eCoaching Tip 45 Freshening Your Course with Podcasts — A Source of Authentic and Current Course Content

May 25, 2007 Summer Tip #4

eCoaching Tip 45 Freshening Your Course with Podcasts — A Source of Authentic and Current Course Content

Fundamentals Tip – What Makes a Good Discussion Post?

This tip includes another fundamentals tip as part of our summer quick reminder series.

This fundamentals tip focuses on the question of just what makes a good discussion post.

Many faculty find it is helpful to think about the discussion board space the same way they think about the open face-to-face discussion time in a live classroom or seminar. When viewed this way, it is obvious that any discussion benefits from the presence of the faculty member — through active listening, commenting, encouraging.  This does not mean constant presence by the faculty member, but a presence that ensures that students feel that their comments are being heard and that they are part of the overall “action” of the course.

The discussion board is where we express what we know and why, what we don’t know and occasionally what we wish we knew. The discussion board — collectively — is where the community happens.  Postings and conversation threads in this space create social and cognitive connections.

To encourage students to think more deeply about what they know and how and why they know or believe something, the following template of the three-part post can be useful.  Here is a brief description of the three-part post and the directions you can use for your students.

Three Part Post — What, Why and What I Wish I Knew

When you have posted an open-ended question that asks students for their recommendations, ideas, and analyses about a particular problem direct your students to respond using these three elements in their post.  Ask students to do the following:

  1. State what your considered thought or recommendation regarding the problem or scenario might be. In other words, answer the question,  “What do you think?”
  2. Next, state whyyou think what you think. This is a time for learners to dig inside their heads, their experiences, and their beliefs. It is also a good place for learners to provide references, links, to experts, events, beliefs that share and support these beliefs.
  3. Thirdly, state what you wish you knew or what problem or challenge will follow or accompany the original question.

Try This Strategy with One of the Core Concepts in Your Course

Identify a core concept that you want your students to learn, think about deeply, one that impacts much of your course content. Create the initial catalyst question regarding that concept or idea or event. Then direct them to respond with the three-part post.  This can also be done in teams of 2 or 3.

For more on developing questions that encourage deep thinking, see Tip 26 Preparing Discussion Posts that Invite Reflection and Response http://www.designingforlearning.info/services/writing/ecoach/tips/tip26.html

Advanced Tip: Freshening Your Course with Podcasts— A Source of Authentic and Current Course Content

Have your students been asking you to start using podcast resources in your course? If so, here are two strategies for getting started that require little or no knowledge about the technical characteristics of podcasts.

Strategy One

Identify one of the learning activities in your course that requires students to do some research. For example, you may have a topic on your discussion board that requires that the student identify a reputable reference that supports their position that they are recommending. Once you identify that learning activity, expand the choices that students can use as a reputable resources to include a podcast on that topic.

Your instructions to the student might go as follows:

One of the topics that we will be reading/studying/working with over the next week is XXX, such as the markets in China, the characteristics of leaders, the costs of open software, or the pros and cons of intellectual property.  In your discussion of this topic on the discussion board, include content from a podcast and provide the bibliographic data, including the url for that podcast.

Strategy Two:

Identify one of the learning activities in your course for which you believe that current events or reports might be particularly helpful in providing an updated perspective.  Once you have identified a topic of interest, search the net by using the term “podcast” plus the keyword or words or person of your topic.

Once you find a good match of a podcast, you may want to download the file to your computer for off-net listening and analysis.  Then create the reference note and url for the podcast, and add that resource to the student’s assignments for discussion.

Finding Reputable Podcasts

While there are portals dedicated to podcasts such as the iTunes store (www.apple.com/itunes/store/podcasts.html), podcasts are now so ubiquitous that I prefer to simply google first.  Then I scan the results for my favorite content providers, such The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, American Public Radio, CNN, Scientific American, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.  And of course, I search the ITunes University site as well.  This site features free podcasts, lectures, videos, films and other resources from over 600 universities, including Stanford, Yale, MIT, Penn State and other well-known institutions. There is also a  “Beyond Campus” section that includes content from museums and other institutions such as MoMA, the New York Public Library, Public Radio International and PBS stations. For example, you can check out what is available from Stanford at http://itunes.stanford.edu/

 

If you teach in areas such as business, management, or society, the Harvard Business Review offers a weekly series, called Ideacasts that features  “breakthrough ideas and commentary from leading thinkers in business and management.” The podcast (#43) from May 25, 2007, for example, features an interview with Bill George, professor of management practice at Harvard and author of True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership, about “how leaders who are true to themselves add significant value to their organizations.” This fifteen-minute podcast can be streamed to your computer, or any of the multiple mobile smart devices and listen to it in the car, while you are exercising or wherever you have a few minutes. This series is now offered weekly and their archive has over 200 podcasts that are available through the iTunes site.

Subscribing to Podcasts

Once you start exploring the world of podcasts one of the decisions a podcast provider always presents to you is whether or not you want to subscribe to a podcast series. For example, that is one of the first questions you will see on any of the podcast series home pages.

What does this mean? This means that you can choose to store a series of podcasts on your computer. A convenient way of subscribing to a series of podcasts is by using iTunes, a free downloadable application for both windows and mac machines at http://www.apple.com/itunes/podcasts/.

Once you download the iTunes application and say, “Yes, I want to subscribe” to a podcast series, the names, dates, descriptions of all the podcast in the series are downloaded to your computer, essentially creating a catalog index of available podcasts from that provider. Then if you want to download a specific podcast, you can do that from within the iTunes application that is now on your computer by simply clicking on a  “Get” button next to each podcast description.

Sharing Podcasts

Sharing podcasts and the content of podcasts is simple.  With just a url in your syllabus, assignment or in an announcement or discussion board, you can direct your students to a podcast; similarly students can share podcasts in this same way.  And the best of all, most podcasts are free.

Exciting Discoveries, But Sometimes Ephemeral

In the process of preparing this ecoaching tip in 2007, I discovered a 23-minute audio/video podcast featuring the author Khaled Hosseini, author of Kite Runner and his second popular novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns on a Borders book club site.  I returned to it later only to find it had disappeared. This highlights two dangers of podcast research.  You may well be snagged and diverted in a thousand unanticipated directions and if you do find something wonderful, it can disappear quickly as well.  If possible, if it is a podcast that I suspect may have lasting value for my work, I download it to my computer rather than just listening to the streaming version.

Here is a quick assignment for you — Incorporate at least one podcast resource into your course in the next month.  And enjoy the search and the outcome.

References

E-Coaching Tip 26 (Fall, 2006) Tip 26 Preparing Discussion Posts that Invite Reflection and Response  Retrieved September 16, 2010 from http://www.designingforlearning.info/services/writing/ecoach/tips/tip26.html

George, B. (2007, May 25). The authentic leader: An interview with Bill George.  Harvard Business School Podcast Archives. Retrieved April 24, 2009, from http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hbr-ideacast/id152022135

iTunes University. Retrieved September 16, 2010 from http://www.apple.com/education/itunes-u/whats-on.html#itb-topten

Note: These E-coaching tips were initially developed for faculty in the School of Leadership & Professional Advancement at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. This library of tips has been organized and updated through 2016  in the second edition of the  book, The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips coauthored with Rita Marie Conrad. Judith can be reached judith followed by designingforlearning.org.