Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Pros and Cons of Podcasting

I have never been one to get too excited over podcasts.   I know there are a good number of people who like to listen to audio content on their mobile devices or while driving in the car.  Me?  I prefer to listen to something like Pink Floyd or the Grateful Dead when I have a little down time, so podcasts have never been my thing.   That being said, they do have their place among delivery media.  And since most of my learners are sales and service professionals who do spend a lot of time in their cars, I have had my team create a podcast library of downloadable resources for "learning on the go."

This week in the class that I'm currently taking at FSU, we discussed the benefits and limitations of podcasts as a medium for learning.  As good collaborative learners do, we created some very nice lists.   I thought they had a lot of good points, so I'm reprinting them here:

Potential Benefits of Using Audio Podcasts 
  1. Portability e.g. easy to load on an iPod or similar device and consume content on the fly
  2. Well suited for distributing content that doesn't require visual support e.g. facts, opinions, and the like
  3. Good for audiences who need information on the fly - salespeople and service people who spend a lot of time in cars can listen as they drive
  4. Good for content that is audio-oriented, such as learning a language, subtle or sensitive communication topics, learning how to play music, or create sound effects
  5. Make better sense of computer images when accompanied by audio by providing an explanation
  6. Encourage deeper thought when providing audio instruction by asking questions. (Not a benefit unique to audio podcasts?)
  7. Audio-only podcasts can be fairly inexpensive to produce (microphone, software)
  8. Audio-only podcasts allow students who have dyslexia the opportunity to learn material without being hindered by the challenges of reading words on a page (this was from our reading of Harris and Park, 2008)
  9. Can Provide specific customization of information to be learned by the learner as a stand alone, or in addition to original instruction
  10. Audio materials can be presented in multiple languages, to target a larger, more diverse audience of learners
  11. Podcasts can be used to reinforce lecture concepts
  12. Students can work at their own pace, starting and stopping when necessary, and replaying key points of the lecture/podcast as they deem necessary
  13. Good for relaying repeated information, leaving teachers more time for higher level instruction (i.e. podcast library or museum tour, as mentioned in the Harris and Park article)
  14. Podcasts are a medium that teens/younger students can identify with and be motivated to use
  15. Because sound effects are accessible in the public domain, you can create a unique environment that matches the sound and feeling of the content being taught fairly inexpensively vs. trying to create a classroom or video experience
  16. Hearing a voice and providing an "eye" break is a huge benefit to online learning. With all the book, article, online reading, sometimes it is nice to have a voice and a "eye" break
  17. Provides learners the opportunity to review and re-review information an unlimited number of times 
Potential Limitations of Using Audio Podcast
  1. Not well suited for complex subjects that necessitate visual support to fully comprehend e.g. mathematics for example
  2. Violates Mayer's multimedia effect when not designed correctly
  3. Can only be effective for short topics
  4. Passive medium
  5. Does not support learning if students are not attentive, therefore the audio must keep the student involved, e.g. asking questions (similar to & elaboration of item 4)
  6. The loss of non-verbal cues (body language, supportive material)from the speaker may affect the intent of the message/speaker
  7. Aural memory is limited in the retention of information, but this can be overcome in audio-only instruction by the learner being able to control the audio presentation by pausing and replaying the information
  8. Audio files take up a lot of space on a computer's hard drive
  9. Some people are visual/kinesthetic learners, that is they learn primarily by seeing someone do something or doing it themselves
  10. Audio output quality is only as good as its weakest component, which is often the system's speakers. It was pointed out that high quality sound it a necessity for us aging listeners and for those with other hearing losses
  11. Lacks feedback. Learner is unable to ask questions or clarify information being presented
  12. If targeted toward a specific audience, some previous knowledge of the subject matter is assumed(Difficult to gear toward a universal audience)
  13. Does not allow for multiple representations of the material, only auditory
  14. Audio only podcasts may be longer than necessary if using words to describe a concept that a picture could teach faster
  15. Requires an audio output device, which may not be present on all computers (no speakers on some public-access machines in offices, libraries, etc.)
  16. If the learner is not as proficient in the spoken language, it could be limiting especially when accents and territorial dialect are added in to the mix
  17. Does not allow for nonverbal cues (already listed in item 6)
This list comes to you courtesy of the Fall 2010 EME6415 class at Florida State University.


  1. I think of Podcasting as more like additional references. There are variety of topics to choose from and all you have to do is determine who's actually the most qualified to give advice or lessons. I wish more app developers would create e learning authoring tools that educators can use in their blended learning sessions.

  2. EJ,

    I would have to agree that when I think of podcasts, I too think of them as references for performance support rather than as something that could be used as a primary tool of instruction. However, as a class, we did explore the possibilities and boundaries for their usage, which is what you see reflected here.

    Thanks for your comment.


  3. Slightly odd question here... I run a 3D blog that had tutorials, the odd review, some advice posts, and so on. I'm thinking that maybe a podcast would be a good idea and some of my readers are agitating for more of that (and video-casts).

    What I'm wondering is what subects are best suited to audio learning? A lot of what I do requires visual aid, there's already a ton of podcasts available for general advice, reviews are fine but again it could be quicker with visual representation... I'm leaning slightly towards a 'general interest' cast focusing on what's happening in the industry.

    As an instructor/educator I was wondering what you thought. :)

  4. Hi Heather,

    In my experience the best subjects for learning podcasts are those topics that are aural in nature, meaning they are topics that are based on how things actually sound. I've used podcasts to support communications topics such as how to give feedback, coach or counsel. We've also had success using them for discussing selling techniques. Also, one of my team members put together a podcast series in which he interviewed managers who received high scores in our company's employee engagement surveys about how they managed their teams and what actions they specifically took to achieve their high scores. The interview format worked quite well. Listening to two people talking to each other is much more engaging than listening to one person talking at you.

    Thanks for visiting my blog. Hope this helps.


  5. Most of the time I don’t make comments on websites, but I'd like to say that this article really forced me to do so. Really nice post!

  6. I'm doing research on podcasts for a project and this is by far the most comprehensive list I've come across. Thank you!

  7. Bloggers who don’t have time or don’t like to read may prefer to listen to audio content or watch videos. BeyondPod allows you to subscribe, download, listen to audio podcasts and watch video podcasts on-the-go. This app is extremely useful for bloggers who are driving a lot because for them, there is very little reading time.

  8. Bloggers who don’t have time or don’t like to read may prefer to listen to audio content or watch videos. BeyondPod allows you to subscribe, download, listen to audio podcasts and watch video podcasts on-the-go. This app is extremely useful for bloggers who are driving a lot because for them, there is very little reading time.

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