Podcasting / audio case studies at Leeds

Recent case studies from Leeds can be found on the CaseBook website

Audio Feedback (Dr Nick Robinson - School of Politics and International Studies: POLIS)

Click below for audio overview of the project. screenshot of audio played within the VLE

Subject/level being taught

2nd year / "Making of the European Union"

Number of students

40 receiving feedback

When did the project / work take place

Semester 2, 2008/09

Brief outline of the project

Provided digital audio recordings as feedback on students' essay drafts. This was made available through the VLE.

Aims and objectives

  • To be able to produce detailed feedback for lots of students in a short space of time (save me time)
  • To improve the experience of giving feedback
  • To improve the quality of feedback for students and increase student engagement with the feedback.

Project methodology

Notes were made on student work which formed the basis of the feedback to be recorded. Feedback was recorded on available personal equipment (iPhone). Audio files were transferred to a computer via iTunes which integrates seamlessly with the iPhone, renamed to the name of the students and then uploaded to a folder within the VLE labelled student feedbcak. The need did not arise to control to access to the feedback and no students raised an issue with their feedback being available to others. Students accessed their feedback from the VLE and either listened to feedback online or downloaded the files.

The process had been discussed with Michael Bolton the faculty VLE support officer prior to starting to refine the processs and approach taken.

Reflections on the experience

Student feedback was universally positive with a great deal of enthusiasm being shown for the continuation of the process. Audio feedback saved me a great deal of time, making the process of giving feedback more stimulating and less stressful. Students commented that they appreciated the more personal nature of the feedback and the depth of meaning that is conveyed by a spoken voice. I will definitely be continuing with this approach to giving feedback and am looking to expand it to provide summative feedback on assignments this summer.

Links / further information

JISC funded project on providing audio feedback: http://www.soundsgood.org.uk

Teaching keywords

Assessment, feedback

Tool / technology keywords

VLE, audio

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Podcasts and blogging (Nicholas Forsans - Leeds University Business School)

Subject/level being taught

Strategic Management module / Undergraduate

Description of the application of audio / podcasting

I have been using blogs and podcasts at Leeds for the past two years to support a highly populated 3rd year undergraduate module. The blog includes thoughts and links to additional material (pdf files, as well as audio/video capsules) relevant to the weeky lecture and an opportunity for students to leave comments or ask questions related to any aspect of the course. The blog also includes dedicated sections for the group assignment, weekly lectures, and the end-of-year examination. The podcasts include weekly audio recording of the lecture, including the revision session. Having monitored the way students used the site (through counters and the organisation of focus groups), it appears the weekly audio recording proved most helpful in the run-up to the exam when students could listen again each lecture as part of their revisions.

Formal and informal (unsolicited) feedback for the course significantly increased as a result of the support blog and podcast - the "Comments" section of the blog includes many "thank you" messages posted by students as they recognised the value of the facilities.

Reflections on the experience

The project, which started as an experiment, led to three major outcomes:

  1. Improved interactions between myself and the students, and among the students themselves. By the end of the first year of operation, 13,581 hits had been recorded by 200 students. In 2008, 1,426 hits recorded between May 1st-7th alone. These statistics reflect the popularity of the blog and the tremendous need for support which could, in the past only be partly satisfied. Friendly comments were posted toward the end of both years and there is no doubt this made the lecturer closer to the students.
  2. Improved learning experience, support opportunities and student satisfaction – In 2007, 200 students posted 47 questions on the group assignment, 168 on the exam, and 42 on lecture material and other topics. The enhanced facilities led to very positive formal and informal (unsolicited) feedback and significant increases in overall satisfaction: in three years, the percentage of negative opinions has been halved and positive opinions on the course are now reaching 85% (compared to 62% in the June 2005); 88% of the students “wished similar facilities were made available in other courses”. One wrote “I would just like to stay that throughout my three years at Leeds, you are the most helpful lecturer. Recording lectures and this website where we can get in touch should be mandatory for all modules! thanks!”.

    It is too early to assess the impact of blended learning on student performance, but the “digitalisation” of the course clearly facilitated real-time learning.

