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Podcast and audio

Brief description

There is increasing interest in using podcasts and audio in teaching to communicate academic material. This allows you to work with a longer time format and you can go into depth with the academic material. You can work with whole and half hours, which can be a mixture of reading aloud and interviews, for example. Students enjoy this format because they can take it with them and listen to it on the bus on their way home, when they go for a run or when taking a walk in the forest, for example. It can even lead to an epiphany for students because a podcast can delve into and unfold a topic for a longer period of time. However, you should be aware that you will not necessarily have their full attention the entire time, even though the format allows students to immerse themselves in the topic.  

Formats

Conceptually, there is a difference between podcasts and audio files. However, in both cases we are talking about processed audio production. Think of podcasts as a series of interconnected audio productions with some clear common features. Podcasts are usually more well-prepared and well-polished. Audio files can be more raw and unworked, and there is not necessarily a link between the audio files. An audio file can be a single interview, field recordings, a teacher summarising a part of a course, etc.   

Of course, what you call it is not the most important part, as both involve audio production without visual aids. Before you get started, you should therefore consider whether your content needs visual aids.  

Let yourself be inspired by the six formats we have described below, all of which can be used in teaching, depending on what makes sense for the teaching and academic material in question. 

Format

Description

A single communicator

The communicator format has no other participants than the speaker, who communicates the desired content. This makes the format flexible in relation to time and scheduling. However, you are also solely responsible for production and there is less opportunity to make the material interesting and create a good dynamic with a conversation partner.

Multiple communicators

Multiple communicators could be two teachers discussing a topic, or a group of students communicating the material. This often ensures a better flow of information and more nuance in the conversation about a concept, for example.

Interview

In the interview format, each episode has a new guest, who presents an academic insight or who is used as an object of analysis. This format can bring many interesting academic viewpoints into play and can create an engaging dynamic, but it also requires more planning.

Reporting

Reporting captures the mood from the communicator’s location as the communicator moves about and talks to people. It can be an anthropological study, a field study, etc. The good thing about reporting in a podcast format is that you are less obtrusive with a small audio recorder than with a camera.

Narration

Narration is documentary, academic or fictional content controlled by a narrator. The format can include recordings from interviews or similar, but the speaker continuously communicates the context of the narrative. This requires more production time and clear storyboarding, but the result is often interesting to listen to.

Radio Drama

Tells stories using several participants who each play a role. Sound effects and music are often used. The listener can sink into a specific time period or go on a trip to a museum with the communicators. However, the format is demanding due to the frequent use of sound effects and music, which all require time to produce.

Use it in class

It is crucial to consider the context of your podcast, and what you will ask and expect of students before, during and after. If you want to work with the longer formats, remember that the students will not be just sitting down and listening for an hour. They will often be on the move and doing something else at the same time, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. However, it does mean that you have to consider what the students should do before and after listening to the podcast. 

It can be relevant to use podcasts and audio prior to a new topic, so students have a nuanced perspective of a topic and can better discuss it in the classroom. However, you can also use podcasts and audio as a follow-up to a topic or course  to revise and reflect on the content, so that the "pieces fall into place" and you provide students with a new perspective on what was covered.  

Below is inspiration for different activities.

Activity

Description

Interview

Record a conversation between you and someone else, e.g. a visiting lecturer, a person from the business community or a researcher. An interview podcast is a great way to create nuance and introduce other points of view, and is a good choice for launching or concluding a topic. You can use Zoom to record the conversation, as Zoom automatically creates an MP3 file that you can share immediately after recording.

Academic presentation

Make a podcast covering an academic topic. Consider whether the topic can be presented without visual aids. If this is the case, then a podcast is a really good way to cover a topic, and it will also be an excellent resource for students when preparing for exams. If you are the only person communicating content, then it is a good idea to consider how to vary the content, for example by making several shorter podcasts, or by breaking up your podcast with pieces of music or different audio files.

Field recordings

You may have various audio recordings obtained during your research, e.g. interviews, sounds from your surroundings or ambience. Field recordings can be a really good way to introduce a bit of reality to students. Be aware of sensitive data and personal security, i.e. is the recording something you can share?

Instructions

Give the students instructions via audio, so that they have a clear description of what to do and when. Perhaps in connection with a particularly demanding assignment, during a field study or physical exercises in connection with mindfulness, theatre or physical education, etc.

Use an existing podcast

There are many fantastic, freely available podcasts. Before you spend time creating a new podcast, find out whether there are already good podcasts on the topic.

Students produce their own podcast as an assignment

You can also have your students produce a podcast themselves. The students can plan and produce one of the various podcast formats. It can be part of an assignment, and you can specify the format, for example requiring that the students combine reading out loud with interviews or ambient sounds.

Feedback

By using audio files to provide feedback on assignments, you can save time while simultaneously providing more nuanced feedback. For example, you can use an audio file to provide general feedback to the class or to individual students. Click here for an example on how to provide feedback using an audio file.

Reading an article aloud

Read an article aloud that the students can then listen to. This can be a good way of using an article, but it should not stand on its own.

Get off to a good start

Recommendations

  • Sound quality is crucial, so spend time making sure that equipment has been set up correctly. This means obtaining a good microphone, among other things. The equipment you use depends on your setup, whether it is at home or on the road, whether you are alone or have guests. Use our guide to get off to a good start or contact the CED Media Lab if you have any questions about equipment. 

  • Record in a room with soft furnishings, pillows and carpets (or your child’s stuffed animals). This will remove any echo and give a clearer sound. 

  • Be well-prepared, for example by writing a script. For a podcast, you can easily read from a script since you do not have to look anyone in the eye. 

Digital tools

  • Zoom - when you record a Zoom session, an MP3 is automatically created. 

  • Descript- a program for recording and editing podcasts, audio files and screencasting videos. AU does not have a Descript licence, but you can use the free version. However, the free version does have a limit of three hours per month for transcription. 

  • Brightspace