iPod classes: broadcasting live from U of C

iPods ar cooler than beer and probably a better study tool, according to a recent study.

The Student Monitor, a survey analyzing what’s in and out on college campuses, ranked iPods higher than perennial favourite beer, said Dr. Kathleen Scherf.

Enter Project iU, a pilot project created to assess the use of podcasting at the University of Calgary. Funded with $18,000 from the Office of the Provost, its objective is to assess podcasting’s usefulness and to develop best practices across the four faculties of communications and culture, humanities, science and social science.

“This pilot project broke the ground,” said Scherf.

The project began with COMS 201, taught by Dr. Dawn Johnston in the summer semester. The class used a combination of podcasted lectures and a weekly in-class tutorial. The university offered iPod nanos to students and allowed them to keep the iPods if they finished the course and participated in an online survey and focus group.

“We needed students to take the course and that’s why we offered free iPods,” said sociology professor Dr. John Manzo.

Although students were given iPods as an incentive to join the summer COMS class, Apple is not involved and the use of Apple products is neither being promoted nor discouraged.

In the survey of the initial COMS 201 class, 90 per cent of students indicated the podcasts were relevant and enhanced in-class learning, 79 per cent were satisfied by the class and 74 percent said they were willing to take another iPod class.

Although it was found convenient, students pointed out the primary drawback was less interaction with both professors and other students in comparison to other courses.

The classes continuing the project this fall are chemistry 351 taught by Dr. Ian Hunt and sociology 201 taught by Manzo. The information collected in the survey has been used in designing the new courses.

“For example, I know to tell my students, ‘Don’t listen to all the podcasts the day before the midterm,'” said Manzo. “Not just because it’s a bad study habit, but because we know that the strongest predictor of failing COMS 201 was doing just that.”

Manzo is teaching two SOCI 201 classes­– one with podcasting, one without–and he hopes to compare the two like a controlled experiment. His students have access to the whole semester’s worth of podcasts, receive weekly readings and have a weekly tutorial.

“It’s not really any different from a normal course,” said Manzo.

Hunt’s CHEM 351 class is structured differently. With normal lectures and labs, his classes have podcasts as supplementary material. Students recently gained access to their first podcast.

“I think the good students will recognize that it’s something that can be used as a resource to go back to help supplement what happens regularly,” said Hunt.

However they decide to integrate podcasting into the lecture environment, Scherf, Hunt and Manzo all agree they do not wish for it to replace traditional teaching methods.

“What is very important to note is that podcasting is just another lecturing option,” said Scherf. “I don’t think that we’ll ever replace the traditional face- to-face lecture and I hope we don’t.”

The iU pilot project continues this winter with the final pilot class: English 231 taught by Dr. Harry Vandervlist.

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