  3. Improved productivity – the need for holding “office hours” or a surgery was greatly reduced, and this enabled me to meet other deadlines. The online resource gave me greater flexibility, which in turn led to higher efficiency and satisfaction for all.

blog: stratman2008.blogspot.com

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Online lectures (Aisha Walker – School of Education)

Subject/level being taught

Postgraduate

Description of the application of audio / podcasting

I use my Leeds blogs and podcasts to provide online lectures for postgraduate students. I run an online programme and have always provided online lecture notes in text form. However, students asked for podcast versions of the notes so that they could listen as well as read. I have been providing the MP3 notes for a year and a half now, uploading a fresh file each week. Students have reported that they really appreciate the podcasts which has surprised me as the content is essentially the same as the text notes and podcasting lecture notes is generally considered, in the literature, to be unadvisable.

I evaluated the podcasts with students and their responses were very enthusiastic with comments such as "we like to hear your voice" and "your mp3s are the business! They are really helpful." Students clearly felt that the podcasts added value to the learning process. This suggests to me that the audio notes are engaging an aspect of the student that was not being reached by the text notes.

One of the advantages of podcasts is that they can be used, as one student said, to multitask. Students said that they listen to the podcasts whilst walking, driving, ironing… Several students listened to the audio notes whilst on the move although one said that his wife (who shares his drive to work) did not appreciate the podcast as much as he did!

It may be that audio materials engage different aspects of the brain and different types of learners as some learning theories suggest. One student commented that she hadn't understood the notes when reading them but when she listened then everything suddenly made sense. This particular student has often identified herself as an auditory person and is a skilled musician.

It is also possible that the use of audio materials, together with text materials, enables students to reflect on the content and learning in a different way from either type of materials in isolation. Quite a lot of students read and listened to the materials simultaneously.

Finally, podcasts enable the learners to hear my voice and this helped them to feel more connected to me and the course, a particularly important point for those who are distance learners.

Over the time that I have been podcasting I have changed from being a reluctant to an enthusiastic podcaster. The audio files have become more professional too. I record them using Audacity and add music to start and finish the podcast and to create section breaks. My editing has become more careful and skilled but the process is still time consuming - it takes me about an hour to produce a 20-minute MP3. However the positive response of the students makes the time and effort worthwhile and it certainly amuses me to think of students wondering around the campus, or driving to work, with my voice in their ears!

blog_or_podcast_link: maicte.edu.leeds.ac.uk/login Note: the podcasts are in a closed site and a login is required. Please contact me if you need a login.

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Mobile Assessment Podcast project (Neil Morris – Faculty of Biological Sciences: Project funded by HEA Centre for Bioscience)

Link to project blog

Subject/level being taught

BMSC3133: Brain, behaviour and disorder / Final year UG students

No. of students

100

Description of the application of audio / podcasting

Students had access to podcasts of key parts of lectures for offline learning, and each podcast contained a number of multiple choice questions posed by the narrator.  Students used their mobile phone to SMS their answers and received near instant scores and individual feedback. Audio materials were uploaded directly following the lectures and were made available to students via subscription to an RSS feed (http://www.personal.leeds.ac.uk/~phsnpm/podcasts/BMSC3133/rss.xml) or via direct download from the VLE.

The project aimed to investigate whether the inclusion of assessment within audio teaching aids would increase their effectiveness, and evaluate the demographic of the student body. The usefulness and effectiveness of these tools on student learning was assessed quantitatively and qualitatively. 

The technical highlights of the project implementation were:

  • Lectures recorded on iPod fitted with Micromemo recording device
  • MCQs recorded straight into Mac using internal mic
  • Editing carried out with GarageBand on Mac
  • Audio files hosted on personal webpage (www.personal.leeds.ac.uk)
  • Hand-coded XML file (from pre-created template) used to create the RSS feed.
  • SMS software developed by Cambridge Training and Development CTAD

Reflections on the experience

For detailed findings see the PowerPoint slides hosted on the blog. Some highlights of the evaluation are:

