Electronic lectures: Download your notes here

More and more podcasts are being used on courses – so is this the end for lectures, asks Andy Sharman

Nothing, it seems, is safe from the onward march of technology. Now, a practice that has been at the centre of higher education for centuries – the lecture – is under threat from alternative methods: foremost among them is the podcast.

This month Dr Steve Jones, a biochemist at King's College London, has sparked debate about what alternatives could be used to improve upon, or indeed replace, the lecture.

"The traditional lecture has stood the test of time but it's now under attack," says Dr Jones. "It's considered by some to be an ineffective way to construct understanding of a topic."

With MP3 players widely used by students, some universities are seeking to exploit podcasting technology to create the modern lecture. This could see more and more lectures recorded as digital media files and put on the internet for students to download.

Apple is at the forefront of the podcasting revolution and the company's iTunes music store even has its own "iTunes U" section, dedicated to university podcasts. However, the service only hosts broadcasts from US institutions, and Apple would not say whether it planned to open iTunes U to British universities.

But forget Apple: we've got Ashraf. In May 2006, Dr Bill Ashraf, a senior lecturer at Bradford University, abandoned lectures in favour of podcasts on his first-year biochemistry and second-year molecular genetics courses. He has also offered students the chance to send questions to him by text, which he answers, for all to see, on his blog. He did this, he says, after seeing how his teenage daughters were organising their social lives via mobile phones and online social-networking sites. "That's how my future students are going to be thinking: online," he says.

Ashraf also discovered that he is dyslexic, which motivated him to seek an alternative to lectures. "With a podcast, you're not struggling to write down notes. You can pace yourself," he says. "What's more, students don't have to chase me round for lecture notes – it's all on the podcast."

The project has proved successful with students. Kaz Matsumoto, a student on Ashraf's molecular genetics course, says: "Before exam time, I listened to them over and over again while going to the gym and even while walking between lectures. It also helps when you miss lectures from time to time to be able to hear the lecture in its entirety."

Ashraf has begun to offer "enhanced" podcasts which feature slides and video. Does this spell the end for lectures? Many universities are offering podcasts alongside lectures. As a result, there is concern that students will stop turning up for lectures if they can download the podcast.

But according to Lynn Vos, senior lecturer in marketing at Middlesex University Business School, these fears are unfounded. Research shows that the introduction of podcasts does not reduce attendance at lectures, and students see the technology as an additional educational tool, not a replacement, she says. "Podcasts will not supplant the traditional lecture in the near future. I believe they will be viewed as a way to enhance the student experience and form an additional set of materials students can use to remind, de-mystify and clarify."

The lecture offers a forum for student-teacher interaction, according to Vos. Students are able to question tutors on material they find confusing, and the tutor can then adjust the content to improve students' understanding. "Also, the lecture can be viewed as an 'event' where students get together and participate in what is in effect a live performance," she says.

Others don't see podcasting as progress. "I don't think that digitising lectures in itself is the best way of using the technology," says Professor Allison Littlejohn, director of the Caledonian Academy. "After all, it's not that different to what the Open University was doing in the 1970s when it was sending out video tapes."

The Academy, a centre at Glasgow Caledonian University, is charged with investigating new approaches to teaching, looking at the use of computers, MP3 players, social-networking websites and mobile phones. "We're looking at other ways of using podcasts to transform the technology into something that can help students learn," she says.

Warwick University is also seeking to use podcasting as a way of supporting, rather than supplanting, lectures. The MA creative writing course has a podcast for which students are asked to submit short stories. "It's the first podcast with a call to action," says Tom Abbott, who looks after podcasting and the website at Warwick. "It's integral to what the tutor is trying to achieve with his course."

French students at Warwick are also able to download a 10-minute introduction to each lecture. "They go into the lecture better informed and in a better frame of mind," says Abbott. "If we restrict podcasting to just recording lectures, we've missed a trick."

Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
Environment
People are buying increasing numbers of plants such as lavender to aid the insects
environmentGardeners rally round the endangered bumblebee
Sport
Australia's Dylan Tombides competes for the ball with Adal Matar of Kuwait during the AFC U-22 Championship Group C match in January
sportDylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011
Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
musicBest exclusives coming to an independent record shop near you this Record Store Day
News
Ida Beate Loken has been living at the foot of a mountain since May
newsNorwegian gives up home comforts for a cave
Extras
indybest10 best gardening gloves
Arts & Entertainment
tvIt might all be getting a bit much, but this is still the some of the finest TV ever made, says Grace Dent
Arts & Entertainment
Comedian Lenny Henry is calling for more regulation to support ethnic actors on TV
tvActor and comedian leads campaign against 'lack of diversity' in British television
News
Posted at the end of March, this tweeted photo was a week off the end of their Broadway shows
people
News
peopleStar to remain in hospital for up to 27 days to get over allergic reaction
Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Primary Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: KS1 KS2 Crewe Teacher Perm Ch...

Primary Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education is the lea...

Primary Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: KS1 KS2 Teaching Cheshire

Primary Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Long term position in large p...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit