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Podcasting Enhances Students' Engagement
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by David J. Nickles and M. B. Ogawa

A busy Summer of 2005 yielded a redesigned implementation of ICS 101 Tools for the Information Age, the introductory course for the Department of Information and Computer Sciences, with an enrollment of 600 students each semester. The battle cry was to uniformly enhance the quality of the students' experiences while addressing costs, both of which are often difficult to accomplish with one move and with a course of this scale. This endeavor arose as a part of the Hawaii Course Redesign Project, an initiative of the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs and ITS. The University of Hawaii project is modeled after the Program in Course Redesign, managed by the National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT), a valuable resource in redesign planning and evaluation. This article will be very brief but introduce food for thought through lessons learned.

Podcast what you preach. As a technologist teaching technology, I felt this opportunity was one in which illustration would morph into learning impact. The course teaches students the latest applications for communication and information aggregation and presentation. Presently, thousands of podcasts, or audio weblogs, are ushering in an area of online publishing that addresses multimedia communication in a way that authoring web pages cannot. The proper use of these technologies, within the course, highlights the utility and potential of those technologies to the student for future academic and professional use.

A mixed-methods approach led to the success of our implementation. Coupling a technology like podcasting, that increases access to course content, with interactive online assessment technologies, like WebCT and SimNET, gave a balanced approach that made best use of each technology's strengths. Podcasting added a technology of accessibility. Creating content especially for that channel frees the classroom for more interaction through discussions, workshops and additional-content presentations. We provide additional content in the face-to-face meetings that deepens the place of technology in society by addressing issues from being a successful communicator to ethical issues created by new technologies.

Planning well and hard work are virtues that were our allies, but as our project flourished over the past year, I contemplated previous new technology efforts that were not as successful. Some technologies have their time and this should be recognized. Most students have offline media players in their pockets these days and that is an opportunity for educators. The nature of these devices fortunately couples well with asynchronous course management systems for assessment and interaction. The time for course casting is here now. Streaming media real-time to mobile devices, like watching CNN on our mobile phones, is not ready to have the same impact on our classrooms.

No transformation is an island. We created indexed and image-enhanced podcasts used across all sections to eliminate course drift and inconsistent learning experiences for the students. In addition, as we redesigned the course structure and content around the technology enhancements, we began to repair other issues that the redesign did not specifically address. Redesigning learning goals and evaluations, created projects and assessments that yielded a fairer interpretation of the students grasp of the course material. In practice, it allowed the students more freedom to listen to lectures and take quizzes more than once. Students also ended course lessons with projects to personalize the application of what was being learned. Although these additional redesigns somewhat confounded the results, our goal of enhanced and engaged learning was realized.

The P.I.s are David J. Nickles, Instructor of Information and Computer Sciences, and M. B. Ogawa, Instructor in the College of Education and the Course Coordinator.
 
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