  • Majority of students have access to mobile technology (100% mobile phones, 90% mp3 players)
  • Only 2% downloaded podcasts daily, the majority of which were entertainment and through iTunes
  • 34 / 50 users accessed the materials and the average score on assessments was 3.3/5
  • There was approximately a 6% improvement in the controlled exam scores of the group who had access to the podcasts and who attempted the assessments
  • Fairly even split in way that students accessed the materials (38%: iTunes, 30% Bodington, 30% Combination)
  • Only 21% listened to the majority of the podcasts on an mp3 player
  • Most respondents found the mobile assessments useful (score 4 out of 5; n=36)
  • Most respondents “would like to have the opportunity to listen to podcasts for all my lectures” (score 4 out of 5; n=36)
  • Despite some “trouble with the technology” students feedback was generally very positive, borne out by the increase in exam results; “Reinforcement of lecture”; “Excellent revision tool”; “Revisit material not understood during lecture”;

Future Plans

  • Extend podcasts to other modules, research seminars, learning events
  • Evaluate other mobile assessment tools which provide more comprehensive feedback to learner
  • Encourage students to use podcatching software (e.g. iTunes)

 

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PLOT-casting: Serialised audio book from student created content (Matt Rubery - School of English)

Sensation Novels Blog

Subject/level being taught

Level 3 Option Module ‘Sensation Novels of the 1860s’

No. of students

40

Description of the application of podcasting

This project made use of podcasting technology in the classroom by getting students to create their own audiobook recording of a Victorian novel, Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White. Each week students from their respective seminar groups recorded designated chapters, which were preserved as MP3 files using the free digital recording software Audacity. These podcast recordings were then made available to other members of the seminar through a module blog created in the Leeds Elgg weblog community. The blog’s RSS feeds automatically notified students each time new podcasts were posted for peer assessment. At the end of term, individual recordings were combined to form a complete recording stored on the Library’s MIDESS Digital Repository, where it will remain available for free distribution to members of the university in the form of a digital audiobook.

Reflections on the experience

After the project’s completion, the majority of questionnaires cited the experience of reading aloud as an enjoyable and instructive activity that encouraged students to reflect on the differences between reading aloud and silent reading. One student remarked that the project helped her to think about Victorian novels as ‘oral traditions’, and another student suggested that the project had revived Wilkie Collins’ novel for the ‘blog generation’. The ‘Plot-casting’ project was not without technical difficulties during its initial run. Subsequent trials will include greater technical support for students, additional incentives to participate in the blog discussion, and possibilities for student collaboration.

Future Plans

I intend to repeat the project during the coming years in order to formulate a model of good practice for other humanities instructors who may be interested in getting their students to read aloud for various reasons. New methods of assessment may also be considered since the initial trial was unassessed. Subsequent trials may vary the set text for recording until a substantial catalogue of recordings is accumulated for public use.

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POL-Casting: Weekly podcast updates to blog from staff and students (Jason Ralph / Naomi Head - POLIS)

US Foreign Policy Blog

Subject/level being taught

Level 3 undergraduate - Pied3402 American Foreign Policy

No. of students

90

Description of the application of podcasting

This is part of a project that is sponsored by CSAP - the HEFCE subject centre for Sociology, Anthropology and Politics. Using Audacity student volunteers record summaries of their seminar discussion. The module convenor, Dr. Jason Ralph responds to these summaries with his own weekly "podule" - a 5 to 10 minute summary of the week's topic. These have been posted on the module community blog https://elgg.leeds.ac.uk/obama and an RSS feed has been created and sent to students so that the podcasts can be automatically downloaded through an aggregator. Students have also started to use this blog to discuss video documentaries that are shown in sessions that are additional to the lectures, tutorials and podcasts. Students also have access to a podlibrary, which has taken the form of a social bookmarking site with links to podcasts in the area of US politics and foreign policy. We have focus group and survey material to use in the writing up of our findings.

Reflections on the experience / Future Plans

It is perhaps too early to reflect on student and teacher experience. There is a small core of students who are very enthusiastic. However, the majority seem rather apathetic and have not (despite the reminders) really engaged with the project. This suggests that unless the module is totally restructured around the use of podcasting (for instance lectures are replaced by podcasts) there will be little uptake of the additional material provided. However, this is as I said early days and we will be publishing our findings at the end of the project in the summer of 2008.

A quick word on the production of the podule. Audacity is really straightforward to use and you can easily edit out the pauses, repeated points and any other habits that might be OK in a live setting but sound bad when recorded. However, I personally found it easier simply to write what I want to say in a conversational style and to read that into Audacity in one take. That's probably a personal preference but one worth sharing I think.

