Podcasts are a valuable tool for quickly and effectively transforming a classroom. This relatively simple multimedia method allows students to engage another learning sense–hearing. More than that, podcasts can increase focus, reinforce main points, and stimulate deeper thinking on topics and issues requiring analytical skills. Simply stated, podcasts are an essential method in increasing online and in-person learning success.
In specific programs, podcasts can be a unique means to develop emphasis, generate effective feedback, and even increase a feeling of a particular scenario—the very qualities that structure and deepen learning in the online environment.
Understanding the levels of modern warfare (strategic, operational, and tactical), as well as the variables shaping them, are central to the aims of the Military Studies (MILS) program at American Military University. Accessing a broad scope of relevant information, exploring the voices of the human terrain, and analyzing the various dimensions of modern warfare through the use of readings, video, and audio are all methods useful for achieving these aims.
The benefits of using podcasts are significant. Students who have used podcasts in the MILS program have commented that it has created the feeling of a brick and mortar school, reinforced learning, and created a realism that motivated learning and provided applications to their careers and service.
Students will, by the very nature of graduate studies, embrace a large amount of information. Without focus, the high quantities of information can have a negative effect on students who, if failing to grasp major points, may minimize more important themes and aspects of their studies.
Well timed podcasts–either prior to a lesson or afterward or both–can call attention to critical issues and themes for the week, not only focusing students’ study but deepening it. Students can download podcasts for guidance and direction, use them to gain focus on main points, and review them later to reinforce points that are essential for building analytic skills for higher learning. As important, any instructor can effectively use podcasts regardless of the subject taught and the level (undergraduate or graduate) of instruction.
Moreover, podcasts are valuable for providing guidance and instruction on assignments. A constructive approach with podcasts in this regard walks the student through the assignment and focuses his or her attention on major objectives. When I have used podcasts to provide guidance on literature reviews–calling attention to the objectives of developing breadth, depth, voice (primary and secondary sources), and quality of perspective–students have noted that the podcast helped to complete the assignment and develop research skills, a learning that transcends the assignment.
Podcasts can help a student feel more connected to a time or place. In the teaching of military studies, podcasts are highly useful for developing a sense or feeling of the battle space. Using podcasts from sources like the BBC and other media often brings the human terrain to life. For instance, the BBC offers podcasts that are interviews in conflict zones and other areas affected by terrorist and insurgencies. In these podcasts students can, in essence, enter the hearts and minds of the population and hear first-person accounts of the variables shaping the conditions of conflict.
Perhaps the most important use of podcasts in online learning involves feedback. Podcasts can add much to group feedback as well as to individual and personalized feedback. Individual podcasts personalized to student performance, and evaluation of that performance, are critical for addressing areas needing improvement, encouragement for further learning, and clarifying better writing habits for the student.
The bottom line is that podcasts are a valuable tool to significantly increase the level of learning, and thereby equip students in their education and careers. Using podcasts to increase focus, feeling, and feedback is a unique way to achieve learning goals and create a successful online classroom.
About the Author:
Dr. Catino is a U.S. Fulbright Scholar, and graduate of the Senior Leaders Counterinsurgency Academy in Kabul, Afghanistan. He teaches graduate courses on military strategy, tactics, leadership, and insurgency at American Military University.