Podcasting in the Academy


Last week I attended a workshop on team-based learning that was sponsored by BYU. Someone brought up the idea of the instructor creating audio commentaries of books and papers assigned used in course. This naturally caught my attention because of my recent interest in podcasting.

The conversation turned to practical issues and somebody said they burned them on CDs and handed them out to the class. The very idea of burning 30-40 CDs by hand every couple of weeks was enough to give me the chills, so I asked "why not just load them on Blackboard?" (Blackboard is a content management system aimed at higher education. BYU has an instance that all faculty and students have access to.) The answer was surprising: Blackboard (at least as instantiated at BYU) has a 300Mb limit per faculty member and some were already bumping up against their limit.

Now, this isn't an issue for anyone with their own server, as would be the case for all CS faculty, but for an English professor, its a real limit. The irony of the situation, of course, is that Google will give you 3 times as much storage for free to keep your email! This is a great example of online offerings getting ahead of planned IT rollouts. Institutions frequently don't stand a chance.

Even so, I'm intrigued by the idea of using podcasting to augment classwork. The idea of audio commentary is especially appealing for my research course next semester since I won't want to take class time to go over each paper in detail and students do frequently need some kind of help interpreting research papers and putting them in context. It also wouldn't be that difficult to record lectures for students to listen to later, although I don't do a lot of traditional lecturing in my current class.