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Editor’s Note: This is a useful exploration of the learning value of Podcasts. Hopefully, research will be expanded in the near future to provide specific data to guide instructional designers and teachers in the most productive ways to use this medium.

Students’ Perceptions of Podcasts in the Classroom

Ray Pastore


In the last few years there has been a rapid increase in the popularity of podcasting. Educators have been enthusiastic to embrace this technology, which is quickly becoming a part of many classrooms. However, we have yet to understand how students view this technology and if they are willing to accept it into their curriculum. As a result, this paper aims to describe the results of a survey intended to discover college students’ perceptions of podcasting in the classroom environment. Looking at students’ perspectives helped uncover potential benefits and drawbacks to podcasting and led to recommendations for its use and implementation. Results of the survey revealed that students perceive podcasts as a valuable supplement to classroom material. Furthermore, it was found that students do not prefer podcasts to lectures, which suggests that while podcasts can aid student learning, they are not viewed as a replacement for classroom lectures and instruction.

Keywords: Audio, Audio Integration, Perceptions of Podcasting, Perceptions of Auditory Instruction, Mp3, Podcasting, Podcast, Podcasting in the Classroom, Technology in the Classroom, Advantages of Podcasting


As our society moves toward the digital age we are exploring new technological trends that will make our classrooms more efficient. In the last few years, one such trend, podcasting, has become one of the latest technologies being embraced by the American public. A survey conducted by Bridge Ratings in August of 2006 revealed that 6.3 million Americans had listened to or downloaded a podcast and projected this number would increase to 21.7 million by 2010 (Bridge Ratings, 2006). As a result, many educators have become intrigued and motivated to adopt this technology with hopes of implementing it into their classrooms (Descy, 2005). Although the education system is eager to accept this technology, its use, application, and role in the classroom has yet to be explored. This indicates that its use is currently based on trial and error techniques (Dennen, 2005). This has created a need for educators to understand the role that this technology has in the classroom for students and learning so that recommendations on its implementation can be made (Campbell, 2005). In light of this, Brown and Green (2007) have stated, “As with the advent of film, radio, television, and computer networks, educators are faced with an exciting new medium that seems to hold tremendous potential for instruction. Determining how best to exploit this new medium’s strengths is no easy feat.” (p. 4). Thus, there is a need for research on the use of podcasts in the classroom environment. For that reason, it is the expectation of this paper to add to the literature on podcasting by describing a survey which sought to discover how students perceive this technology in order to reveal what they recognize as its strengths and weaknesses.

What is Podcasting?

The term podcast originally referred to a digital audio file (Pastore and Pastore 2007; Lucking, Purcell, and Christmann, 2006), but has more recently been given several different media contexts, which include: stand alone audio, video/animation and audio, and static images and audio. These media files are mobile digital files that can be used on multiple devices such as personal computers and mp3 players. The mp3 player, which was designed to play podcasts, has become a popular and common technology, one such example being Apple’s iPod. In fact, most cell phones, PDAs, and even cameras have the ability to play podcasts. In addition, the cost of these devices has become relatively inexpensive, leading to greater use. This has caused a dramatic increase in podcast use for people of all ages. This popularity has sparked the interest of both schools and corporations to the effect that it is becoming common and it is expected to find podcasts as part of college courses or on corporate and news websites (Castelluccio, 2006). Nonetheless, the following questions have yet to be answered: Are educators using podcasts appropriately? Are students accepting and welcoming this method of lecture and/or content delivery?

Since podcasting technology has become so popular in and out of the classroom, its role may be as great as its promoters have led us to believe. This increase in popularity is mainly due to its shared similarities to online and distance learning, such as convenience, ease of use, and accessibility (Newberry, 2001). In the 1990’s when internet technology took the world by storm, the use of audio computer technology was still new and received little attention because most personal computers couldn’t process the large files (Essec, 2006). This also inhibited their online presence as most users were still using dial-up internet connections. As technology has progressed, these inconveniences have diminished. The technology used to create sound files is now standard on most computers and internet speeds have drastically increased to the point that podcasts can be downloaded in seconds.

