Podcasts in your education, how to do it
Listening to stories, interviews, or brushing up on your knowledge, using a podcast is very common nowadays. Both the availability and the use of podcasts have greatly increased in recent years (Petit & Cuenen, 2022). And podcasts have also been in use in education for some time. In what manner is this done, and why would you want this as a teacher? Where do you start, and what challenges might you encounter? Educational consultant Anouk den Hamer dove into the world of podcasts in education and made an overview for you.
Even before 2009, dozens of studies were conducted into the efficacy of podcasts in education. At that time, no positive effects on learning were found. However, there were positive effects on student motivation (Hew, 2009). Since then, the quality of podcasts in education has significantly improved. Some researchers now do see positive effects on aspects of learning, students’ reflective capabilities, and once again student motivation (Andersen & Dau, 2021).
What is a podcast?
A podcast is a spoken audio recording that can be played directly on a media device, such as a smartphone, computer, etc. (Drew, 2017). A podcast is online available and can cover a specific theme or be part of a series of podcasts (Andersen & Dau, 2021). A podcast can take the form of a monologue, a conversation or interview, a report, or a documentary.
Why use podcasts in your education?
Using podcasts in education has several advantages*:
- Students appreciate the flexibility of podcasts, as you can study where and when you want (Evans, 2009; Merhi, 2015).
- Students feel more prepared for class (Andersen & Dau, 2021).
- Many students enjoy listening to podcasts (Merhi, 2015; Zacharis, 2012).
- Students come into contact with the language and jargon of their field. This not only helps them understand their field of study better, but also enables them to better discuss the subject matter.
- Students feel that they have more contact with their lecturer. This in turn results in higher motivation for learning (Fernandez, Simo, & Sallan, 2019).
- If you make good assignments with the podcasts, they can have a positive influence on students’ motivation and their results for the course (Yilmaz & Keser, 2016). For examples of good assignments see paragraph ‘Challenges’ further down this page.
Ways to use podcasts
In education, two types of podcasts are mainly used: the podcasts made by lecturers and the podcasts used as an assessment tool, where students (individually or in groups) make their own podcasts.
Make your own podcasts as a lecturer
When you make a podcast as a lecturer, you can choose to be the primary speaker or interview a guest speaker. Some lecturers use podcasts as a replacement for plenary sessions. Be aware that when you do so, you should not simply dictate the lecture, but translate it to an appealing podcast. A more expanded version of podcasts as a replacement for lectures are the so-called ‘podcast lectures’ (Zijp & Karreman, 2020); this is a lecture format that consists of one or more audio fragments supported by slides or clips, followed by a session with space for asking questions.
Podcasts in education are mainly used to introduce students to certain themes or have them consider the subject manner more deeply. For instance, you can have your students listen to a podcast (be it before or after the lecture) and discuss the content during the lecture. Studies have shown that this is an effective way to increase students’ reflective capabilities (Andersen & Dau, 2021).
Make sure that you integrate your podcast(s) well in your course. Don’t let it be a stand-alone part but attach assignments to it. For instance by having students write an essay on the topic or have them ask (or answer) questions using the podcast as a prompt. You can also choose to have students create their own podcast.
Having students make podcasts
Podcasts are not only useful as a tool for transferring information from lecturer to student, but you can also have your students make their own podcast. This can be an effective method to familiarise students with their (future) field of work. If you have students make their own podcast, they function on the highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy (Krathwohl, 2002), namely ‘creation’. Creating a podcast allows you to achieve deeper learning and reflection (Andersen & Dau, 2021).
You can ask students to expand upon one of the themes in the course by means of a podcast. This can be done individually, but this can be difficult. You can also have students work in pairs or small groups. The content can be anything! For instance: interviewing an expert in their field, a discussion between students on the subject matter, or have them discuss their vision on the theme. Also have a look at this assignment that UU-lecturer Maikel Waardenburg created for his students.
