Since I’m apparently incapable of coming up with ideas of my own this week, I’m going to add once again to something Rob just wrote. I’ve never been particularly involved with distance education — mostly because my life is so utterly disorganized that I’d be a horrible candidate for teaching courses like that — but I did begin podcasting my US History II survey lectures this semester and have considered making even more of the course content available online (Powerpoint slideshows, tests, etc.)
The podcasting has been an interesting experiment. Although I’ve developed extensive lecture notes over the year, I no longer rely on them so heavily in class and usually just yak away without them. Occasionally, I spiral off into tangents whose substance I can’t remember later on; by recording the lectures, I’m able to keep track of what I say on the off chance that something interesting happens. As far as the students are concerned, I was quite wary of this at the start of the semester, and I warned the group on the first day of class that their iPods should not be the primary delivery system for the course content. So far, though, I haven’t seen anything out of the ordinary as far as attendance is concerned. In fact, I’m pleasantly surprised at how many students seem to be showing up for lectures and subscribing to the podcast. Whether they’re listening to them or not to flesh out their lecture notes, I can’t really say. Thus far the test scores haven’t looked any different than in years past, but that might in fact be because the tests themselves haven’t been altered to suit the new format.
The other surprising effect of all this has been watching the subscription numbers climb throughout the semester and monitoring how those figures have shaped my attitude toward the course. Right now, for reasons that I can’t quite explain, several hundred people are receiving (and possibly even listening to) these lectures. I don’t know much about these folks, but knowing that other people might be paying [attention] has definitely had an effect on the course. I hate to admit this, but I find myself being more cautious about certain things that I should be doing automatically in a survey course — explaining key concepts more clearly, not assuming any prior knowledge of US history, and so on. I also notice — probably for the worse — that I’m lecturing more and allowing fewer opportunities for discussion. Though I’m usually not conscious of the fact that I’m recording everything once class begins, I’m clearly teaching in a way that’s more appropriate for a class of 300 than for a class of 30. I’m just grateful I don’t have to grade 300 students . . .
If you have nothing better to do with your time, you can subscribe to the feed here. It’s better than “Audible Althouse” or the “Glenn and Helen Show.”
. . . i should have written that i find myself being more conscientious about “doing certain things” in the survey this time through. what i wrote made it sound as if the podcasting is somehow restraining me. it’s not, though readers here would be surprised at how infrequently i swear or refer to wingnuts as “wingnuts.” and i never mention Jonah Goldberg, Ann Althouse, or Victor Davis Hanson! How strange!