the year before. If you listen to the first few minutes of the podcast below, you’ll see – or hear – what I mean by that and you might be surprised at just how serendipitous the discovery of podcasting really was!
I distinctly remember assuming that this would be my only podcast while I was making it. The ‘Episode 1’ in the title was probably a late addition and perhaps as much wishful thinking as a commitment to make more, particularly given all the other media I was creating at the time. But when I released my first podcast to a cohort of 270+ students, their engagement with it told me something: They wanted more.
Within a week the podcast had well over 200 hits. While these might not have all been unique student views and a couple might have been random visits from other users (I had zero subscribers at the time), this kind of ‘turnout’ was unprecedented in the context of typical lecture attendance and ‘iLecture’ recording access combined. There was no doubt an element of ‘novelty’ for students in being provided with a podcast on SoundCloud, but the feedback I received directly from students, and indirectly via tutors, highlighted that there was something different about podcasting.
For one thing, while video retention trends of viewers have pushed most creators to adopt a ‘make it shorter and snappier’ approach to the audio-visual format, there seems to be more scope for lengthier podcasts – particularly when they involve interaction between multiple voices. The unsolicited student responses on this later episode in the series, which comprised general assignment feedback and advice for the next task, also signal the value students can find in the medium.
Podcasts can serve a variety of purposes in the teaching space. Here are just a few uses that I’ve put them to:
- Instructional podcasts that guide students through weekly topics by unpacking concepts, outlining learning exercises, and so on;
- Conversations with industry practitioners, researchers, and students that relate to curriculum and provide real-world insights and exemplars;
- Audio versions of videos that don’t contain crucial visual elements, which can be listened to as an alternative to viewing; and
- Dedicated assessment-related podcasts that explain in detail set tasks by expanding on written instructions.
By the way, I didn’t use any kind of sophisticated setup for the first several years of making podcasts, and I still often simply use my phone to record, as I did for my very first one. I’ll wrote more about strategies for making podcasts and other media in future posts, so thanks for reading and stay tuned…
And let me know how you have used or might use podcasts to engage your audience!! 🙂