Assessing student podcasts
In this article by UU-lecturers Willem Janssen and David van Toor you can read about their experiences with making podcasts as a form of assessment. They note that students responded very positively to making a podcast. The students found the making of a podcast fun, educational, and saw added value in their own development as well as their academic skills (both presenting and collaboration skills). One of the students described the experience as follows (Janssen and Van Toor, 2023, p. 11):
"A podcast is a really good way to informally inform an audience. You really have to switch (since you are used to a lot of academic writing). But this is a good thing because in the end you should master the knowledge in such a way that you can explain it in a fun/easy/understandable way."
To assess student podcasts you can use this assessment form. It has been developed by UU-lecturers Willem Janssen and Dave van Toor in collaboration with Educational Development & Training.
Tips for making a podcast
Have you decided on how podcasts can help you and your students, and want to get started? There are a number of things to consider if you want to record a podcast as a lecturer. Here are some practical tips.
- First, establish which learning goal you want to achieve with the podcast.
- Also consider which learning activities you will use in conjunction with the podcast, to properly embed the podcast in your education. For example, have your students do an assignment after listening to the podcast.
- Carefully consider the structure of the podcast and your intended audience. Design the different parts, such as the intro (who are the speakers, and what is the podcast about?), the middle (what content do you want to convey?), and the end (for example a summary of the most important points and a preview of future topics).
- An informal atmosphere and a story element can help hold students’ interest.
- Be sure to have good audio quality. Test this beforehand. UU-lecturers can use the podcast studios of the Utrecht University to ensure good audio quality.
Opinions differ on the ideal length of a podcast. If the podcast serves as an introduction of a certain theme, 15 minutes should suffice. For a discussion type podcast on a theme, 30 to 45 minutes is more common. Be sure that the podcast is no longer than 45 minutes as otherwise the attention will wane.
Several useful webinars have been made on podcasts in education, such as:
Tips from a UU-lecturer
UU-lecturer Jip Leendertse also has a lot of experience with podcasts. Together with colleagues, he made a podcasts series as a replacement for lectures. His tips:
- If you do it, do it well: don’t read out the same old story, but make a new one.
- Make sure to continuously keep the same distance to the microphone.
- Don’t speak monotonously.
- You can record several audio tracks in the Utrecht University podcast studios. This, for instance, enables you to increase the volume of softer voices and lower it for loud voices.
- Are you making a discussion type podcast? Ensure regular interaction between the conversational partners – this can be a simple ‘hmmm’, ‘yes’, etc. This makes the podcast a more dynamic listening experience.
There are several things that can be challenging when making educational podcasts. It is useful to take these into account.
- It can take a lot of time to make podcasts; you need to carefully consider the structure of the podcast, how to record it, consider potential technical difficulties, and you might want to do some editing.
- The audio quality is of the utmost importance; poor audio can have a negative effect on students’ motivation (Andersen & Dau, 2021). So don’t neglect your audio quality. You can record podcasts in one of the podcast studios of Utrecht University.
- Students appreciate a podcast in which the lecturer displays their enthusiasm, this also increases their motivation (König, 2021). Do you have what it takes to show the right amount of enthusiasm?
- It is important to embed the podcast(s) in your course, so that students will listen to the podcast(s) during the course and not at the end of it. You can do this by attaching an assignment to the podcast(s) or discuss them during the lecture. Or when you have students make their own podcast, make sure that they hand in a script on time and if possible practice with recording, so that they have enough time to make any adjustments. See Jansen & Van Toor (2023) or Baer et al (2023) for examples of lesson plans.
- It can be a challenge to connect good assignments to the podcast(s). Research shows that it is especially motivating for students to ask reflective questions in combination with the podcasts (Yilmaz & Keser, 2016). For example, before listening to the podcast: “what do you already know about the topic?” and “what would you gain if you knew more about this topic?”. Or after listening to the podcast: “what are the differences and similarities with other topics you have studied?”, “how does this topic relate to your daily life?”, and “are there things you find difficult to understand regarding this topic?” (Yilmaz & Keser, 2016).
