Podcast Projects

Students may have experience as consumers of podcasts, but creating their own encourages them to practice digital literacy skills while deeply engaging with course content. Make students the producers by adapting a more traditional assignment (e.g. essay, presentation) into a podcast project.

When students are content creators, they must think critically about their audience and purpose as well as ethical implications when sharing information for a wider audience. Podcasts can also be an excellent group project, accomplishing multiple course learning goals in both content mastery and group dynamics. In Student Thoughts About Podcasts, the author explores his experience of assigning a podcast and student reactions to the experience.

Make podcast projects meaningful.

Make podcast projects meaningful.

First, make sure your podcast assignment clearly connects to a course objective. If it is a smaller learning goal that supports a larger course objective, make the connection clear. Avoid using technology just because it’s cool if it doesn’t support your learning objectives. (UDL Checkpoint 8.1)

Beyond the classroom, podcast projects can provide an opportunity to create real world relevance for the text-based research skills students are learning. Today people are more inclined to learn from podcasts than from student papers, so when students create their own podcasts, it’s more relevant to their real world experiences.

Also, student-created podcasts can join broader audio-based conversations that already exist within many academic or career fields, which allow students to apply their current learning to their future work or study.

Podcast projects should ideally be targeting the application, analysis, synthesis, and/or creation levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy so that they feel like authentic creative content. Summarizing or reciting facts don’t make for engaging podcasts. (UDL Checkpoint 7.2)

Provide a variety of options.

Provide a variety of options.

Consider ways to include options for student agency (e.g. topic, format) when you are reviewing the learning goals for a podcast assignment. Perhaps each student or student group could contribute an episode to a larger podcast series. Could the project allow for various formats like interviews, monologues, or role plays? These opportunities for student creativity and autonomy promote student engagement and critical thinking. (UDL Checkpoint 7.1)

Set clear expectations.

Set clear expectations.

Students will need both the parameters of the assignment and the technical directions for creating a podcast. Be sure to address the following questions when developing the parameters for your podcast assignment:

  • What audience do you have in mind for these podcasts?
  • What is the goal or outcome of the assignment? What do you want students to learn from this activity?
  • How long should the podcast be (in minutes)?
  • Will this project be completed individually or in a group?
  • Are sound effects and/or music required?
  • Is research involved? If so, how should sources be verbally cited?
  • Is a text transcript required for accessibility?
  • Should students license their work with Creative Commons?

Provide options for feedback and reflection.

Provide options for feedback and reflection.

Set up check points throughout the assignment so you can help guide the process. When students submit an outline, script, and/or production plan, they have opportunities for formative feedback from peers and instructors. Be sure to allow sufficient time for this feedback process. (UDL Checkpoints 6.2 & 8.4)

Also, when leveraging peer feedback, it’s important to scaffold this for students. Providing them with some guiding questions will help them develop skills in constructive critique. This Podcast Peer Review is an example you can use for inspiration. (UDL Checkpoint 8.3)

In addition to feedback from others, it is also helpful to prompt students to reflect on their own experience of creating a podcast. When students document their learning, they are more likely to remember and apply these skills/concepts to future endeavors. This can happen during the process and/or at the end. (UDL Checkpoint 9.3)

Be clear about how the final project will be assessed. A single point rubric that lists the expectations, has room for comments, and includes a points column is a natural fit for a project like this. Decide what components you want to assess and how much each component should be weighted. The sample rubric below is from DIGL 101:

Areas for Improvement Criteria Evidence of Exceeding Standards
Technical Requirements (25 pts)
Story arc is evident; Audio is clear; Podcast length is within 2-4 minutes; Includes at least 3 audio files (e.g. narration, music clip, sound effect)
Ethical Requirements (25 pts)
Transcript is linked to the description; Citations/credits, when appropriate; Creative Commons license identified

To set this up in Canvas, it would look like this:

screenshot of above single-point rubric formatted in Canvas

Another type of rubric would be an analytic, for example this Podcast Rubric from a project in an athletic training course. Either way, a rubric will help students understand your expectations.

Scaffold ethical behavior.

Scaffold ethical behavior.

When we think about ethical behavior in creating podcasts, we need to consider how this project will give students an opportunity to

  • create accessible podcasts (for a wide range of audiences)
  • learn ethical copyright practices
  • protect their own and other’s privacy
  • develop information validation skills
  • positive contribution

As students outline their work, have them consider those who may not be able to process it as they do. In podcast production, this most often means that you need a transcript for folks who can’t access audio content. The content itself should also be accessible, explaining terms or references so as not to alienate listeners. (UDL Checkpoints 1.2 and 2.1)

Additionally, that responsibility extends to respecting copyright. If any part of a student’s production is something they didn’t make/think/say, then they need to first find out if they’re allowed to use it, and then if they do have permission, give credit where credit is due. Copyright considerations apply to student work too. Creative Commons licenses give students control over how their work is shared and used by others.

If the podcast will be shared beyond the classroom, students will also have to think about privacy. Not only must they consider how much they are sharing about themselves, but also how much their contributors are sharing. If the podcast is an interview, protecting the privacy of the person being interviewed is part of ethical podcast production. Include this information in the directions you give students to raise their awareness of these considerations before they develop their podcast.

Additionally, researching topics and gathering material for a podcast provides an excellent opportunity for students to practice information validation skills. They will need to evaluate the credibility of the sources they want to use to develop their story to ensure they are sharing information that is accurate.

Finally, at Messiah University, students are growing “toward a maturity of intellect, character and Christian faith in preparation for lives of service, leadership and reconciliation in church and society.” They should be encouraged to reflect on how their work is contributing to the digital landscape — does their podcast reflect these values?