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Podcasts offer students a portable learning option

1 March 2006

UC podcasts offer students a portable learning option

The University of Canterbury is offering computer science students an innovative and flexible learning option this year with the introduction of podcasts to one of its courses.

Students taking the COSC110 paper, "Working in a Digital World", will be able to download and listen to weekly podcasts, designed as an extension to the lectures.

Students can listen to the audio files via the local podcast feed on a campus computer, or download them onto an mp3 player to listen to when and where it suits them. The podcasts will also be externally available through podcast services like iTunes, Odeo and Yahoo and course lecturers believe it is the first time a New Zealand university has podcast to the public.

Associate Professor Tim Bell (Computer Science and Software Engineering), who is organising the podcast supplements, says the option enables students to make use of what might otherwise be "dead time" during the week.

"A lot of students listen to music while they are exercising, doing household chores, or catching a bus into university or doing something which doesn’t really need their full attention. I personally got interested in podcasting because I spend five hours a week on a bicycle and I wanted to listen to lectures, discussions, news and all sorts of things during that time."

Professor Bell stresses that the podcasts will not be repeats of the lectures but extensions of them.

"The podcasts will be a chance for more indepth discussion around material covered in lectures, but while they will be based around lecture topics it is up to the students to direct where discussion leads.

"We want to encourage students to develop a critical view of technology so the format of the podcasts is going to be really interactive. We will be encouraging students to email in contributions - questions and comments about the latest gadgets or topics in the news, even their own recordings to be a part of the next podcast. It is going to be like a talk back show in some respects."

The podcasts - along with lectures, labs and the online discussion board - will be treated as examinable course material.

"This is because the medium is the message for this course," says Professor Bell.

The more the students interact with digital media in the teaching and learning process, the better they will understand it.

While podcasting is a fairly recent phenomenon (the term itself was only coined in 2004), a survey of computer science students conducted last year at UC revealed that 64% of students owned some sort of portable digital music player and with iPods such a hotseller last Christmas Professor Bell predicts the figure will be higher with the Class of '06. Given that, he is confident that podcasts will be a popular portable way to learn.

For further information on the podcasts at Canterbury University visit:


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