Written by Robert Allare, Business & Social Science, History

According to Dictionary.com a podcast is, a digital audio or video file or recording, usually part of a themed series, that can be downloaded from a website to a media player (phone) or computer. Until recently I missed the connection between podcasts and Higher Education. This all changed after attending the “Innovative Strategies to Advance Student Learning” conference run by Lilly. After attending several workshops about how to use podcasts in the classroom I began to reach out to find other sources on this topic. Fortunately, I didn’t have to search far. My first source was Teaching Naked by José Bowen. Dr. Bowen, who you might recall was the keynote presenter at the 2017 Assessment Conference at Harper, outlines the benefits of podcasts in his book. Another source I used was my son who is a junior at Indiana University. When I asked him about podcasts over lunch one day he gave me the look that says, “Boy, you are out of touch, Dad.” Then he said, “sure I listen to podcasts while working out or walking to class.” He then pulled out his smartphone and showed me some of the podcasts he likes including Special Operations. Just a month after attending the Lilly conference I now listen to podcasts such as, Ted Talks, The History of the Christian Church, The History of Baseball, and Teaching in Higher Ed.

Okay, now that you know a little bit about podcasts you might be asking yourself, “how can I use them in the college classroom?” According to the Dr. Bowen and the instructors at Lilly, there are two ways to use podcasts. One way is to find subject matter that links with your course content. For example, I use the The History of the Christian Church in my Western Civilization course. Students listen to the podcast episode before class, which helps me use class time more efficiently and allows me to have students work collaboratively to debate the topic. A second way to incorporate podcasts in the college classroom is to have your students create their own. This semester, I am working with the Academy for Teaching Excellence to have my students create podcasts answering several open-ended questions including the following: Was the United States justified in going to war with Mexico in 1848? Who is Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and does she deserve a national holiday? Who really won the American Civil War?

In the end, there are many benefits of podcasts. The most important benefit might be empowering students to work collaboratively and demonstrate the awesome knowledge they have learned in your courses. Besides this, you might even get your students to give you the look that says, “Wow, that professor is a genius!”

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