University of Texas professor William Carner doesn’t worry about class attendance. That’s because his students can listen to his lectures wherever they go.
This past fall, Carner tested the first-ever podcast of his mass communications classes. Podcasting is a relatively new technological innovation that allows people to subscribe to an audio or video stream and download it to their computer or mp3 player. Although the name of the service obviously derives from Apple’s iPod, any personal audio player with the ability to play mp3 files is compatible with podcasting.
Carner records class lectures onto an iPod, then attaches the iPod to his computer. After a few clicks of the mouse, his lectures become available to all his students.
Pickaprof.com, a Web site that provides students with information on professors across the nation and the classes they teach, offers podcasts on its Web site.
Few professors offer the podcasts, though the technology has potential to grow as students look for convenient ways to get information.
Carner supports this new use of technology.
“I think it’s a good idea, because (iPods are) a type of technology students are used to,” said Carner, who has been teaching for 15 years. “Students are our customers.”Shawn Bingham, a sociology professor at USF, said podcasts have just as much potential for students to succeed as they do to fail.
“The concern I see is students would think that coming to class is obsolete,” Bingham said.According to Bingham, because of today’s society, many students believe it’s the job of the professor to provide students with entertaining lectures.
But Carner said there is no reason to be concerned about the effects the podcasts might have on class attendance or quality.
“It’s just another tool,” Carner said. “With pop quizzes and other things, there’s an incentive to come to class.”
Barbara Petersen, a professor in the mass communications department who’s also been teaching for 15 years, said that the technology will lend itself to some subjects, but others benefit from the student being present in class.
Petersen, who teaches Communications Law, feels that her students should be taking notes in class because they get more out of the process. She said “prepackaged notes” take away from the learning experience.
“I don’t believe in spoon-feeding students,” Petersen said.
Other professors worry about the copyright implications of podcasting their lectures.Petersen said that as long as professors agree to have their notes on the site, there are no copyright issues.
“The professor shouldn’t worry about the copyright on the lectures because it doesn’t go much farther than the class,” Carner said.