Improved accessibility for students is the #1 benefit of introducing podcasts into the classroom – which, following the COVID-19 pandemic, has been relocated from the campus to the bedroom, living room or, sometimes, the kitchen table.

In fact, the modern world presents multiple challenges that can be overcome by changing our teaching methods. Let’s take a look at the ways in which using podcasts can make a difference to our students’ learning experience:

You can listen to podcasts anywhere, even on the go.

This is particularly important in today’s world. Even as we start to move beyond COVID restrictions, many institutions will continue to offer online classes, and podcasts make a great alternative to recorded lectures/presentations, because you can listen to them while you’re on the move without compromising your absorption rate. In fact, podcasts encourage students to engage, rather than switch off.

Learning through listening is especially beneficial to students with additional needs,

whether those be physical (e.g., visual impairments) or cerebral (e.g., dyslexia). These disabilities can make traditional methods of learning difficult for students because currently a lot of classes are taught from textbooks and screens. By switching to/incorporating podcasts on their syllabuses, universities could remove a significant barrier to learning for millions of students.

It’s easier to listen to podcasts than read the equivalent amount of text, and more goes in.

Aural content has been proven to stimulate the brain more than visual/audiovisual content does. Because of how much exposure we have to visual media these days, our brains can switch off at the sight of it. Listening to lectures without visual cues forces us to engage (and saves us from eye strain). Plus, 30-second videos on apps like TikTok have significantly reduced our attention spans. Reading a chapter of a book in one sitting seems like a lot but, when that information is delivered in podcast form, it’s a lot easier to ingest and understand.

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What happens to your brain when you’re listening to a podcast?

The brain is a complex organ, made up of three parts and four lobes, and listening to podcasts can stimulate different areas of the brain, depending on the subject matter.

One result is certain, though – scientists confirm that learning new things can activate your mesolimbic pathway, which is sometimes known as the “reward pathway” because it releases a feel-good chemical called dopamine into your brain.

Dopamine is a pleasure chemical. Learning new things via podcasts not only educates students but it is also shown to improve their moods!

Now that we have sold you on the benefits of listening to podcasts for learning, let’s take a look at some practical applications of the media: what can you make podcasts about to instruct your students, and what kind of equipment do you need to produce them?

How can you use podcasts in education?

  • Course/syllabus structure. Introduce prospective students to your module with a podcast that lays out the topics you’ll be covering over the course of the semester. Actually talking to them, instead of outlining the program on paper, will inspire more students to sign up for your class, because they will be able to hear your passion for your subject, as well as get a taste of the material and your teaching style.
  • Lecture recordings. Recording your lectures allows students who may have missed a couple of classes to catch up in their own time. And, if you’re unable to deliver a lecture in person for whatever reason, a podcast of the talk you planned to deliver means no one misses out. Plus, lots of people listen to podcasts because they want to learn new things, so perhaps you could release one or two to a wider audience. Again, this could be a great boost for enrolment figures.
  • Subject reviews. Podcasts make great revision aids. Break subjects down into easily digestible sound bites which can be reviewed and rereviewed throughout the study period.
  • Student projects. Instead of presentations, why not get your students to write and record podcasts as part of their assignments? Not only does this promote engagement with the topic, it also benefits class discussions and peer learning.
  • Share advice with other teachers. Remember: learning is not just for students! Podcasts by teachers for teachers have created a global community of education specialists all learning from one another, sharing their experiences and techniques to the benefit of all their listeners. To join in and find out about the changing face of education all around the world, check out these 10 teaching podcasts.

Want to make your own podcast?

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A microphone. A good quality microphone is a must if you want to make yourself heard.
  • Headphones. You’ve probably got a pair on or in (or at least nearby!) right now. Those are perfect. You’ll just want to listen back to the audio file after you’ve finished, and experience it the way your audience will, to make sure there’s no interference or other issues with the recording.
  • A computer. Your own computer or one of the ones on campus should work fine. All you need is a free USB port and an operating system that supports (and is robust enough to run) audio editing software. Speaking of which …
  • Audio recording and editing software. Some of the high end programs are very expensive, so, if you’re just starting out, see if your institution already has audio recording and editing software you can use. If not, check out some of the free downloads online!

And here’s how you do it:

  1. Come up with a couple of talking points. Some people like to write out presentations word for word and then read them out loud. This method ensures you don’t miss anything, but it can sound a little unnatural on a recording. Other podcasters prefer to unpack the subject organically. That is to say, without any notes at all. This approach can sometimes mean getting sidetracked or forgetting points you wanted to mention. If you’re new to podcasting, we’d recommend following a lecture outline so you stay on track.
  2. Record your content, using your microphone and your audio recording software. Make sure you do this in a quiet room with no audible distractions.
  3. Review and edit the recording. Listen back to it to make sure you’re happy with your content and the quality of the audio. Jot down the times at which you think things get a bit sticky, then go in and smooth them over with your editing software afterwards.
  4. Save the edited audio file as an MP3.
  5. Upload your file. You can either do this via your institution, or on audio sites like SoundCloud. Whichever you go for, make sure it’s accessible to all your students, because that’s the aim of creating the podcast in the first place!
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