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.