Student feedback on the podcasts has yet to be gathered.

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Student skills development (Maggie Boyle - Skills Centre)

Skills Centre podcast website

Subject/level being taught

Key skills development

No. of students

Available to all Leeds students

Description of the application of podcasting

A series of short (10-15 min) podcast episodes have been created discussing strategies and identifying activities to help students develop the key skills involved in their academic life. For example:

  • Critical thinking
  • Essay writing
  • Time management

The podcast feed, episode audio files and transcripts are made available on a webpage odf the Skills Centre website and are promoted through the workshops delivered by the Skills Centre staff.

Reflections on the experience

The process of planning, recording and editing podcast episodes can be carried out by teaching staff with minimal technical support. Experience of this authoring process has highlighted the importance of preparing a good structured set of notes to work from before setting out to record.

Student feedback on the podcasts has yet to be gathered.

Future plans

This set of podcasts will be added to over time with additional episodes addressing other key skills areas.

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People & Plants, Lectures and Interviews (Mark Reed - School of Earth and Environment)

People & plants podcast feed

Subject/level being taught

Level 2 “People & Plants”

No. of students

80

Description of the application of podcasting

Audio recordings of lectures supplemented by interviews with key experts. Each podcast contains a link to the Nathan Bodington room where powerpoint slides are available, so that these can be viewed alongside the audio recording. 

A link to the RSS feed was put in a Nathan Bodington room with the following introductions: 

“Subscribe to the People & Plants Podcast to get audio lectures automatically downloaded to your computer and MP3 player every Wednesday afternoon. Copy and paste the following link into iTunes or whatever other aggregator software you use:    
http://www.env.leeds.ac.uk/~mreed/envi2400/RSS.xml  
Currently this just consists of the module lectures, but supplementary interviews with key experts will soon be included. 
This is not just for those of you who have clashes or miss lectures. It is a learning resource which will be particularly useful if you have an auditory learning preference (you learn by listening and talking) or are dyslexic. The value of this podcast as a learning resource will increase as more interviews are added, which will only be available via the podcast.” 

Reflections on the experience

Only 6 out of the 43 students who evaluated the module subscribed to the podcast. One of these students commented:
“Very useful. Allows me to go back and listen to something I missed in the lecture. Also the 2nd hour of the module clashes with another so I can catch up as if I haven't missed a thing.” 

For those students who did not subscribe, the following comments were submitted:
“But i would have if the internet was working at my house!!”
“Was going to but i couldn't figure out how to do it...”
“Not yet but I sure will!”
“Would have done so if had to revise for an exam, over xmas would have been very useful, however unnecessary as all the work has to be in before the xmas break”
“I had no need to, I turned up to the lectures.”
“But i want to get round to it in december!”

Future plans

This module did not have an exam, but given the feedback above (podcast may be useful for revision), I will be putting out a podcast for ENVI2131 in 2007, which has an exam. I have created an introductory jingle for each podcast to make it come across as more professional. I have recorded a series of interviews with old Scottish farmers about the changes in climate they have experienced, and will be editing this together as the first supplementary interview for this podcast.

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Library Facility Guides (John Salter - Library)

Library Podcast web page

Subject/level being taught

Introductory guides to the University Library’s facilities and layout of the buildings. 

No. of students 

Available to all University students (theoretically everyone! – they’re not restricted to the campus or members of the University).

Description of the application of podcasting

The Library podcasts consist of audio guides to the Brotherton (7 episodes) and Edward Boyle libraries (9 episodes).  Each episode focuses on a particular aspect of the Library’s facilities or area within the Library and has been produced using professional voice over artists in a recording studio which gives the podcasts a professional feel. The podcast episodes are made available as MP3 files that can be downloaded from a Library web page. 

Reflections on the experience

Podcasts were launched in Nov 2006 and server records show that each episode has been downloaded on average 90-100 times per month since then.

Future plans 

There are no plans to produce further podcast episodes at this point. The Library Introduction Video is planned to be completely reworked this summer. The resulting film will be made available on the internet, alongside training materials.

Notes 

The University’s Media Services team can help with using professional voice-over artists and can also provide professional quality recording facilities.

