Podcasting and its relation with student performance

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Conference Proceeding
Proceedings of the International Conference on e-Learning, ICEL, 2008, 2008-January pp. 33 - 42
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The provision of course material, including lecture notes and overheads, to students through learning management systems is commonplace in Australian universities, and the practice is well documented in the literature (e.g Jensen, 2007). Similarly, provision of lecture recording on magnetic tape cassettes dates back at least three decades, and is common place in provision of distance education. However, the digital recording of lectures and making these available to students generally through a learning management system (now referred to as podcasting) is a much more recent phenomenon and has only really impacted on the tertiary education sector for the past 3-4 years (Sull, 2005). This paper addresses the issues of how students utilise these recordings, and perhaps more importantly, how it impacts students academic performance. A major concern in the Australian university sector is that some students choose not to attend lectures. This occurs notwithstanding the belief that lecture attendance is a critical mechanism for the presentation of course material. Researchers have investigated the reasons for this (e.g. Holland and Pithers, 2007) and the most commonly cited reasons for this non-attendance is that students consider themselves to be 'time-poor' and 'too busy with assessments' to regularly attend. Endeavouring to address this problem and ensure student access to course material, university lecturers have availed of recent technological developments and podcast lectures. Being able to download podcast lectures and listen to them at a convenient time and place would seem to be an ideal solution for 'time-poor' students and is often cited as a major reason for university lecturers to consider podcasting their lectures (e.g. Read, 2005). Furthermore, there is evidence that students consider podcasting lectures as being of 'excellent value' to them in their studies (Tynan and Colbran, 2006). While students may consider podcasts to be 'excellent value' from an intrinsic convenience perspective, a more critical concern is how students utilise podcast lectures and how this is associated with student academic performance. Convenience is important for time-poor students, but can podcasts be used as a substitute for lecture attendance, or are they more useful as revision tool. To address this it is first necessary to consider student utilisation of podcast lectures, and then evaluate the relation between student utilisation of podcasts and performance. This is necessary to determine whether podcasts really represent 'excellent value' and if students are getting value from the act of downloading a podcast lecture. The first of the primary results from this study suggest that students do use podcasts, with approximately 85 percent of students accessing the podcasts, and downloading, on average, eight of the twelve podcasts. The second is that the utilization of podcasts is positively associated with student performance, but only when the podcasts are used for revision and only for theoretical questions. The issue of whether podcasts can be regarded as a substitute for lecture attendance for 'time poor' students remains unresolved.
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