Nonetheless, this increase has generated a push to use this technology within our classrooms without fully understanding its impacts on students and learning. Evans (2008) states, “Whilst podcasting is being utilized as a teaching tool by some educators in the secondary sector, its use in higher education, and its effectiveness as a learning tool for adults, remains to be established.” (p. 491). This has created a need to understand this phenomenon and leads to many questions on its appropriate use and implementation. Since the technology has become so readily available and easy to use, educators are implementing and using podcasts as part of their curriculum. Podcasting is also being used by our students’ everyday within their daily lives. With this increase in use and popularity, we have not yet explored the impact this form of mobile technology is having on learning or asked students how they feel about podcasts as part of their curriculum. Therefore, in order to understand the effects of podcasting on learning, it is important to first examine the literature on auditory instruction and multimedia to understand how and why students learn from podcasts.

Podcasts and Learning

Podcasts are currently being used in education as a tool to enhance the learning environment. It is important to understand how podcasts are interpreted and processed by students to understand how this learning occurs. Auditory information processing is recognized as being comprised of three stages or levels, which are referred to as echoic, working or short-term, and long-term memory (Baddeley, 1998). When students first hear a podcast, it enters the echoic memory stage, which is an initial encoding stage where information is interpreted and transferred to working memory where it will be used. Baddeley (1992) describes working memory as a “…system that provides temporary storage and manipulation of the information necessary for such complex cognitive tasks as language comprehension, learning, and reasoning” (p. 556). Thus, when auditory information enters the working memory, it can be used as part of a current task or problem, discarded, or transferred to long-term memory. Working memory has been shown to be able to actively process around seven units (plus or minus two) of information (Miller, 1956). In order for learners to remember audio information presented it must be stored in their long-term memory (LTM). This has been described as memory that has an unlimited capacity for information storage. As a result, it is important to examine successful implementation strategies that have been used to promote learning and achievement in students presented with auditory content.

Past research has demonstrated that audio is an effective learning tool (Veronikas and Maushak, 2005; Mayer and Anderson, 1992; Brunken, Plass, and Leutner, 2004; Kalyuda, Chandler, and Sweller, 1999) and that practice using audio as a learning tool leads to greater comprehension (Voor and Miller, 1965). However, audio is usually seen as most effective when it is complemented with visuals, which together reduce cognitive load and burden on working memory, producing a modality effect. This has been demonstrated in Paivio’s Dual Code Theory (Paivio, 1991), which explains that there are two channels for processing information in working memory, verbal (text/narration), and visual (images/video/animation). Each of the channels is processed separately and can store a certain amount of information. When instruction is designed to complement these two channels there is a reduction in the amount of cognitive load placed on working memory. This increases the comprehension of material. The Dual Coding Theory has recently been adapted by Mayer (2001) in the Cognitive Theory of Multimedia which suggests that we have a dual modality processing system comprised of a visual (image/icons/graphs) and auditory (verbal/text/narration) channel, limited capacity in working memory for each channel, and that we engage in active processing to organize the information in each channel to put it into our long-term memory for automatic retrieval. Under the assumption of the dual coding theory, audio is processed separately from images in working memory and that when used to complement one another, will increase student learning and achievement. This was demonstrated by Moreno and Mayer (1999) in an experiment, which utilized 132 college students, and tested the modality effect and the spatial relationship of text and animations by comparing treatments which consisted of narration and animation, animation and close text, and animation and far text. The narration and animation treatment significantly outperformed the text and animation treatments in tests that measured verbal recall, matching ability, and transfer. Similar results were uncovered by Mayer, Dow, and Mayer (2003) who conducted an experiment with 52 college students to see if they would perform better on transfer and problem solving tasks when presented with auditory instruction and static images or textual instruction and static images. Post-test scores revealed that students performed significantly better when presented with auditory instruction and images than textual instruction and images. Tindall-Ford, Chandler, and Sweller (1997) reaffirmed these findings in a series of three experiments, which investigated the effects of audio-visual modes of instruction when compared to text-visual and visual-only treatments. In all three experiments, they found that the audio-visual modes were superior to the visual modes, which they suggested was due to a reduction in cognitive load as explained by the modality effect. They concluded that, “When students are faced with intellectually difficult material requiring mental integration between multiple sources of information, results suggest that mental integration may be easier if written information is transferred into an auditory form (p. 285). Koroghlanian and Klein (2004) uncovered similar findings in their study, which compared text and audio using animation and static based curriculum. They put 109 high school biology students into four treatments, which consisted of text-static illustration, audio-static illustration, text-animation, and audio-animation. The study produced no significant differences between the audio and textual treatments suggesting that audio is at least as effective as text.

