i-Pod becomes a tool for learning

The latest phenomenon in broadcasting is being used by two science lecturers at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth (UWA) to help students with their studies.

Dr. Andy Breen and Dr. Siân Jones, both Physics lecturers at the Institute of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at UWA, are using MP3 technology to make voice recordings of their lectures available to their students via the internet in the form of podcasts.

Once recorded, each 50 minute lecture is transformed into a 30megabyte file which can be downloaded by students registered on the course onto an i-Pod or other similar MP3 players from the University’s Blackboard web pages.

Blackboard is a web-based virtual learning environment, which allows access to teaching and learning materials, and a number of tools for flexible online learning.

Dr. Andy Breen has been ‘podcasting’ lectures since the autumn of 2004 and is believed to be one of the first to use the technology in this way.

“The initial reason for doing this was to provide support for students who were having difficulty taking notes and was driven partly by the Disability Discrimination Act. As things have worked out the podcasts have been far more successful than I had anticipated and are used regularly by a good proportion of our students,” he said.

“Recording and providing transcripts of lectures has been done for many years, however, the advent of small portable MP3 players means that we can now record ourselves and create a reasonably compact file which can be made available for students to download almost immediately once the lecture is over.”

“Student feedback has been very positive indeed and those who are using the system have been listening to our lectures in their cars, whilst cooking at home and one student has even admitted to listening whilst on her early morning jog!”

Dr. Breen has also been using image capture technology to record what is being written on the board during lectures so that students can view them online as they listen to the podcasts.

The one concern Dr. Breen initially had with providing recordings of lectures was that it might lead to a fall in student attendance. However, his worries were soon dispelled as attendance over the year has been slightly up on last year.

Dr. Breen is now working with the University’s Information Services department to encourage more staff to adopt the technology for the new academic year. In the mean time he jokes about remixed versions of his lectures being prepared by students, and even a ring tone.

Perhaps the Crazy Frog does have something to be worried about after all!