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Use of podcasts spreads to all of U. Michigan
[March 07, 2006]

Use of podcasts spreads to all of U. Michigan

(Comtex Business Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)ANN ARBOR, Mich., Mar 07, 2006 (Michigan Daily, U-WIRE via COMTEX) --The ubiquitous iPods seen around the University of Michigan campus will soon be blasting lectures along with the latest Coldplay album. By this fall, the University plans to distribute podcasts of lectures over the Internet.

The plan is to encourage podcasting by making it simpler for professors to upload their lectures and easier for students to download them.

The CTools website will feature two ways to access podcasts. For students with iPods, there will be a link to a page in the iTunes music store where they can download audio recordings of lectures to their iPods. Students with other MP3 players will be able to download the podcasts through the resources section of CTools.

The emergence of podcasting as part of CTools resulted from the success of the podcasting program at the University's School of Dentistry, according to James Hilton, associate provost for academic, information and instructional technology affairs.

In 2004, Jared Van Ittersum, then a first-year dental student, set out to find a way to access lecture audio online.

According to Lynn Johnson, director of dental informatics at the School of Dentistry, Ittersum and other dental students constructed three studies with the help of the Office of Dental Informatics to determine whether students prefer lectures in video, audio or PowerPoint format.

Sixty percent of the students preferred audio recordings, Johnson said.

"It is very much a student-driven project," Johnson said. "They've stuck with it and they show that it works."

Their research attracted the eyes of Apple Computers, which donated hardware for Dental School lecture halls to give the students the technology needed to upload the lectures.

At the same time, Apple was developing iTunes U, a version of the iTunes music store that organizes the podcasts of lectures and makes them available for downloading to an iPod.

"(iTunes U) just cloned the iTunes setup," said John Leasia, CTools product manager.

Since last fall, dental students have been able to enter their uniqe names and passwords into iTunes U and access more than 300 lectures from dental school classes which are available for downloading.

Last fall, the dental school "had a coming-out party for their program," Leasia said. "And that started people thinking."

Professors will not be required to podcast their lectures, but will have the means to do so through CTools.

Several professors already make podcasts available to their students without the benefit of CTools or iTunes U.

Chemistry professor Brian Coppola, a 1994 Golden Apple winner, has provided what he calls "enhanced podcasts" for Chemistry 210 and 215. His podcasts synch the audio of the lecture with visual presentation of formulas and diagrams.

"We took the audio file of the lecture and illustrated it by creating new visual material using some standard drawing programs and scaled the illustrations to be viewable on iPods," Coppola said.

The visual elements can be viewed on iPods, the "album art" window of iTunes and in QuickTime.

Students say they like podcasted lectures because they offer a convenient way to review class material, even when they're walking to another class or working out.

"Podcasts definitely give a student much more independence, and, in my opinion, help increase a student's chances for success," said LSA freshman Angad Singh, who has used Coppola's podcasts.

Coppola is optimistic about the new campus-wide options in CTools.

Though podcasts have been criticized as a way to help students who skip class, Coppola has found them beneficial.

"I think the disadvantage is the same one you see in any classroom supplement: those students who use them the proper way can gain an advantage, while those who do not can have their problems multiplied," he said.

Johnson said the podcasts could free class time for further discussion.

"What I would like to see is less and less live dissemination and the class time used for more interactive work," she said.

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