As COVID-19 lockdowns swept across university campuses in early 2020, academics around the world shifted their teaching to virtual platforms. That’s when we decided to turn our master’s sociology course at the KU Leuven into a transnational podcast course. In this brief contribution, we share our experience producing podcasts for educational purposes.
Our podcast course, simply called Culture and Inequality, started as a 13-week class for advanced students in the social sciences. It was financially supported by the European Center for the study of Culture and Inequality and the Center for Sociological Research at KU Leuven.
The episodes consisted of conversations between scholars and one of the regular hosts about a specific topic and selected readings. Since the pandemic had everyone chained to their home desk, we were able to interview sociologists around the world. The podcast was recorded remotely, with contributions from a cast of international sociologists.
For the more theoretical episodes, one of us took on the role of student (“the student voice”) in the conversation. We published the syllabus with readings and assignments online (see ecci.eu/podcast). This allowed colleagues around the world to incorporate the episodes in their teaching. However, we also heard from many colleagues, especially more junior scholars, who listened to the podcasts.
Our students were generally enthusiastic and positive about the podcast. The podcast made it easier for them to understand the course content. Hearing the actual voices of authors of assigned literature made the readings come to life. The informal, casual nature of the podcast genre helped: the guest told anecdotes about their research, explained why they liked or disliked other readings so much (sometimes quite candidly) and linked insight to everyday life. Our Spotify and Soundcloud statistics demonstrated that the podcast reached well beyond our student population and attracted listeners from around the globe.
What did we learn from this experience? First, while producing a podcast is easy and cheap on the technical and financial part (we’ve included some helpful links below), it is labour- and time intensive. One can opt for a professional editor. Editing your own podcast gives you more freedom over content, but takes a lot of time. This is important to keep in mind when planning the production of your podcast.
Second, a good script and careful preparation is essential. We soon found out that it is not difficult to just record an hour (or more) of academic conversation. What is more difficult, is to record an hour of academic conversation that is structured and easy to follow for an audience. Students noted that hour long episodes may be too long – we now believe that 45 minutes is ideal. We developed a clearly structured script for every episode, including questions, timestamps, and clearly marked transitions and signposts. The main lesson we learned, thus, is that the informal, “live” feel of a good podcast is the result of good preparation (especially by the host), careful scripting and gentle, but firm guidance of the conversation.
We believe podcasts have a great potential for learning. They resonate better with student experience than online lectures. As a result of our positive experience, we have recently launched a second season. We will surely continue to use podcasting as a tool in our educational toolbox well beyond the pandemic.
Luuc Brans, Center for Sociological Research, KU Leuven, Belgium
Giselinde Kuipers, Center for Sociological Research, KU Leuven, Belgium
Editing and tutorials for..
- Apple Podcasts: https://help.podbean.com/support/solutions/articles/25000004811-submitting-my-podcast-to-apple-podcasts-itunes-
- Spotify: https://support.spotifyforpodcasters.com/hc/en-us/articles/360043487932-Getting-your-podcast-on-Spotify
- Adobe Audition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSWMVmRoHHs
- Auphonic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcXcFhJQRZU