NMU discusses podcasts

Ariana Grams

The question of podcasts being used at NMU has been brought up by ASNMU members recently. Podcasting is the process of recording a lecture or series of lectures creating audio or video files and storing them for later playback, said Felicia Flack, director of information services in the information services department.

Professors can use podcasts to have students listen to lectures when the professor has to miss class, or they can simply use them as a supplement to their lectures, or a way to have students review what was said in class and beef up their notes.  It is especially good for students who don’t comprehend things as quickly as others.

“It is an excellent way to help students learn and it has many positive outcomes. It expands learning beyond the classroom by allowing students to review important material at their own pace as often as is necessary,” Flack said.

“The podcasts are meant to supplement the class, not replace it.  It should only be used to review the course material,” said Chris Lewis, senior programmer and analyst in the information services department.

Lewis has been working on the program that supports podcasts for a while now and is one of the people who helped set up the program in 2008. They use new software called Camtasia Relay, and it allows professors to more easily record and post their podcasts. This software allows the professor to record their voice as well as the computer screen being used and post them to the website.

Lewis also works closely with the faculty who use the program to post podcasts for students. Professors that wish to use podcasts can just express their interest and, within 15 seconds, they are up and running in the system, Lewis said.

“The faculty are the most important part in the podcast system. We try to implement as many ideas as we can from them,” Lewis said. “I sure hope this becomes a trend among professors. I know that podcasting cannot work for all areas of the university, but it would be nice to see this catch on in the areas it does work well.”

The podcast program at NMU was originally designed to stream audio but now can handle audio and video, and it has security features where professors can lock down the podcast to students in their classes, Lewis said.

As for students who would skip class thinking that they could just watch the podcasts, professors and Lewis are still working on it. They are also working on a way for students to listen to the podcasts on their iPhones and iPads.

“If a student solely relies on the podcast for the class, they will not do well in the class,” Lewis said.

More professors are using this system and many students like it as well.

Nathan Schultz, a junior political science major, said he liked using podcasts in his RE270 class, because it allowed them to stick to the syllabus when the professor could not be in class.

“I think professors that miss class on a regular basis should definitely utilize podcasts,” Schultz said. “They can be an effective tool, and are a better option than just canceling class.”

Schultz also said he liked the videos, because he could take notes at his own pace and pause  when he needed to. He said that the disadvantage he found was that students could not ask questions about the lecture until they met in class again.