Podcasts as tools in introductory environmental studies

Christine Vatovec, Teri Balser
Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education: JMBE 2009, 10 (1): 19-24
Technological tools have increasingly become a part of the college classroom, often appealing to teachers because of their potential to increase student engagement with course materials. Podcasts in particular have gained popularity as tools to better inform students by providing access to lectures outside of the classroom. In this paper, we argue that educators should expand course materials to include prepublished podcasts to engage students with both course topics and a broader skill set for evaluating readily available media. We present a pre- and postassignment survey evaluation assessing student preferences for using podcasts and the ability of a podcast assignment to support learning objectives in an introductory environmental studies course. Overall, students reported that the podcasts were useful tools for learning, easy to use, and increased their understanding of course topics. However, students also provided insightful comments on visual versus aural learning styles, leading us to recommend assigning video podcasts or providing text-based transcripts along with audio podcasts. A qualitative analysis of survey data provides evidence that the podcast assignment supported the course learning objective for students to demonstrate critical evaluation of media messages. Finally, we provide recommendations for selecting published podcasts and designing podcast assignments.

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