July 5, 2022

How to Make a Podcast for Your Students

Lindsay Harris-Friel

Kate Stanley is a history professor at a community college in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Many of her students work and have family commitments around school. To help her students understand and retain the information in class, she wants to make a podcast. Professor Stanley knows her class material inside and out, but she’s never made a podcast before. Online learning differs from in-person learning, with its own challenges for engagement. In this article, we’ll explore some best practices for student engagement from a university professor experienced in online learning. Then, we’ll see how Alitu can help Dr. Stanley record, edit, and disseminate class materials to help her students succeed. 

Engaging Students With Asynchronous Learning

Dr. Lina Newton is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Hunter College, in the City University of New York. In the spring of 2020, she learned quickly what’s most effective to help students understand and remember intricate course concepts in online learning. She provided some recommendations for Professor Stanley, and any other teacher who wants to make a podcast for their students. 

  • Keep your lectures short. Universities schedule lecture sessions to run around an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes. Break your usual lectures up into 20-30 minute sections. 
  • Take your usual classroom lectures and arrange the information by topic or theme. Make sure that you repeat that theme throughout each section, because you won’t be able to engage directly with the student in the moment that they’re learning. The students should know that this theme is their key takeaway. 
  • Before each component of the lecture, summarise what will be covered in that segment. 
  • Use multiple lectures within a theme or a topic. Break up an hour long lecture into 20-30 minute parts, and label them accordingly (i.e, Part I-Part IV). 
  • Vary your media types. A podcast can include different kinds of audio, and the show notes can include links to other media. Dr. Newton said, “I have readings that build on a particular topic or theme. I also add lots of short videos that might go into a bit more depth over a 10, 15 or 20 minute period. So I try to mix the different media that I use to reach [the students], so that they're getting different modalities of information delivery.”
  • Contextualise the course material with current events and news, so the students can “get the full range of experience, from different perspectives.”
  • “One final thing that I do,” Dr. Newton concluded, “I create sets of discussion questions. It forces them to really pay attention to what it is they are reading and viewing and listening to.”  

Dr. Newton said that the student responses to discussion questions are a good way for them to get extra credit, or count toward class participation.  These principles show Professor Stanley that there’s more to making a podcast for your students than recording and sending out lectures. 

Recording, Editing, Publishing and Processing

Again, Professor Stanley knows her course material like the back of her hand. She simply needs Alitu to help her record, edit and publish it as a podcast. 

Recording

Professor Stanley uses a lavalier microphone and her laptop to record her lectures into Alitu. Not only are the classroom recordings useful for students who can’t attend, but also, they’re useful for future online courses. She can also record course material on her own, by plugging a USB mic into her laptop. Alitu records and saves these individual files in her library. 

Expert interviews are easy with Alitu, too. She schedules the interview, sets up Alitu’s call recorder in her web browser, and sends a link to the interview guest. Alitu records both sides of the interview. The guest doesn’t have to travel, and her podcast has more validity and variety. 

Course information from the syllabus, deadlines, class and grading policies, or answers to frequently asked questions can all go into her episode recordings. The title and show notes of each episode makes it simple for students to find the information quickly. 

Editing

Editing the episodes in Alitu is a drag and drop process. In the Episode Builder, Professor Stanley pulls in each audio file that she wants to use, and puts them in the proper order. With her longer lectures, she can break the recordings into shorter instalments. After saving them to her library, she can open a new episode in the Episode Builder, and add the parts of her lecture there. 

To vary the content of her course podcast, Professor Stanley has lots of options. She can get audio clips of relevant information from the college library, or websites such as archive.org. Once they’re saved to her Alitu library, she edits them into her podcast episodes to enliven the material. After she’s assembled the episode exactly the way she wants, Alitu automatically processes the recording, to make it sound consistent and clear.

Publishing

She publishes her episodes to a media host with a private podcast feed. The hosting service lets her see who has subscribed. If a student drops her course, she can remove them from the user list. 

In her podcast episode show notes, Dr. Stanley can include: 

  • Links to websites with relevant readings, pictures or videos
  • Deadline reminders and other course policies
  • Contact information 
  • An important image for that particular topic
  • Nearly anything you can put on a course’s syllabus or web page. 

Your media host’s RSS feed publishes the episodes in chronological order. The students can organise the episodes into playlists, depending on which podcast listening app they use. If a student is writing a paper that uses material from some, but not all of the course lectures, they can make a special queue to review for that assignment. 

Processing the Course Material

Discussion questions are the simplest way Dr. Stanley can know what impact her podcast episodes have on her students. To make this work remotely, she can use a voice recorder tool like Telbee to ask a question, and collect student responses.  She can put a link to the recorder in the show notes section. When the students use it, Telbee transcribes and organises the student responses for her. 

Contemporary Technology for Old-School Engagement

Nothing can replace live, personal communication. But, a podcast helps teachers deliver a variety of media, in stacks, privately. Students can listen while commuting, doing chores, or exercising. For students with ADHD or motor skills problems, a podcast is a better way to learn than trying to sit still in a lecture class. Students can listen at their own pace and as many times as necessary. Making a podcast for your students can support in-person education not only for the students, but also the teacher. 

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