Like many others who keep track of developments in online learning and learning technology in general, I have been watching with interest as podcasting has assumed its place in the educational landscape. Given the amount of work I do with associations, I have not been surprised at all that many have found podcasting to be a useful tool for capturing and distributing meeting content.
Nor is the growth of podcasting in the academic world surprising. Given the relative ease of creating podcasts, faculty members can jump into the fray on their own, or institutions can make use of enterprise systems like Lectopia to introduce podcasting broadly across the curriculum. Students, of course, are highly receptive.
Even charitable and relief-oriented organizations are taking advantage of the iPod to bring educational content to under-served areas. A recent issue of ICT Update notes a number of initiatives.
But amidst the frenzy of podcasting activity, I can see at least two issues. First, while it essentially eradicates previous barriers to mass production and distribution of video and audio content for educators, podcasting at this point still represents a relatively passive medium for the learner—another form of broadcasting. Second, there seems to be relatively little emphasis to date on instructional design practices with respect to podcast learning content or on tracking of learning outcomes.
We are perhaps beginning to see some progress with respect to the first issue. Apple itself, for instance, has issued iQuiz Maker, which enables the creation of testing content on an iPod. Additionally, firms like Modality Learning, Talking Panda, and MogoPop are beginning to introduce tools that provide for more interesting and flexible ways of combining various forms of content within an iPod environment. (So far, most efforts for actual MP3 delivery appear to be Apple-centric.)
Possibly some of the efforts above will lead to integrated approaches to addressing the second issue—for instance, tying the consumption of multimedia iPod content, including assessments, back into a learning management system. Right now, I suspect that podcasting is mostly being used for simple audio and video content delivery and, in cases where the impact of the content is actually being tracked and measured, these activities are happening in a separate rather than integrated fashion. If you happen to know differently, however, please comment with any examples you can offer.
I am an avid lifelong learner who writes and speaks frequently on the critical role of learning in our fast-changing world.