I’m a visual learner to the point where anything that just contains audio can’t hold my attention. As much as I love books, I can’t listen to audiobooks. I have a difficult time following the plot, and that’s assuming that I can stay awake. When I started college, I tried recording lectures and replaying them later to increase retention, but again, I couldn’t follow. I needed something visual in order to retain the information.
When I first heard about podcasts, I tried to find ones that would interest me. I listened to podcasts on iTunes U. I downloaded podcasts from NPR. Just like with audiobooks, I had a hard time finding a podcast that I could follow.
When creating or using podcasts in an educational setting, I think it’s important to remember the different types of learners. Auditory learners will benefit from podcasts the most, especially if they are listening to podcasts that review lessons. Visual learners need graphics, charts, or text in order to learn material. These students may find themselves unable to focus on the content of the podcast. For these students, a screencast or vodcast that gives them something to look at will be more beneficial. In my case, I found it easier to pay attention to lectures when I could take notes. Maybe I am a bit of a kinesthetic learner as well. For kinesthetic learners, podcasts and screencasts may be difficult for them to follow. Simulations where they can complete an activity would be the most helpful.
Instructors can’t control what types of learners they have in their classes. Most likely, they will end up with a mix of all three types, so educational materials need to be available for each type of learner. A course that just uses podcasts to teach the material will frustrate visual and kinesthetic learners. A course that just uses screencasts will frustrate kinesthetic learners unless there is a hands on component.
When I am designing educational materials, I know that I tend to create materials that would appeal to visual learners. Because I respond to graphics and videos, I rely on those tools heavily. I don’t usually record podcasts because they never cross my mind as helpful tools for learning. (Well, that, and the fact that I hate the sound of my voice.)
I think instructors need to make a conscious choice to create materials that appeal to all learners, if possible. It is easy to fall back on what is comfortable and familiar, but in order to appeal to all students, we may have to step outside that comfort zone.