Podcast lectures “better” than real lectures

In recent weeks I have written about lectures following Donald Clark’s keynote on the end of the lecture at ALT-C 2010.

As well as reflecting on Donald’s keynote I also posted the video Dave White’s invited talk where he talks about eventedness.

However if the results of a slightly unconvincing study are to be believed then giving students a recording of the lecture would be better for the learners than them attending live!

The New Scientist reports on the study that was undertaken at State University of New York in Fredonia.

New psychological research suggests that university students who download a podcast lecture achieve substantially higher exam results than those who attend the lecture in person.

Why do I say unconvincing?

To find out how much students really can learn from podcast lectures alone – mimicking a missed class – McKinney’s team presented 64 students with a single lecture on visual perception, from an introductory psychology course.

This is a very small sample set and only covers one subject.

Now before we completely dismiss this study, there was also a recent article of interest in The Telegraph about Flip-thinking.

The article implies that education hasn’t changed much over the last hundred years…

Since it’s 2010, many of these students will see smartboards instead of chalkboards and they’ll turn in their assignments online rather than on paper. But the rhythm of their actual days will be much the same as when their parents and grandparents sat in those same uncomfortable seats back in the 20th century.

During class time, the teacher will stand at the front of the room and hold forth on the day’s topic. Then, as the period ends, he or she will give students a clutch of work to do at home. Lectures in the day, homework at night. It was ever thus and ever shall be.

However the article then goes onto describe the work of Karl Fisch

…instead of lecturing about polynomials and exponents during class time – and then giving his young charges 30 problems to work on at home – Fisch has flipped the sequence. He’s recorded his lectures on video and uploaded them to YouTube for his 28 students to watch at home. Then, in class, he works with students as they solve problems and experiment with the concepts.

Now though that article talks about flipping publishing and movies, there is a connection between the two articles on the students watching and listening to stuff and then using lesson time to ask questions, undertake exercises and do more practical things.

I don’t know about you, but there is a kind of logic there, isn’t there?

Some I know will say that learners won’t be motivated to watch or listen to the videos and podcasts. But are they going to be any more motivated to undertake questions and assessments for which they may not understand the underpinning theory.

Also it is a lot more difficult to get someone else to do your “homework” if the “homework” is done in college rather than outside.

You could also use additional materials and resources to extend the topic for those learners that need it.

The more I think about this, the more I think it has potential.

What do you think?

4 thoughts on “Podcast lectures “better” than real lectures”

  1. I think hurrah! Definetly logical to me, questioning the lecture format (yes I was there at ALT and listened to DC), yes it can be boring for some learners to learn in what we call the ‘traditional way’, and some can switch off. I’d be honest and say this traditional way did not suit me back when I studied my degree, the books on the core reading list reinforced my learning and yes I could refer to them when I wanted (if I bought them!)

    What is being described here is giving some ownership to students, and they are ‘doing more’ (practical) – watch this, consider this, lets discuss. Could this change the way we assess too? (another topic). It can certainly make discussions more engaging and get to know others on your course!

    I would hypothesise that students who have this resource and access to it should do well, they have the back up of watching, listening whenever they need to, like a book (feels strange to mention book/journals!)

    Not hailing this as the way to go but certainly need to explore and would be very interested to know what others think about this too.

    1. Hi Suki, and James!

      I do this! Students work, sometimes collaboratively, sometimes individually in ‘lectures’ and labs, with extra information (e.g. websites, videos to view, papers & books to read) being provided for them to tackle in their own time. Lots of discussion takes place, lots of work gets done, lots of interesting issues arise, and attendance is pretty good. I use a portfolio of work for assessment with reflective summary, and emphasis on the students to provide evidence in their work of their learning, and that they have addressed the assessment criteria. Some of the assessment criteria can be negotiated depending on the approach they take to the module. It keeps the subject alive for me and makes it quite a personalised experience for the students.

  2. I heard of a survey, not sure whether it was one of your earlier posts – could well have been, which tested the retention of knowledge from a group of people attending a presentation. They found the group learnt best when they were given the lecture beforehand for them to read through, then the presenter went up and discussed the issues surrounding the written text.

    This seems to tie in with that. The core knowledge is imparted in the learner’s own time, and the valuable tutor time is spent interactively answering the learners’ questions and developing understanding.

    However I still think the motivational and leadership aspect of a lecture is important.

  3. Makes perfect sense to me. I remember having two very different lecturers for computer science. One made lessons interesting for me, the other chose to read from a book at me. My attention often drifted out the window with the latter, thinking to myself that I could just as easily do this in comfort at home with a nice cup of coffee and the fire on (it was winter)

    the absorption rate for block information also differs from one person to another – being able to pause the recording and wander off for 5 minutes to reflect and then return to the vodcast facilitates that much more readily

    It makes so much more sense to be able to do the background reading first and then question the expert about the things you don’t fully understand after…

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