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English language support (Joanne Shiel - Language Centre)

English languge support Podcast web page

Subject/level being taught

The intended students are international students studying at the Language Centre prior to entering the Business School. The programme is called the Pre-masters English for Business and Management and it is a full-time English language course. The English language proficiency of the participants ranges in terms of level, but the average is about 5.5 on IELTS (with 6.5 being the entry requirement for the Business School) 

No. of students 

There are 12 students currently on this programme. They are postgraduates of at least 25 years old, from different countries (Saudi Arabia, Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, China, Syria)

Description of the application of podcasting

The basic purpose of setting up the podcasting was to provide the students with some authentic, yet relatively easy to understand, audio material. There was the hope that an alternative source of listening material would encourage them to practise their listening and would reinforce what was covered on the course. 
My plan was for the podcasting to cover three distinct stages of the students’ time with us: before they arrive, while they are here and when they have left the course. 
To this end, I made 4 broadcasts before the students arrived, suggesting what they should bring to UK, what to expect etc, introducing the programme and interviewing the tutors on it. These were intended to be useful in terms of content, be welcoming and as a way of getting ‘tuned into’ the kind of English they would need to understand when they got here. 
Throughout the course, we intend to record podcasts regularly(preferably every week) with a view to giving an overview of workshops or guest lectures that have been held, giving information about trips or anything else that happens that is ‘newsworthy’. To this end, we have made one recording so far, on the subject of ‘Cross-Cultural awareness’, which covers what we did in the workshop of that name and is the theme for the first few weeks. Hopefully this will serve to reinforce the vocabulary and concepts that have been covered over these weeks.

Reflections on the experience

I have not been involved in the technical aspects of the whole process and have been able to just book an MP3 recorder and a soundproof booth, do the recording and then my colleagues have done the rest. I would like to be able to find out more about how to do this, but at the moment I have been concentrating on trying to make the podcasts work as a learning tool. 
So far, there has not been great success. The main reason for this is that the students are not familiar with the technology. As far as I know no one has an IPod and no one had heard of podcasting before. But most either have a laptop or have access to a cluster PC, (but as far as I know have not got headphones for use in a cluster yet), so in theory they could access the podcasts. We have now got the broadcasts as an audio file on the Language Centre, so they can listen to them without subscribing to them as a podcast, but I think the idea of receiving regular updates is a good one. 
Pre-arrival, I sent them an email explaining how to subscribe to and listen to a podcast. Only two tried, found it difficult to do, but persevered and said that it was useful. Obviously I need to look again at how I explained it, perhaps put information about it in their welcome packs etc, to try and encourage them to try it. 
Once the students were on site, we had a group session in the Cohen cluster with a large number of other students, explaining how to use the network, use the Student username etc, as well as introduce them to podcasts. This was not easy as there were too many people (45) in the room with too many disparate needs and abilities and only two of us trying to help. In future, I think it would be best to have smaller groups and introduce something like podcasting later in the course, once students had got used to the university system generally and had at least written the first email home! We had a small class session on blogs in Week 2 of the programme and this was much more successful.

Future plans 

I intend to continue doing podcasts regularly, on a variety of topics, recorded by different people. I hope to ask any outside speakers to contribute a short text or be interviewed on their subject. I think there is great scope in using this technology for international students who will be able to listen to relatively short, authentic texts at their own pace. I think this will help the development of their vocabulary and ability to cope with different accents and just generally improve their listening.
I think asking students to prepare their own podcasts would be a good way of practising their speaking and would be an alternative oral method of showing their learning, to be used instead of or alongside the traditional methods of presentations. We will trial this later in the term.
Once students have left, I would like podcasts to be a way of them keeping in touch with what is happening in the Language Centre. I already send them emails wishing them well in exams and at particular festivals etc and the Language Centre send alumni a newsletter, so this would be another way of keeping in touch. 

Other comments  

The key challenge for me is encouraging students to use this facility in their learning. I will keep a close eye on whether they are using the podcasts and will ask for feedback regularly. I will also note whether they are simply listening to them as an audio file or subscribing to them as a podcast. Once one group have gone through the process, we should be able to work out better how to embed podcasts into the programme and make podcasting something students want to use because they find it interesting and useful.

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Please send details of other Leeds based podcasting case studies to Simon Davis.

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