How podcasting can enrich your teaching

Do you see everyone wearing headphones in the train nowadays? Do you wonder what they’re listening to? Besides the greatest hits of the 80’s, more and more people are rediscovering the radio format through podcasts. The popularity of podcasts has risen in the last few years: 40% of young people in the US between 12 and 24 listened to a podcast last month. With this in mind, could podcasts also be of value for learning? And how can you, as a teacher, start profiting from the use of this medium?

Podcasts can enhance the personal connection felt between teacher and student. In research on educational podcasting, students indicate that they feel they have a one-on-one relationship with their teacher when listening to a podcast. Sometimes the connection feels even more personal than in a lecture class . This connection is especially relevant for distance learners, but also for your on-campus students, sometimes missing the personal connection in a lecture hall setting.

The medium is also appealing to students for their flexibility. Instead of having to process all the information during a lecture, students can gain ownership of their learning experience by (re)listening to a podcast anywhere they want . Even though a lot of students prefer to listen at home, podcasts are accessible anywhere through streaming or even offline, as with the small file-size they can be quickly downloaded to your phone.
Podcasts can also be used for student assignments; a podcast can support a surprising amount of depth and quality and stimulate creativity. A Public Administration student at Leiden University who had to make a “policy pitch” podcast as an assignment described her experience as follows:

“Making a podcast was a refreshing and diverging assignment. It forced us to be short and sweet, and to really structure the way we presented the information. We also had to think about how the information would stick with the listener, since there was no visual support. This added an extra challenge to the assignment.”

The teacher of this course explains the reason to implement podcasts as a new way to design assignments and assessments:

After listening to podcasts, also in my private life, I thought, ‘that’s a way to test skills, free up time during class and also be a fun experience!’ I think students quite like to do things that are a bit different, I got some good feedback about the podcast format. Also for my educational experience it’s a more bearable type of assessment to mark.” – Alexandre Afonso, assistant professor of public policy at Leiden University

Podcasts are fairly easy to make yourself and are thus often more cost effective than video. All you need is a laptop and a USB external microphone or a simple audio recorder, even your phone can do the trick. This accessibility makes audio an especially interesting medium to produce extra material or to efficiently deliver new content to your students. For instance, when there are new developments in your area of expertise, such as relevant news events or research outcomes, you can record a short podcast the same day, to update your students. This allows you to share your thoughts on a topic in a way that makes your content more relevant, just-in-time and helps students put their learning into perspective .

Another way you can use podcasts is by interviewing experts, such as researchers or people from different backgrounds. By including these interviews in your teaching, students get access to diverse voices and perspectives.

Fatiha Azzarhouni from the Leiden Islam Academy and teacher in an online course on “Islam in the classroom” used podcasts to interview parents from children at primary schools in the Netherlands to get a better understanding of their beliefs, worries and view points with regards to diversity in the classroom, she says:

Utilizing digital innovation, in this case in the form of (…) podcasts, enabled the placing of real experiences of real people at the centre of the discussion during my course, rather than only abstract information about the topic.”

Are you a teacher interested in creating podcasts to record a lecture, conduct interviews or create a student-generated podcast assignment? Check out this podcast handout by the Centre for Innovation with tips and tricks on how to get started, and also this interesting blog article by Donald Clark with more food for thought on educational podcasting or some great general podcasting design and recording tips here. The best advice is probably to put on your headphones and start listening to podcasts yourself, get inspired and try it out yourself.

Check out Leiden University podcasts produced for a MOOC on Medieval Arabic Culture or listen to an episode of one of our favourite podcast series. Happy podcasting!


Yentl Croese, Learning Experience Designer, Centre for Innovation – Leiden University

Joasia van Kooten, Media & Education Designer, Centre for Innovation – Leiden University