Are podcasts better than live instruction? One study hints at it.

I’ve recently found myself behind in my RSS feeds, and went through a great “star it for later,” “read it now,” or “toss it completely” purge a week or so ago. So I just uncovered in my starred posts a brief mention from Jane Hart of iTunes U. With my love of all things podcasting, I immediately went out for a closer look.

A psychologist from New York State University recently conducted a study on the effectiveness of podcasts in higher education. She had half of the class attend the face-to-face lecture, and half of the class watched an audio and video podcast with the lecturer speaking and the slides appearing on screen. Her results? The half of the learners who watched the podcast did a full letter grade better on tests than those students who actually attended the class.

As I continued reading, I found a few flaws with her study, namely that the grade difference was between a “D” and a “C” and that she got her participants in the study by advertising that the students with the highest scores would get $15 iTunes gift cards.

But putting the bribery aside (because, let’s face it, if we could motivate our learners with gift cards, we would), I still think the study may be a good basis for additional research into using podcasting for learning. It is an early attempt at showing that students who can control the timing of their learning may do better. The students that could pause and rewind the podcast had a clear advantage over the students trying to write at 50 words per minute to capture the lecture. In training, we really want to give our learners the tools to succeed, and podcasts they can control might be a new tool to try.

I’m still following the discussions on the article’s comment board. People are debating the implications that the study will have on higher education and learning in general. Check it out at ReadWrite Wed.

A Cool Site for How To Videos

I can’t wait to use more video in my courses. I love it, because you can teach someone to do something in as little as two to three minutes.

Personally, I’m using how to videos on the Internet frequently, mainly for recipes (food is a high priority for me). Just this weekend while looking for how to make Indian Butter Chicken, I found a cool Web site called VideoJug – Life explained on film. The Web site has how to videos for a wide variety of topics. It is a great place to get inspiration for how you might incorporate video into your learning solutions.

Here is the link to the butter chicken recipe I used. This video isn’t quite as fun as others, but it is short and effective, as I successfully made butter chicken for dinner last Saturday. Check it out.

How to Make Butter Chicken

What are some of your favorite sites or podcasts?

Creating a good learning podcast

Yesterday, I delivered a presentation on how to get started in podcasting. As part of this presentation, I showed several podcasts and web videos and we discussed what was good – and not good – about each of them. Each time I do a presentation on podcasting I make sure to include Gary Vaynerchuk’s Wine Library podcast series. The reason? Because Gary’s initial foray into podcasting featured VERY low-end productions and yet he’s extremely successful as a podcaster. (Look at early episodes and compare them to later ones. His lighting is awful; his set is awful, etc).

Gary is now on his 600th episode) and he has over 4,000 subscribers to his daily show. He’s grown his business from a $1M endeavor to a $60M endeavor based on his podcast’s success in generating buzz and business – and he’s actually spawned a new business from the podcast. I”ll bet I alone have grown his subscription business by the dozens as I’ve told people to check out his podcasts for ideas.

The reason Gary’s podcasts work are primarily driven by his over-the-top personality (whether you like it/don’t like it) and his top-notch content. The guy knows wine, and his viewers love that he knows his topic.

If you want to get into creating learning podcasts here’s are four essential tips to follow:

1) Target your series very well to your audience.

2) Have GREAT content that is relevant and useful to your audience – not just entertaining.

3) Make sure the audio quality is solid. People will forgive less-than-stellar video quality, but they want clear, undistorted audio.

4) Build a relationship with your viewers. End your podcasts with some sort of call to action that sparks them to contribute to your show. Invite them to comment, share stories, pose their own questions, etc.

5) Have a great “voice” as your show’s voice. A monotone narrator on on-camera presence will kill your show. A boring voice is no better (and actually worse) on a podcast than they are in really life. Your show’s voice needs a personality. Like him or find him too intense, Gary Vaynerchuk as a LOT of personality.

If you’d like my entire presentation on getting started in podocasting, let me know. I’m happy to share it. Just drop me a linein the Comments section.

Audio or video…which makes for more memorable podcasts?

What’s better for learners – listening to an audio podcast or watching a video podcast? It’s an interesting question because Podcasting News (April 16th edition) reports on research by Arbitron/Edison Media Research that most people (a whopping 75%) are viewing/listening to podcasts from their computer – NOT a media player. Other research finds that people who listen (as opposed to watch) tend to multi-task while people who are viewing a video podcast focus more.

I’d love to do a small research project to see which way enables people to actually LEARN more – listening only or watching/listening. If you’re interested in participating in such a research project, let me know. My thought is to create two podcasts – one audio and one video – on the same topic with the same post-test and see which way enables people to learn the material better. Post a comment or send me an email if you’d like to participate; if we get enough interest, we’ll create the podcasts and see what results we get!