Considerations for Podcasting as a Higher Education Assignment

My Podcast Set I

This morning, I’m doing a quick scoping of the teaching and learning resources related to using Podcasts as an assessment tool in the Higher Education classroom. The intended outcome of this environmental scan is to see what the evidence suggests as best practice for designing and facilitating Podcasting assignments. My sources are varied, from Blog posts to peer-reviewed journals (see the bottom of the post for relevant links to the literature).

Initial reactions

Generally speaking, the literature describes students as reacting positively to Podcasting as an assignment type in their course.

Curiously, much of the peer-reviewed literature around Podcasts seems to “peak” at the end of the oughts. Google’s trend data using the search term “Podcast” appears to support this: an explosion of searches for Podcasts, which reaches its relative peak in 2006 ((Curiously, there’s another peak in December 2014 which Google attributes to the Serial Podcast)). If this is the height of the Podcast hype, then it’s not surprising to see papers start to appear in the closing years of the 2000s reporting on the use of Podcasts in the higher ed classroom. But Podcasts, as an assessment type, seems to have moved along the educational technology “hype cycle“.

Rather than work that describes the use of Podcasts as a kind of assessment, I’ve noticed more research on the use of Podcasts as:

  • a kind of instructional technology (e.g. recording lectures as making them available as Podcasts) and
  • a way to provide student feedback.

Can’t help but think there’s an opportunity here for some kind of introspective and retrospective look at eLearning, using Podcasting as a case study.

Design & facilitation considerations

So, without further ado, here’s what people have said about creating Podcast assignments:


  • It will take students more time to produce their Podcasts than you initially imagine.
    • Limiting the length of the Podcast can limit the scope of production and, subsequently, time.
  • Consider if it is a group assignment or an individual assignment: if creating Podcasts for the first time, students want to be able to troubleshoot tech issues with peers rather than feeling it’s up to them to solve their problems.
  • To help tackle the scope of the project, and help with the technical side of things, consider scaffolding Podcasting assignment: break down the Podcast production into discrete steps and have students submit these along the way, in addition to the final version of the Podcast.
  • Is the Podcast a means to an end or an end itself: are you assessing the quality of production or the quality of ideas?
    • Consider providing explicit direction on the amount of time student should spend on post-production.
    • Reflect this in the assignment rubric.

Podcasting as a skill

  • Don’t assume that the “digital natives” in your class know what tools to use to create Podcasts, or, how to use the tools: Podcasting is a skill and they need to be taught that skill.
    • Having exemplars of other students’ Podcasts can help student grasp the expectations and scope of the assignment; or, create an example yourself.
    • One suggestion is to consider creating a Podcast as a live demo in-class: it can set students at ease and can demystify the production process.
  • Make use of your campus’ technology resources when introducing the assignment; having the appropriate campus support introduce the tools and how to use them is a great first step but…
    • Be prepared to devote class time to addressing on-going technical issues.
    • Don’t assume that there is sufficient campus resources to offer individualized support for each group or individual in your class.
  • Keep the tools inexpensive and simple: Garageband (OSX & iOS, $5) or Audacity (Windows, Linux, OSX, Free) should suffice for production.


Other considerations

  • Who is the audience for the Podcast? Have a clear notion of who the intended audience is and be able to communicate that to students.

Podcast Resources

As an assessment tool

Podcasts as an assessment tool in Higher Ed (Blog Post, 2013)

Student Thoughts about Podcasting Assignments (Blog Post, 2012)

Four Mistakes I Made when Assigning Podcasts (Blog Post, 2012)

Can Creating Podcasts be a Useful Assignment in a Large Undergraduate Chemistry Class? (Conference Proceeding, 2010)

Podcasting (Blog Post, 2010)

As a feedback tool

Reflections on using podcasting for student feedback (Article, 2007)

It was just like a personal tutorial: Using podcasts to provide assessment feedback as an instructional tool (Conference paper, 2008)

As an instructional tool

Podcasts and Mobile Assessment Enhance Student Learning Experience and Academic Performance (Article, 2010)

The value of using short-format podcasts to enhance learning and teaching (Article, 2009)

The effectiveness of educational podcasts for teaching music and visual arts in higher education (Article, 2012)

2 replies on “Considerations for Podcasting as a Higher Education Assignment”

Making radio (i.e. podcasts etc.) is an excellent way for students to explore ideas and to create their own reflections. As good IMHO as a written essay. I’ve used podcasts and live radio in both undergraduate and graduate classes with almost uniform success.

A few additions to your excellent overview.

Take advantage of your local campus/community radio station. They are an excellent resource and are often very eager to engage with the academic community. Plus, and this is a huge plus, they have great studios which you can book. The support I’ve had from CFRU in Guelph has been wonderful.

One of the aspects that radio (for me podcasts are just a variant of “radio”) brings to students is a focus on narrative or storytelling. You write for radio differently than you write for print. And as a result students become more aware of the nature of narrative and how to make it effective.

Lastly I would emphasize listening as a critical act. Listening to radio is an immersive, imaginative experience (in the same way reading is). By using radio as an assignment students learn to listen in a new and critical way. For many it is a revelation.

Bottom line for me? Make radio. Too much fun and pedagogically rewarding.

Cheers, Mike Ridley

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