Enhanced Podcasting’s Impact on Learning and Teaching
SURMEPI, Prof Marietjie de Villiers, Prof Jean Nachega
Dr Steve Walsh
Enhanced podcasts are recordings of presentations combined with audio. Mostly these are lectures delivered as PowerPoint slide shows. We use Camtasia Relay on the PC in the lecture hall to capture what’s displayed on the screen as well as record the lecturer’s voice. This gets converted into a video file which we make accessible to students.
The medical curriculum suffers from information overload. Some days students have lectures for 7 or 8 hours at a time on topics ranging from basic anatomy to complex clinical pathology. Maintaining concentration and taking notes while trying to understand it all at the same time is not easy. We did a pilot study to determine whether students found enhanced podcasts useful. Their response was overwhelmingly positive. Some comments from students on the podcasts:
- “Literally it’s like taking the lecturer home and having them explain the work to you again. I believe that it will help the university, it will help this campus and it’s really a good thing that they’ve introduced, and I hope that they continue with it.
- “I found that podcasting is extremely beneficial and that without these podcasts, I probably wouldn't achieve the marks I do.”
This prompted us to keep going for the rest of the year and eventually to expand the podcasting service to all lecture blocks for the entire six year MBChB course. This includes tutorials for the final year medical students which are recorded in the teaching hospital and placed on the website for the benefit of rural students who are unable to attend. We have also begun to expand podcasting to the allied health sciences (physiotherapy, dietetics, etc.) as well as to postgraduate courses. Originally the podcast were placed on the learning management system, but the resource was so popular that other students further on in the course wanted access. So we moved all the podcasts to a website using a content management system (CMS).
The infrastructure needed to accomplish this consists of:
- A server for the podcast website.
- A server running Camtasia Relay (for producing the videos).
- A content management system (DotNetNuke) with podcasts and other material (such as lecture notes) categorized by degree or diploma.
- Active directory integration with the University to facilitate student and lecturer authentication.
- A full-time individual who does some editing on the podcasts (using Camtasia Studio) and uploads them to the podcast website.
- Willing students who are familiar enough with technology to assist lecturers with recording the podcasts and ensuring a good audio signal (changing microphone batteries, etc.).
This has grown into a resource that is accessible to all 2,600 students registered at the Faculty as well as staff.
Instead of trying to get literally hundreds of busy lecturers to use podcasting, we trained small groups of students (2 to 8) in each class to “press the buttons” and make sure the lecturer had fresh batteries in the wireless microphone. To date we have recorded over 1200 podcasts of undergraduate lectures, mostly for the MBChB degree course.
Problems encountered included the copyright issue. The University’s legal department gave us valuable guidance in this regard. Another issue was access to the large files by our rural medical students as bandwidth in South Africa is expensive and often slow. To overcome this we purchased a DVD duplicator and distribute copies of podcasted material to rural students on disc.
The Faculty has found the CMS so valuable, that we are in the process of going as paperless as possible. Besides the podcasts, we plan to store all the lecture notes and curriculum booklets as well as PowerPoint slides on the CMS. This will make all resources available anywhere on multiple devices – from smart phones and tablets to desktop PCs. It will reduce the cost of printing and should simplify the student’s life as all the resources they need for their particular course will be easily accessible on one website.
From the lecturer’s perspective, once the podcasts are available they no longer need to repeat the same performance with the next group of students. They can use the podcasts as prior required learning material and begin implementing various forms of the flipped classroom and peer learning.
Podcasting has enabled us to build a solid foundation for facilitating transformation in teaching and learning.