Open Education Open Education

Taped Lectures – Better than the Real Thing, Part 2

Our credibility being of utmost importance to us, today we return to a prior post: “Taped Lectures – Better than the Real Thing?

We were taken to task to by one of the researchers, Dani McKinney, who had the following to say:

Tama Leaver“It is difficult for an author to know how to comment when the author of the blog did not actually read the paper that he is discussing. In fact, the effect of having the podcast only appears when the students in that condition worked considerably harder than those in the live-lecture condition. The effect completely disappears when the podcasts are merely listened to. To see the advantage, the students had to take notes of the podcast AND listen to it more than once. So, far from being able to replace professors, the podcasts might give students the benefit of being able to listen to the lecture more than once, and the ability to get the notes more accurately.

Please don’t comment on specific conclusions the paper makes by reading the abstract alone. That’s similar to attending the first week of class and the last week of class and expecting to get an A….”

Our Integrity

First and foremost, in writing about the results of a new study from Dani McKinney, Jennifer L. Dycka and Elise S. Lubera, iTunes University and the Classroom: Can Podcasts Replace Professors?, we acknowledged writing about the findings based upon the summary abstract. We chose to write about the topic based upon the fact that taped lectures were very timely given some of our prior posts. We also wrote using only the abstract because access to the full article was on a fee basis and not published using the creative commons approach that we have espoused (perhaps we have simply become spoiled).

To ensure we were not making assumptions, we did not speculate as to how it was possible for students listening to a podcast of a lecture to exceed the performance of those who attended the lecture in person. Whatever those reasons might have been, we did point out that if students listening to a podcast could even match the performances of those who attended in person, then greater consideration should be given to the less expensive, podcast option.

Replicating lectures at 100s of colleges then bringing students from far and wide to individual locations represents one of the biggest reasons for the current cost of higher education. Many online education advocates have begun speculating that a lecture repository could in fact replace the current delivery model and therefore reduce the costs of higher education significantly.

The Research

We noted that the basic experiment was quite simple. We wrote:

Tama LeaverThe researchers wanted to test the effectiveness of taped lectures and contrast that with the performance of those students who attended class and heard the same lecture in person.

To determine the effectiveness, the researchers created two distinct groups. One group of undergraduate general psychology students listened to a 25-min lecture given in person by a professor using PowerPoint slides. Students were provided handouts in the form of copies of the slides to enhance note-taking. A second group of undergraduate psychology students listened to the same lecture in a podcast. T hey too were provided the same PowerPoint handouts.

One week after the different group sessions, students took an exam on lecture content. In what most would deem a startling development, “students in the podcast condition who took notes while listening to the podcast scored significantly higher than the lecture condition.”

Accordingly, based on the comments of the researcher, we need to add, “To see the advantage, the students had to take notes of the podcast AND listen to it more than once.”

In contrast to our support of others who had already postulated that professors could in fact be replaced, Ms. McKinney notes: “So, far from being able to replace professors, the podcasts might give students the benefit of being able to listen to the lecture more than once, and the ability to get the notes more accurately.”

More Appropriate Assertion

WikipediaGiven the feedback, a more appropriate assertion might be that it is time for all colleges to provide students access to podcasts of each professor’s lecture. That way, highly-motivated individuals would seemingly have access to the best of both worlds, the chance to hear an in-person lecture and later gain greater clarity by virtue of the opportunity to listen to the presentation a second or third time.

In fact, given the current costs of higher education, it would seem that students ought to demand such of their institutions. But at the same time, the added words of the researcher will do nothing to dissuade the current critics who insist that a podcast could in fact replace a professor provided a student has sufficient work habits.

In closing, we return to the words of Ms. McKinney:

“So, far from being able to replace professors, the podcasts might give students the benefit of being able to listen to the lecture more than once, and the ability to get the notes more accurately.”

That said, our guess is that being present to hear a lecture would still be considered exceedingly overrated by those prior critics. Because, unless a professor were in fact willing to repeat the lecture upon request by students, the opportunity to listen more than once and thus gain more accurate notes simply is not possible under the current delivery model.

Which brings us full circle, back to the original title of our article, “Taped Lectures – Better than the Real Thing?”

Flickr photos courtesy of Tama Leaver and Leaver again.

1 comment

1 Thom Hastings { 02.23.09 at 1:27 am }

You can watch a lot of stuff without using iTunes at academicearth.org

Leave a Comment