Instructors have long recorded lectures onto audiocassettes, which students could then take home and listen to. This year, however, a team from Information and Educational Technology (IET) is working to improve how that's done. Building on the success of the Fall Convocation podcast, the team has developed an MP3 pilot project for class lectures, hoping that the popularity of MP3 players will make the lectures available to more students.
What's an MP3?
MP3s are computer files that can be downloaded and listened to on a computer or other electronic device. Invented in 1991, this type of file was designed to reduce the amount of data required to represent audio, while maintaining its sound quality. MP3s are the type of files downloaded to iPods. "Podcasting," a term derived from iPods, involves subscribing to a series of MP3 files, which are then automatically delivered to the subscriber.
The Pilot Project
A team of specialists helped four UC Davis instructors record and post their fall quarter lectures, a process that became easier for the instructors to do themselves as the quarter progressed. Victoria Cross, a pilot participant, posted her psychology lectures weekly in a process that "took about five minutes and seldom failed." Cross points out the usefulness of such lectures: one student, whose attendance was otherwise perfect, had to miss class for an emergency and found the podcast lectures "meant one less concern while he was out of town."
The goal, says CTS staff member Tim Leamy, is to "make uploading and downloading the files both simple and reliable." And it seems to be working: early surveys show that 10 to 25 percent of students downloaded recorded lectures each time they were offered. The project was deemed so successful, it has been expanded, so watch for podcast lectures from your instructors, or better yet, request them!