Dr. Christine O’Connor, DIT, summarises her talk at the recent Irish Variety in Chemistry Teaching meeting:
As a novice to podcasting I delivered this talk based on my own recent practitioners’ experience on getting started with developing and uploading podcasts for student use. As an introduction, I distinguished between Podcasting (which is audio track only) and Screencasting (which is video and audio). From here I defined the types of podcasts such as supplemental and substitutional as described in a recent Education in Chemistry article.  The podcasts that I prepared for a recent study are supplemental and are accompanied by a handout. The material covered is aimed at first year, third level, general chemistry students. The material is designed as introductory lessons to a topic which will be accompanied by on-line quizzes to allow the students to further engage with the material. For those interested in trying out podcasting I gave a step by step approach based on my own experience:
- Buy a headset with microphone.
- View YouTube tutorials on podcasting e.g. How to create a podcast http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hrBbczS9I0
- Download the voice recording software Audacity for free. http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
- Download the MP3 encoder for free. http://lame.sourceforge.net/
- Decide what type of podcast you want to make.
- Find a quiet space.
So far the material I have prepared for podcasts are on topics such as; the atom, electronic configuration, molar mass, moles and molecules, stoichiometry, titrations from first principles and more. Each handout is prepared in the same template and any worked examples are done step wise to facilitate a logical progression with the voice over.
Other tips that I suggested are to; (a) use space on your virtual learning environment (VLE) to house your podcasts as MP3 files, (b) keep the podcasts short and concise (5 to 10 mins), (c) use the same language and context in the podcast as you would in class and (d) if giving worked examples of calculations prepare them in steps or lines to allow the ease of use with the audio track.
The challenges highlighted during the talk were finding somewhere quiet to record the audio tracks, choosing the purpose of the resource, the use of tone to emphasise points, pace of voice recording, listening to your own voice(!) and finally to evaluate what value the students put on the podcasts.
Student feedback so far is positive, for example: ‘having the handouts read out and explained by our lecturer is very helpful even for things like stoichiometry’. Students prefer to have their lecturers’ voice on the podcast.
In conclusion I think podcasting would be very useful as a supplemental mechanism for introductory and/ or revision material. Time is getting so constrained to meet with students that podcasts allows for an almost ‘one to one’ with the student when suits them, hence allowing for flexibility in the learning environment. The resource may be designed to allow for reuse. I feel they are beneficial to students and not that difficult to prepare once you are prepared.