Feedback from Oxford Students (Part 1)

Feedback from the Oxford Freshers’ survey

Most of the feedback received by the academics that produce podcasts came from people outside of Oxford University. To sample audience impact within the institution, a survey was undertaken. An Oxford University Freshers’ Fair survey was held in early October 2010. Four of the Survey Questions (Q5 – Q8) were about the podcasting service. These questions aimed to find out whether the freshers were aware of and used the Oxford podcasts, as well as their opinions of Oxford’s podcasts.

In total, 676 students completed the survey. The results are summarised as follows.

Q5. Did you know that Oxford University produces podcasts that anyone can download?

The results showed that more than half of the respondents knew that Oxford University produces podcasts, which may be attributable to the wide news coverage.

Q6. Have you ever heard of the following?

  • Oxford iTunes U
  • Oxford Podcasting Service
  • podcasts.ox.ac.uk

The results showed 3/4 of them were aware of Oxford’s podcasts available on the iTunes U portal. The lower level of awareness for Oxford Podcasting service and our Web Podcast Portal may be explained by the far greater level of marketing done by Apple (promoting iTunes U) compared to Oxford’s promotion of the web portal.

Q7. Did you download any of the following podcasts before you came to Oxford? (Tick all that apply)

  • Introductions to the University
  • Lectures and talks on particular subjects for my own interest
  • Lectures and talks on particular subjects that my teacher recommended

Overall, only 29.1% of the respondents have downloaded podcasts from Oxford. Of those that downloaded content, 71% accessed podcasts that related to subject they were interested in, and around half downloaded material that would help introduce the University to them.

Q8. If you downloaded podcasts, what did you think of them?

Only 21.7% of the respondents (147) answered this question. Among them, many comments are brief (a few words, single sentences) and general: e.g. very interesting; very professional, informative, etc. The detailed comments are grouped into the following categories:

Reaction to the podcasts related to academic subjects

Students were impressed by the podcasts in a number of subjects: e.g. Nanotechnology, Medieval English, and ‘Philosophy for Beginners’. Some students expressed interest in hearing podcasts in other subjects, e.g. History. By listening to the podcasts, students felt that they were more prepared to study at Oxford.

“I found them really interesting because I hadn’t previously had any experience of learning this way”

“Very informative and helpful in encouraging the correct mindset and attitude when coming to study at Oxford.”

“They gave me a good idea about what to expect from lectures in those particular subject areas.”

Suggestions for improvements

While students were generally impressed by the quality and usefulness of the podcasts, they also made a number of suggestions:

  • In some cases, video podcasting was preferred to help understand or to relate to the speaker.
    “I’ve only listened to one about depression and anxiety in children from the Psychology Faculty. It was very interesting, but I would have preferred a Youtube-style video (I like to be able to see the person talking)”
    “ They were helpful but sometimes the audio only podcasts referred to diagrams or screens that I couldn’t see.”
  • Associated materials could help understanding.
    “They were good. They could be made better if they were accompanied by a .pdf handout, just so that it is easier to follow”
  • Other suggestions to make the podcasts more appealing:
    • “Keep it short”
    • “Make it more interactive”
    • Not limited to subjects of interests of the researchers who made the podcasts – this seems to be a call for a broader range of topics within Oxford’s catalogue.
    • “Go beyond traditional lecture formats”
    • Provide introduction to Oxford for both undergraduate and postgraduate – this may be a reflection on Admission’s material being largely oriented towards potential undergraduates.
    • “Clarify the target audience” – this may be related to the listener not having enough information prior to downloading on which to make an accurate assessment of nature of the podcast.
    • Issues identified when listening
      • “Sometimes cut out the ppt presentation and the questions from the audience which couldn’t be heard” – this may be a reflection on our policy of editing out material which may have copyright or consent issues.
      • “Low sound quality“

Admissions and University life

Among the written comments, there were a notable number of positive comments about the podcasts for ‘Admissions and University life’. Here are a few examples:

  • “I found the ones from the admissions offices really helpful. As an international student they were a really good way for me to learn about the admissions procedure as it’s not as easy for international students to come to the open days as it is for UK residents.”
  • “I found the Undergraduate admissions podcasts quite useful, especially those concerning interviews. I think video podcasts of mock interviews would be a very helpful addition, hopefully in as many subjects as possible.”
  • “Very helpful and full of information about the application process”
  • “Very helpful for giving an insight into student life and current affairs of my department”
  • “They were helpful and allowed me to know what to expect at Interviews and how lectures work here”
  • “The social anthropology dept. did a series of interviews of current students about life as a grad student at their dept, which was really helpful. ……I don’t know if I will use it now that I’m here, but a few students have been asking about whether lectures will be on iTunes U so perhaps in a few years it will be expected? I hope not… I still believe in education taking place in the classroom, particularly for students AT the institution…”

The results from the last question indicated that podcasts regarding admission and University life attracted positive attention from the perspective students. The suggestions made by students may help us to improve the podcasts from this department.

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