The chemistry teacher in the classroom next to me passed on an interesting article that she found in the Journal of College Science Teachers. The title of the article is "Analysis of Students' downloading of Online Audio Lecture Recordings in a Large Biology Lecture Course." The article is available (PDF) directly from the Author, Brian T. White.
The article was of interest to me because I am currently working on creating podcasts which I hope will help my students better understand the labs that we do in class. It is my intention that they watch my video podcasts before class so that they are familiar with the procedures needed in the lab. There has been lots of hype surrounding podcasts, but this is the only quantitative research that I have seen that addresses the benefits of using podcasts to enhance learning. Although the research conducted by White was done in a college setting, the implications will apply to a high school setting as well.
The purpose of this small study (185 students) was to determine how college students use lecture podcast and to determine if the availability of podcast decreased lecture attendance. White concluded that most students used the podcasts to prepare for exams and did not use them to prepare for class or to review after class. No significant link was found between the number of weekly podcast downloads and lecture attendance.
For me, these results suggest that my students may not be as likely to listen to and watch my podcasts before they attend class, as I have intended. They are more likely to use them to review before a test. As attendance in high school is compulsory, I won't have to worry about students skipping class!
White's article helps separate the hype of podcasting from the benefits of the technology. Technology shouldn't be use simply because it is available, it should be used because it serves a need and enhances student learning. More research on podcasting will help determine how effective this technology is in helping students learn.