U of C pioneers podcasting

By Stephanie Shewchuk

New podcasting technology will be added to several University of Calgary classes during the summer session. About 700 students will eventually have the option of enrolling in four courses that will use podcasting in conjunction with weekly tutorials.

Podcasting allows people to download audio or video files to an MP3 player or computer for future playback. The courses, iCOMS201, iENGL231, iCHEM351, and iSOCI201 will employ podcasting as either a supplement or replacement for traditional lectures. Classes will continue to meet at least once a week in a tutorial setting.

“If all goes according to plan, we’ll see iCOMS201 in the summer,” said U of C registrar David Johnston. “The option will still exist to take the class without the podcast but it’s a good way to augment the assigned readings or to review by yourself or in a group.”

The U of C will be the first institution in Canada to use podcasting in the classroom, although Johnston admitted it will not be appropriate for all classes.

“It gives some added flexibility to some classes but we’ll be measuring the progress of the pilot project,” Johnston added. “It’s designed to reduce the large lecture and instead focus on face-to-face tutorials.”

Dr. Dawn Johnston will begin teaching iCOMS201 in the summer. She agreed that the podcasts will allow students to learn at their own convenience.

“It’s a good compromise to have the podcasting added to classes,” she said. “It adds value to the course when we’re talking about the technology and using the technology to talk about the material in the class.”

However, some students have raised concerns regarding the effectiveness of podcasting as a replacement, or an addition to regular instruction.

“For some faculties, it might be okay, but you wouldn’t be able to learn [from the podcasting] in any classes that have visual equations,” said third-year mechanical engineering student Stephen Allam.

“How could you listen to organic chemistry,” questioned third-year manufacturing engineering student David Pyo. “You might be able to gain something from a video but anything based only on audio would be terrible.”

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