Instructional Podcasts

by MU Instructional Designers
September 10, 2021
6-8 min read

Podcasts are a popular form of entertainment and informal learning among students. Using instructional podcasts, like lecture reviews, elaborating on complex topics, guest speaker interviews, etc., promotes Universal Design for learning strategies by increasing student engagement and providing an additional method of representation.

Regardless of the type, an effective instructional podcast has a very specific purpose and audience. Consider these questions:

  • Is my intended audience all students in the course or a specific subset (e.g. students working on a particular project, students who need remediation)?
  • Is my intended audience students who are familiar with some of the content (e.g. already completed assigned reading) or who haven’t had any exposure to it yet (e.g. a chapter introduction)?
  • Is my purpose to present facts about a topic (e.g. direct instruction)?
  • Is my purpose to present my ideas or personal experiences (e.g. narrative lectures, testimonials, etc.) OR the ideas or experiences of a guest (e.g. interview)

One way to incorporate podcasts is to post a 1-2 minute weekly overview to review learning goals and alert students to important check points. You can use stories or case studies to create some anticipation or include a relevant devotional.

Evidence-Based Practices

Make podcasts authentic.

Make podcasts authentic.

Teacher Presence

Podcasts inherently create a greater sense of intimacy than other content types (e.g. video, PowerPoint, infographic), so capitalize on the strengths of this medium by using more narrative and personal approaches to your content. Share stories; speak to students directly and informally — this is an opportunity to connect with your students more personally, which engages them in the learning.

Diverse Perspectives

A podcast by its very nature is information within your distinct voice. But consider including other voices and perspectives in your podcast. In the same way that you provide text materials from differing viewpoints, incorporate those voices into your podcasting when appropriate.

Make podcasts engaging.

Make podcasts engaging.

As humans, we are hardwired to connect with stories. If you start your podcast with a good hook (e.g. ask a question or pose a mystery), your audience will be captivated by your story. At the heart of your podcast is the emotional connection; that’s what will engage your listeners.


An unorganized podcast can make it difficult for students to stay engaged and/or keep track of the content. A clear sequence of ideas/thoughts, with effective transitions, goes a long way to help with this. Be sure to highlight the key ideas in your podcast with emphasis or signaling. This is where having a good outline or script comes in handy (for info on podcast outlining/scripting, check out Create a Podcast from the ITS blog).


Keep your podcasts on the shorter side. If you are recording weekly overviews, just focus on the highlights. Podcasting lends itself to an episode format, so you can easily parse out course concepts into short segments. This makes it easy for students to find them for review.

Provide options for student response and reflection.

Provide options for student response and reflection.

Students will get more out of your podcasts if they have a chance to respond or reflect on the content. After listening to the podcast, you can encourage (or require) students to

  • answer knowledge check questions
  • ask their own clarifying questions
  • provide comments and/or reactions
  • summarize or re-explain content

This will deepen their understanding and provide an option for you to correct any misunderstandings.

Model ethical behavior.

Model ethical behavior.

By modeling appropriate strategies for making your podcast accessible and ensuring copyright compliance you provide examples to your students and clearly demonstrate the importance of ethical behavior when producing your own content.

Digital Citizenship

Respecting copyright is the responsibility of all content producers. You are responsible for citing the work of others, obtaining permissions, and crediting the proper people and resources. Any audio or text that is trademarked or copyrighted by other creators must be properly credited and you must have prior permission for it to be included in your production. In particular for podcasting, any audio effects or music tracks should be cleared for use and cited.

Remember copyright applies to your work too. How do you want to share your podcast? Will you choose to keep it private to your students or share it with a Creative Commons license?

Another aspect to digital citizenship that you can model in your podcasts is information validation. When we present information to students, there is an inherent trust that, as educators, we are sharing information from credible and accurate sources. Encourage students to think critically about where information comes from by describing your own information validation process, particularly on controversial topics.

Accessible to Diverse Learners

Consider students who may have different cultural backgrounds. Be careful not to make assumptions about what your students already know based on how they look or how they speak. When creating your video content, be sure to clarify and/or provide background knowledge if you include references to

  • Regional customs
  • Unique vocabulary
  • Figurative language
    • Idioms
    • Symbols
    • Metaphors
  • Pop culture events or people

In addition to considering accessibility in the content of your podcast (what), consider how to plan for accessibility in the delivery of your podcast (how). To make your podcast accessible, you’ll want to share a text transcript. If you used a script to record the podcast, you can share the script as your transcript. If not, like in the case of an interview, the audio will need to be transcribed. You could use a live transcription service like Maestra’s Web Captioner to get you started. Providing a transcript helps those with a physical disability as well as language learners and those with cognitive processing issues. It’s UDL in action!

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