Is it a good idea to podcast lectures?

That’s the question being debated in this Christina Silva story in the Boston Globe: Hoping to appeal to tech-savvy students with a shrinking attention span, more Boston-area colleges are pushing professors to go digital and record their lectures as downloadable files that student can listen to wherever, whenever…. Supporters of the idea say that podcasts ...

By , a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast.

That's the question being debated in this Christina Silva story in the Boston Globe: Hoping to appeal to tech-savvy students with a shrinking attention span, more Boston-area colleges are pushing professors to go digital and record their lectures as downloadable files that student can listen to wherever, whenever.... Supporters of the idea say that podcasts help students study better, allowing baffled freshmen to fast-forward to the part of an introductory lecture they didn't understand and hit repeat. The University of Massachusetts at Lowell, for example, will try with 10 high-tech classrooms this fall. But others question whether podcasting lectures will actually contribute to learning. Students, some professors say, might be tempted to skip class and the discussion that can flow after a lecture. "If the purpose of what you are doing is to give them some information quickly, then podcasts are great," said Donna Qualters, director of The Center for Effective University Teaching at Northeastern University, an education resource program. ``My fear is that podcasts are going to replace the lecture. And then, of course, kids are not going to go to class, and they will miss the benefits of that." My take: some students would use podcasts as a substitute for attending lectures, others will use it as intended. The ones who use it as a substitute probably know it's not as good as attending the lecture itself, but are willing to pay the price in terms of lower grades. I'm curious what other professors and students think.

That’s the question being debated in this Christina Silva story in the Boston Globe:

Hoping to appeal to tech-savvy students with a shrinking attention span, more Boston-area colleges are pushing professors to go digital and record their lectures as downloadable files that student can listen to wherever, whenever…. Supporters of the idea say that podcasts help students study better, allowing baffled freshmen to fast-forward to the part of an introductory lecture they didn’t understand and hit repeat. The University of Massachusetts at Lowell, for example, will try with 10 high-tech classrooms this fall. But others question whether podcasting lectures will actually contribute to learning. Students, some professors say, might be tempted to skip class and the discussion that can flow after a lecture. “If the purpose of what you are doing is to give them some information quickly, then podcasts are great,” said Donna Qualters, director of The Center for Effective University Teaching at Northeastern University, an education resource program. “My fear is that podcasts are going to replace the lecture. And then, of course, kids are not going to go to class, and they will miss the benefits of that.”

My take: some students would use podcasts as a substitute for attending lectures, others will use it as intended. The ones who use it as a substitute probably know it’s not as good as attending the lecture itself, but are willing to pay the price in terms of lower grades. I’m curious what other professors and students think.

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner

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