Feedback from Oxford Students (Part 2)

So far the data suggests that most listeners of Oxford’s podcasts are people outside of University of Oxford. Considering that a core activity of the University is teaching and learning, it is essential to explore whether and how the podcasts influence the students at Oxford.

To help address this issue, a survey questionnaire was designed and delivered (initially) to a group of 3rd-year undergraduates in English Faculty at Oxford who attended an optional lecture in Modern English from which the course lecturer produces podcasts. The questionnaire was delivered in the class by the tutor and 93% of respondents (28 students) took the survey. Below we explore the survey and initial results.

Questions about podcasting in general

Q1 Have you ever listened to podcasts from any of the following sites? (Please tick all that apply)

Roughly half of respondents had listened to podcasts from Oxford’s iTunes U. This may be due to the following reasons:

  • The course tutor produces podcasts on Oxford’s iTunes U and has told their students about this.
  • High levels of news coverage for iTunes U

It is also worth noting that nearly half of the respondents did not listen to any podcasts at all, which may be because the students had attended the lectures and were surveyed in advance of any exams before the need for revision was pressing.

Q2 If you have not listened to any podcasts, was it because? (Please tick all that apply)

  • I didn’t see anything relevant to my learning
  • I had technical difficulties accessing them
  • I didn’t know the university publishes podcasts
  • I was too busy

64.3% of respondents did not answer this question. A small proportion of students who answered the question reported that the reason that they had not listened to any podcasts was either because they felt themselves to be too busy, or because they were unaware of any other Oxford podcasts. This sample may be too small to be indicative.

Q3 How do you find your podcasts? (Please tick all that apply)

  • Via search engines, such as Google or Yahoo
  • Recommended by my teachers
  • Recommended by friends or classmates

Half of the respondents reported that the podcasts were recommended by their teachers. This may be more of a reflection on surveying a class whose tutor podcasts and who had advertised their podcasts to their class, rather than the student population as a whole (where less than 10% of the University’s tutors have produced a podcast).

Q4 Which of the following do you do to listen to podcasts? (Please tick that all apply)

  • Save to your portable media player (e.g. phone, ipod, etc) and listen to later
  • Save to your laptop and listen to later
  • Save to your desktop computer and listen to later
  • Listen immediately on the laptop without saving for later
  • Listen immediately on a portable media player (e.g. phone, ipod, etc) without saving for later
  • Listen immediately on the campus computer without saving for later
  • Have not yet tried any podcasts

The results show that most people save the podcasts and listen to them later, and that (for these students) they are often using a laptop (likely their own) over a university-owned computer. Again the sample size is a little too low to be able to extrapolate more general trends.

This result also raises a question: how many of the saved/downloaded podcasts were listened to? This is at least as important as the downloading figure that is often quoted to illustrate how well or otherwise podcasts are used. If a user subscribes to a podcast using an RSS client, whenever their media application is running, new items will downloaded automatically without their intervention.

Oxford University Podcasting

Q1 Have you ever listened to the following types of podcasts produced by the University? (Please tick all that apply)

  • Interview style podcasts
  • Lectures of your own course
  • Lectures or talks related to your own subject area from Oxford
  • Lectures or talks related to your own subject area from elsewhere
  • Lectures or talks *not* related to your own subject area from Oxford
  • Lectures or talks *not* related to your own subject area from elsewhere
  • Podcasts related to life at Oxford University (e.g. sports, admissions, tours, etc)
  • Not applicable – I have not listened to any podcasts from Oxford University

For this group, half of the respondents had listened to Oxford’s podcasts. As the course tutor produces podcasts for this module, not surprisingly 39.3% of them listened to podcasts in both ‘Lectures of your own course’ and ‘Lectures or talks related to your own subject area from Oxford’ categories. It is interesting to learn that 17.9% students explored other subjects by listening to podcasts that are not related to their course.

Q2. Why did you listen to the Oxford’s podcasts (please tick all that apply)?

