Podcasting University Lectures

Post ImageBlogMatrix has a post up today about podcasting university lectures – particularly appropriate since I start classes again for the Fall semester bright and early tomorrow morning. While I fully intend to go to at least the first week of classes, all bets are off after that. And no, it’s not because I am lazy, or going shopping or anything like that, I simply have a business to run. Sometimes business and school conflict, and you need to make a decision – which is more important, this meeting, or a lecture? Most times, for better or for worse, I choose the meeting.

I wouldn’t miss anything though if the lecture was being recorded and made available as a podcast.

While the BlogMatrix post is more a point-form plan for how to implement such a thing, and how it would work, it touches on a few important points that deserve to be highlighted.

Podcasting a lecture is for the students in attendance too!
Of course there will be people like me who skip the lecture to do something else and simply want to listen to the podcast later. More importantly though, podcasting a lecture is useful for the students in attendance, as BlogMatrix points out: “students, instead of taking notes (or only notes), would record the time of a particular interesting or salient comment”. That would be incredibly useful. This point needs to be made very clear to the decision makers in a University, as they will most certainly protest the idea initially, citing fears that no one will go to class. I think such fears are baseless – there is value in attending the lecture, such as being able to participate in the conversation.

(As an aside, if the lecture contains no interaction and is just the professor standing at the front talking, then I’d be GLAD if podcasting it made attendance drop to zero. It’s ridiculous that students pay $500 for something like that, because you know most of the fees go to paying the professor anyway. It’s examples like this that show just how antiquated and bureaucratic the university system can be.)

The Wisdom of Crowds
Or in this case, the wisdom of students in the class. Let’s assume students can bookmark parts of the lecture – perhaps the most important or interesting parts. As noted in the BlogMatrix post, this is powerful stuff: “Collecting all these bookmarks across all students (and potentially across time) will provide collective intelligence/data mining/insight into what is really import in the lecture”. The ability to tag lectures and specific segments would further this collective wisdom.

Is security really an issue?
I don’t think so. The University doesn’t want people getting the lectures for free – I understand that. But how is making an MP3 file available any different than having some random person walk in off the street, sit in the class for an hour with a recorder, and put it online later? Especially in a lecture with 400+ students, I am surprised this doesn’t happen more actually. As long as sensitive or personal information is not included in the podcast, I don’t see security being much of an issue. I do agree with BlogMatrix though: “I don’t believe it’s the place of the vendor (i.e. me) to dictate requirements to a client”. If a university really wanted to integrate security, it shouldn’t be that difficult, as all universities have pretty extensive systems in place already.

Now, let’s look at this from the perspective of Podcast Spot (if you want a test account, email me). Could our technology support such a thing? With a few tweaks here and there, I believe so. We’ve got all the basics covered (like tags and comments), as well as a few of the more interesting requirements (such as random access). And there’s a bunch more features on the way too (such as improved methods of working with segments). It’s not going to happen (because I better graduate in April) but it sure would be cool to see Podcast Spot being used in my school. Maybe I’ll see it as an alumni 😉

I think podcasting will catch on in schools and other similar institutions, but it will take time. People inside the education world need to grok the benefits of podcasting, and still more have to lose their fear of the technology. When that happens, I think everyone will benefit.

Read: BlogMatrix

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