Community College Embraces Podcasts as Teaching Tool

DOUANE D. JAMES
South Florida Sun-Sentinel Via The Arbiter Online
Boise State University

Broward Community College students soon may be able to get their education “on demand.”

The school is experimenting with podcasting, a new digital technology that allows students to download lectures and other course material for listening on the go.

“Often a student will miss a class and ask, ‘What did I miss?'” said speech professor Robert Buford, who is leading the effort at BCC. “Well, it’s a one-hour class. You can’t put that in an e-mail. But you can with a podcast.”

BCC has ordered new equipment to meet the demand for audio and video recording and digital storage. Buford recently began conducting workshops to train interested faculty and estimates more will begin podcasting in the fall.

Palm Beach Cmmunity College has also started to use podcasts, but Florida Atlantic University, the University of Miami and Miami-Dade College still are exploring the idea.

Joseph Azalino, a Boca Raton pre-med student at PBCC, said he downloads biology lectures and either transfers the files to a compact disc or to his iPod, a portable digital media player.

“You can listen to it anytime you want,” said Azalino, 21.

He said he likes to replay biology lectures before quizzes or tests.

“It’s another way to refresh my mind,” he said, adding he also studies class notes. “It’s the ultimate review.”

Administrators brush off the idea that putting course material online would make students more likely to miss class. Rather, podcasts can be a study aid by allowing students to review what they heard in class, said Celeste Beck, a PBCC provost and chief of the Boca Raton campus.

For many students, it helps to hear material more than once, he said.

Through podcasting, a microphone and Internet connection are all that’s needed to create digital audio.

The files are typically converted to the universal MP3 format, which anyone can download to a computer or transfer to an iPod or any other portable MP3 player.

College students today expect to use new computer-based technology, Buford said, and “if we don’t keep up with them, we become dinosaurs.”

PBCC also will podcast college news and replay recordings of guest speakers and special events.

“This is really brand new, and we’re floored at all the excitement,” Beck said.

Jeannine Burgess, PBCC’s director of instructional technology, said as many as one quarter of the faculty could begin podcasting in some form in the next year.

BCC’s director of instructional technology, Russ Adkins, called podcasting “a very interesting experiment.”

Whether it grows in popularity depends on how fast technology develops, Adkins said.

It could really take off if it becomes commonplace to get podcasts via cell phones, he said.

“Everybody might not have an MP3 player, but they all have cell phones,” he said.