Podcasts are an effective mechanism to support learning. Due to the audio format, learners can download and listen to them on an mp3 player (such as the iPod) as they walk to college, or catch the bus. Likewise mp3 files can be burnt to CD and a learner could listen to them in their car, or on their home music system. Though portable, learners can also access podcasts direct through a computer and listen to them via the computer speakers (or headphones).
Teaching is an oral tradition, we have been “listening” to lectures and conversations for years; podcasting allows learners to listen when, how and where they want to. The other key advantage is that podcasts can be listened to more than once, enabling a learning objective to be reinforced or for revision purposes.
If you have a search of the iTunes store there are thousands of Podcasts on many different subjects.
There are also “podcasts” available through iTunes U.
There are also podcasts available from other sources that aren’t on the iTunes store.
You can link to a series of podcasts on the VLE quite easily by just adding a link to the podcast homepage. From there the learner can just click on the link for any of the episodes available. This implies that all the podcasts are easily available from that homepage, this is not always the case.
What is useful now is that many of the iTunes podcast pages will open in the browser, so the learner won’t need to install iTunes to see and play the podcasts.
You could link direct to an episode of the podcast, by linking direct to the audio file. Though this is in theory “okay” it is considered poor internet etiquette as it is deep linking. Most podcasts should have a webpage for each episode; the e-Learning Stuff Podcast does for example and you could link to that page. This method is most useful when you want to link to a specific episode of a podcast.
Another more efficient way is to embed the podcast RSS feed direct into the VLE. This way, as episodes are added, they are automatically added to the VLE page, and the learners can click on new episodes as and when they are published.
One problem you may come across is if you link to a podcast like the BBC podcasts, is that previous episodes are “removed” from the web. This generally isn’t a problem for casual listening, can be an issue if the podcast is considered to be a core part of the course. You would think you could just download the podcast from the original source and upload to the VLE, wouldn’t you? Well life is never that simple. Though you can download the podcast, keep it, play it back in a classroom for the purposes of instruction; there is a problem with some podcasts if you upload it to the VLE, as this can be considered to be “re-broadcasting” or distribution which would be in breach of copyright. For BBC podcasts of radio programmes, the solution would be to record the BBC Radio broadcast, and then with an ERA+ Licence you would be able to then allow learners to access the recording through the VLE.
Many podcasts are licensed under a Creative Commons licence, these generally can be uploaded to the VLE for re-distribution.
Linking to podcasts through the VLE is one more way in which you can use the VLE to enhance and enrich learning.