  • The podcasts allowed me to catch up if I missed the actual lecture
  • The podcasts helped me to make good use of my time
  • The podcasts stimulated my interest in the subject
  • The podcast motivated me to advance my study in the subject
  • The podcasts provided a good introduction to the lecture or tutorial topic
  • Podcasts were useful for me to revise the lecture topics

Consistent with the last question, 50% respondent did not respond to this question as they did not listen to any Oxford’s podcast. The top three reasons for them to listen to Oxford’s podcasts are:

  • The podcasts allowed me to catch up if I missed the actual lecture
  • The podcasts stimulated my interest in the subject
  • Podcasts were useful for me to revise the lecture topics

Q3. Please indicate if you agree or disagree with the following statements:

  • I always download my podcasts whilst in the University or a College
  • I always select podcasts relevant to my studies
  • The podcasts inspire me to explore a subject more
  • The University should record my lectures
  • High quality and clear audio is important
  • High quality and clear video is important

The response to the first statement shows that only 28.6% of respondents download podcasts whilst in the University or a College. The response to the second statement indicates that students download podcasts for various reasons, which may not always be relevant to their study. In the previous section the feedback from the external listeners clearly showed that most listeners wanted to explore the subject more, and over half the students who took this survey felt the same – the podcasts could be said to be quite inspirational, however this does not distinguish the method of delivery (podcast) from the value of the content (style and substance).

In terms of the two statements related to the quality of the media file (video and audio), most respondents strongly agreed that high quality and clear audio is important whereas far fewer rated video availability and quality as important.

Finally, 60% of those surveyed believe that the University should record their lectures for them.

Q4. Please select the three most important factors which attract you to a podcast

  • Is an audio only podcast
  • Is a video podcast
  • I can see the person speaking
  • There are closed-captions (subtitling) in the podcast
  • There is a transcript for the podcast
  • There are relevant slides for the podcast
  • The podcast can be played online where I discover it
  • There is a detailed text description of the podcast content
  • The podcast has a creative commons usage licence (allowing you to incorporate in your own work)
  • The presenter of a podcast is known to me

The top three most important factors which attract this group of students to a podcast are:

  • The podcast can be played online where I discover it
  • Is an audio only podcast
  • There is a detailed text description of the podcast content

This question highlights that the fact that podcasts can be played immediately and easily is appealing (46.4%) and that audio is the preferred format for respondents.

Q5. How long is your ideal podcast? (please pick one)?

  • The podcast is less than 5 minutes long
  • The podcast is less than 20 minutes long
  • The podcast is less than 60 minutes long
  • The podcast duration doesn’t matter to me

Although it is often recommended that short podcast may be preferable for learners[1], nobody in this group agreed. The majority of the group thought the podcast duration does not matter

Q6. If you listened to any podcasts produced by the University, how could they be improved?

Below are some quotes from the feedback to this question. Most people (92.9%) surveyed did not respond here.

  • “Clearer audio, more lectures recorded”
  • “More description of their content so can see what it is before downloading/listening”

Reflection

To summarise, Oxford’s podcasts are well known among students but the uptake of podcasts is relatively low. This may be due to a number of factors including their having the opportunity to meet their lecturers in person and the busy student life. The results show that students believe that listening to podcasts can help them with catching up a missed lecture and exam revision. Whilst students normally prefer to download the podcasts and listen to them later, one of the top three factors attracting students to a podcast is that the podcast can be played online using their browser. Looking at the data from both external users and the current Oxford students, creating more podcasts with associated materials (e.g. lectures notes, brief description of the content) may attract more listeners and have a greater impact. Finally, as the sample of the survey is relatively small, the findings here may not be generalised to the entire student population at Oxford. As the project progresses we will survey more students across different divisions.


[1] For example

http://clt.lse.ac.uk/Projects/Case_Study_Three_report.pdf

http://www.economicsnetwork.ac.uk/showcase/johnes_podcasts.htm

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