Spark your students’ curiosity and sustain their interest in the course with a podcast made by you.
Your students are probably listening to podcasts. A recent (2022) Pew Research Center survey found that two-thirds of Americans ages 18 to 29 listened to a podcast in the past 12 months. How might you tap into your students’ interest in podcasts to engage them in your course content? In this blog, I share how you can engage (and sustain) your students’ interest with podcasts made by you, the instructor.
Why a Podcast?
There are multiple ways in which you can engage your learners with a podcast, from introducing the course to providing a brief overview of the week ahead, to sharing your own experience or expertise on the topic. With a podcast, an introduction to your course will begin with your voice—an excellent way to humanize and convey your passion for the topic in a non-traditional but meaningful way. It’s also important to recognize that our students are mobile—and on the move. They can listen on the go, anywhere they can access audio, without stopping to watch a video or read text on a screen. Simply press play. As Eva Grouling Snider writes in the blog Toward Mobile-First Teaching, mobile devices are woven into the fabric of our lives.
As instructors, we don’t have to be an experienced podcaster to spark our students’ curiosity: we just need to be willing to use our (literal) voice. What excites you about your discipline or the course topic? Whatever entices you, share that passion with your students. Do you remember the days leading up to the first day of class? You were likely in a state of anticipation, ready and energized to learn. One simple way to engage students right away is to create and share a brief podcast introducing the “big picture” of your course. You can sustain students’ interest in the topic with short podcasts throughout the term.
What You’ll Need
- A written script or an outline of what you want to say. I don’t write a script word-for-word, but an outline for me does serve as a helpful reminder of my main points. It’s OK to go off script, too, and speak to points that emerge for you organically. While there is no perfect podcast length, I kept my course introduction podcast to 4 minutes.
- A quiet, insulated space. Avoid echo-prone spaces.
- A good microphone. Test your built-in microphone on your device. I use a Snowball microphone (starting at $30) but there are many microphone options available.
- A site to host your podcast, such a YouTube channel, SoundCloud, Stitcher or other podcast apps, or even Canvas. You can record a podcast directly to Canvas using the Record Media feature in the Rich Content Editor (RCE) in an Announcement, for example.
What to Include in a Podcast: Three Key Tips
- Share with your students what they will be doing, broadly, that doesn’t include specific course details that may later change. For example, students in my course will “investigate and uncover clues in the world around them to make gender visible.” I’m providing my own course introduction podcast via SoundCloud as an example.
- Give yourself permission to share your expertise or perspective on a topic that will make a lesson salient and authentic to your students.
- Your podcast doesn’t have to be perfect. Making podcasts (and videos) is a vulnerable project. Be yourself! This is an opportunity to humanize with your students, especially if you’re teaching an online asynchronous course. Resist re-recording yourself once you’re satisfied with the sound quality and length. After all, you don’t need polished media to engage your learners.
Sharing Your Podcast
The benefit of sharing your podcast via Canvas is that it keeps students in Canvas. However, you can create and share a podcast with students via SoundCloud or other hosting platforms. Keep in mind that once students visit the link to the hosting site, their history is captured through Cookies. While students don’t need to create an account on SoundCloud to play the podcast, it’s important that we share with our students a website’s Cookies Policy and notify them of the risks of visiting any site we direct them to outside Canvas. (Even if you embed the player from Soundcloud directly into your Canvas course, the website still collects their data, per their policy.) This is an important lesson in digital literacy, both for ourselves and our students.
Short podcasts and videos in online courses are ideal ways to engage your students when you can’t engage with them in-person. They need not be perfect, either. Draft a script or outline, have fun sharing your expertise, and most importantly, be yourself. Your students will appreciate your voice—both literally and figuratively—in terms of how you express your passion and the “big picture” of your course.
Do you share a homemade podcast with your students? If so and you’re feeling brave, share a link below!
Elisa Shearer, Jacob Liedke, Katerina Eva Matsa, Michael Lipka, and Mark Jurkowitz, “Podcasts as a Source of News and Information.” Pew Research Center. April 18, 2023. https://www.pewresearch.org/journalism/2023/04/18/podcasts-as-a-source-of-news-and-information/
Grouling Snider, Eva. “Toward Mobile Forward Teaching Practices.” Teaching Innovation Blog. October 3, 2022.
Grouling Snider, Eva. “You Don’t Need to Be a YouTube Star.” Teaching Innovation Blog. January 18, 2023.