Podcasting at Bradford
From the front page of the THES on 26th May:–
A Bradford University lecturer claims to be the first UK academic to abolish lectures completely in favour of podcasts. First year students taking Bill Ashraf's biochemistry course next year won't have to go to a lecture theatre. Instead they'll watch or listen to virtual lectures on their MP3 players, phones or computers in their own time.
It's intriguing if true. Most academics who've been experimenting with podcasting thus far have been using as a supplement to, rather than replacement for, traditional lectures. They've either recorded the lecture itself, or recorded an alternative reading of the lecture material, but either way the lecture still takes place. If there were no lectures, would students really be motivated to listen to a series of (presumably) hour–long audio sessions? Experience generally suggests that it's awfully difficult to make an hour–long audio recording which holds the listener's attention effectively (though of course the same could be said of hour–long lectures). Will it matter that there won't be slides or a blackboard or an OHP? Will students miss the social elements (and to some extent the peer pressure) of convening for lectures?
And why does Dr Ashraf want to do this?
Dr Ashraf said the move would free time for more small–group teaching, and would better suit the needs of distance learners, part–time students and those balancing study with work. He said "Some lecture classes have 250 students, so I question the effectiveness of a didactic lecture for an hour".
No problem with any of that, although I'm not absolutely clear that the didactic value of a podcast intended to replace a lecture would necessarily be any better than the lecture itself – though I suppose it need only be no worse. Next week I think I might try and contact Dr Ashraf and find out more about what form his podcasts will take and how he might be planning to measure their effectiveness during the year.