Support for lecturers at Utrecht University
For lecturers at Utrecht University, several forms of support are offered. Not a lecturer at Utrecht University, but do want support? Please contact Educational Development & Training to discuss the options: email@example.com.
Corporate identity UU and podcast channels
If you want to share your podcast with a wider public than just your course, ensure that you use the Utrecht University corporate identity correctly. The UU has two official podcast channels on Soundcloud and Spotify.
Several podcasts have already been recorded at the UU, and not only by lecturers. Often a central theme is the focus. Some examples:
Would you like advice or support with embedding your podcasts in your course? Or would you like to research if the quality of your education increases when you use podcasts? Or do you need a practical workshop for your students when they start making a podcast? Please contact Dr. Anouk den Hamer (Educational Development & Training).
Andersen, R. H., & Dau, S. (2021). A review of podcasts as a learning medium in higher education. Paper presented at the pp. 34-XIV. doi:10.34190/EEL.21.021
Baer, U., Davies, R., Detweiler, E., Fellows, J., Herland, E., Howley, K., ... & Ramsey, H. (2023). Humanities Podcast Network Teaching Students to Podcast.
Drew, C. (2017). Edutaining audio: An exploration of education podcast design possibilities. Educational Media International, 54(1), 48-62. doi:10.1080/09523987.2017.1324360
Evans, C. (2008). The effectiveness of m-learning in the form of podcast revision lectures in higher education. Computers & Education, 50(2), 491-498. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2007.09.016
Fernandez, V., Simo, P., & Sallan, J. M. (2009). Podcasting: A new technological tool to facilitate good practice in higher education. Computers & Education, 53(2), 385-392. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2009.02.014
Hew, K. F. (2009). Use of audio podcast in K-12 and higher education: A review of research topics and methodologies. Educational Technology Research and Development, 57(3), 333-357. doi:10.1007/s11423-008-9108-3
Willem Janssen en Dave van Toor, 'De podcast als toets binnen rechtsgeleerdheid', LaM april 2023, DOI: 10.5553/REM/.000074.
König, L. (2021). Podcasts in higher education: Teacher enthusiasm increases students’ excitement, interest, enjoyment, and learning motivation. Educational Studies, 47(5), 627-630. doi:10.1080/03055698.2019.1706040
Krathwohl, D. R. (2002). A revision of bloom's taxonomy: An overview. Theory into Practice, 41(4), 212-218. doi:10.1207/s15430421tip4104_2
Merhi, M. I. (2015). Factors influencing higher education students to adopt podcast: An empirical study. Computers & Education, 83, 32-43. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2014.12.014
Petit, M., & Cuenen, R. (2022). Populariteit podcasts blijft toenemen: Bijna 7 miljoen luisteraars in Nederland. Retrieved Aug 30, 2022
Salmon, G., & Nie, M. (2008). Doubling the life of iPods. Podcasting for Learning in Universities, , 1-11.
Waardenburg, D. M., & Van den Brink, L. (2020). Blended Learning 2.0. Podcast project.
Yilmaz, F. G. K., & Keser, H. (2016). The impact of reflective thinking activities in e-learning: A critical review of the empirical research. Computers & Education, 95, 163-173. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2016.01.006
Zacharis, N. Z. (2012). Predicting college students' acceptance of podcasting as a learning tool. Interactive Technology and Smart Education, 9(3), 171-183. doi:10.1108/17415651211258281
Zijp, D., & Karreman, L. (2020). Podcast lectures: Recommendations for a corona-proof lecture format. Retrieved Jun 24, 2022
*From: De kracht van podcasts in het onderwijs – Highlights uit het webinar van vrijdag 13 mei - SURF Communities