Holger Prothmann/Flickr
Holger Prothmann/Flickr

Enhancing course accessibility through podcasts

Each time I open my immense reading list for the week, I sigh. I’m often overwhelmed by the pages I am expected to make my way through before my next seminar and the whiplash of being thrown from one author’s narrative to the next. So, when I see that my lecturers have decided to spice things up a little with an alternative option, you best believe I’ll be sure to take it.  

From interviews between professionals in the field, to in depth guides on specific issues. Podcasts seem to hold a plethora of resources for those studying at many levels of education. I even remember using a podcast as a secondary source in my A level History coursework (In Our Time would be my recommendation). 

Through podcasts, and their uses within educational environments, there is the possibility of exploring a wider range of methods of communication regarding the subject matter. The forms could be anything from a narrated story or a scripted or casual dialogue to an interview.

A course becomes so much more digestible to a wider audience of learners when podcasts are introduced

Due to this, the content of a course becomes so much more digestible to a wider audience of learners when podcasts are introduced. Instead of the natural dominated voices of academic writing, the field is slightly broadened. That isn’t to say that podcasts are all inclusive, but it is certainly the case that in those I have listened to, I feel I have been able to access more perspectives. 

Meanwhile, debate-based podcasts often feel like they are bridging the differing views between two perspectives. It is easier to digest these differences when listening to them played out through multiple voices than the one reading in your head. 

The dynamic nature and spontaneity of podcasts means that those producing their thoughts via this outlet use more simplistic language which might not be a suitable resource for academic study. But Reading Rockets confirm a key appeal of Podcasts is that “students have the feeling of participating in a conversation”.

This view was further expressed by a 3rd year Law student at Warwick who said: “I feel podcasts bring you closer to the subject matter as you are engaging in a conversation rather than reading words on a page.”  

It has also been found that reading along and listening to an audio at the same time can help those who struggle with focusing.

Podcasts are always free and much easier to listen to than certain online reading platforms are to view

Meanwhile, unlike some of the University’s essential or recommended readings, podcasts are always free and much easier to listen to than certain online reading platforms are to view. 

Another reason that Reading Rockets suggests that students would favour podcasts is because they “feel like they’re doing something special, new, and fresh — which is inherently exciting.”

In a poll ran by The Boar Podcasts, 78% of students at the University of Warwick agreed with the view that they preferred to see a podcast on their reading list.

One explanation for the other 22% may be that those who take STEM subjects may be less likely to have course texts anyways.

A finalist Engineer told The Boar: “I would never listen to a podcast for my course because I don’t do much wider research outside of my lectures and workshops”.

Alternatively, those studying in the Social Sciences or Arts faculties are more open to visual and audio forms to branch out from their narrowed learning. 

A 3rd year PPE student lamented that through picking up a podcast over a book, “You can do something else whilst listening, instead of concentrating on one task, you have the option to do something other than just read, such as brushing your teeth or having a shower”. 

Whilst a full-time student is expected to be studying around 40 hours a week, it is still beneficial to add so many other things to your day to support you learning and skill gaining. If an alternative source explains a concept better than one chosen by your module convenor, then why shouldn’t you read it? 


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