Boring podcasts are not the answer!

Post ImageAnother day, another educator fighting podcasting because she fears students will not attend class. Liz Dreesen is a general surgeon lecturing at the University of North Carolina, and her students have asked her to podcast her anatomy lectures. She doesn’t want to do it:

I want the medical students also to learn the importance of presence, to attend our anatomy lectures, to see us in the flesh and not podcast, so they can begin to be doctors, not just technicians and knowers-of-facts.

She makes a really good argument about medicine being a “contact sport” that requires physical presence. So what to do about the attendance problem?

Podcasting consultant Leesa Barnes says the answer is to make the podcasts “boring as heck”:

In other words, make the video podcast so boring that students will use it as a backup and not as a replacement. That’s the way to provide convenience for students without sacrificing class attendance.

Sorry Leesa, but I think that advice is just plain dumb. Lectures are boring enough as it is.

I don’t know about you, but when I shell out hundreds of dollars to attend a technology conference, I do so because of the people I will meet, not the content being discussed. Sometimes the content is boring, sometimes it’s interesting, but the interaction with other people is always worth paying for.

Sadly, the same cannot be said of shelling out hundreds of dollars for a university lecture. I do it because I am required to in order to get that piece of paper that says I graduated. Things could be different though. In my six years of post secondary experience, I have learned that more often than not, lectures are simply boring and don’t allow for much interaction. This needs to change.

The answer to the attendance problem then, is to provide for interaction in the lectures. I don’t mean reading lecture notes and then allowing students to ask questions at the end, but real interaction. The same kind of interaction I pay for at the technology conferences. And of course, podcast it all. Make the podcasts as interesting as possible, so that students who watch them later can’t help but wish they were there.

With all that interaction going on, there will be less time to get the boring but required information across. So record it ahead of time, and make the podcasts (boring information + class interaction) an integral part of the course. If they are considered required material, they won’t be seen as replacements for class. Tell students to watch the podcast and then come to class and discuss it.

For the most part I think the way our education system works is, for lack of a better adjective, crappy. Podcasts and other emerging technologies might enable us to make some positive changes, but only if we use them correctly.

Read: Podonomics

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