These studies help demonstrate that the use of audio as a classroom tool has been investigated in the past and it has been shown to be at least as effective as other means of content delivery. Thus, we can conclude that audio has its place in education, has been shown to be an effective learning tool, and when complemented with visuals produces a modality effect that can increase comprehension.  Therefore, since audio has been shown to be an effective classroom tool and the use of podcasting has grown in popularity, it is important to understand how learners perceive this technology when it is implemented into their classrooms.


A survey was developed to answer the following question: What are students’ perceptions of podcasting as a classroom tool?  It is hoped that this question will help us gain insight into podcasting use in the classroom and assist us in understanding what students perceive are its strengths and weaknesses. If we cannot understand how students perceive this technology then we will not be able to fully understand its value, which could lead to misconceptions and misuse of a powerful technology.


The participants in this survey consisted of two educational technology classes at Penn State University who were made up of undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in the department of education. These participants were chosen based on availability and because they were currently involved in classes that utilized podcasts. Participants in the study indicated they owned the following devices which had the ability to play podcasts and/or mp3 files: computers (93.8%), mp3 players (56.3%), cell phones (43.8%), and personal handheld devices (6.3%). The participants were students in a class that was given a podcasting assignment in order to introduce and familiarize them with podcasts in the classroom. This process began with a lesson on podcasting. During the initial lesson, students were presented with basic fundamental information on podcast use and development. Students were then given an assignment which entailed creating and publishing podcasts utilizing a free online website, Students’ podcasts were then published to a web blog (created during a previous assignment) on They were then asked to listen to, give feedback to, and critique several other peers’ podcasts.

Materials and Procedures

The instrument used in this study was comprised of a survey, which consisted of nineteen questions aimed at discovering students’ perceptions of podcasting in the classroom. The survey was structured using multiple-choice, Likert-scale, and open-ended questions. The multiple-choice questions sought to capture students’ current and past use of podcasts. The Likert-scale questions utilized a 5-point scale ranging from strongly agree (1) to strongly disagree (5). They were aimed at uncovering students’ perceptions of podasts in the classroom environment. A reliability analysis of the Likert-scale questions was completed and produced a Cronbach’s Alpha of .687. The open-ended questions sought to uncover what the students perceived as the advantages, disadvantages, and the best use of podcasts as an educational tool.

The survey was distributed to each group electronically at the conclusion of the spring 2007 school year. A total of 16 surveys were completed and returned. The results were analyzed using descriptive statistical techniques.


The instrument used in this study consisted of multiple-choice, likert-scale, and open-ended questions. Results of the multiple-choice analysis revealed that most students are not using this technology outside of the classroom. When students were asked if they knew what podcasts were prior to taking this class, 56% responded that they did not. When they were asked if they had ever used podcasts before this class, 86% responded no. This indicates that not only had most of the students not used podcasts prior to this course, over half of them were unsure what they were.

The Likert-scale questions consisted of six questions aimed at discovering students’ perceptions towards the podcasting phenomenon. The six questions are displayed in Table 1.

Table 1
Likert-Scale Questions




I feel that I can learn through podcasts



I prefer podcasts to lectures



I would like class lectures to be available as podcasts



If class lectures were available as podcasts I would use them



I would like podcasts to be used more often in my classes



I like listening to podcasts



* - When determining the Mean: 1= Strongly Agree, 2=Agree, 3=Neutral, 4=Disagree, 5=Strongly Disagree

A descriptive analysis revealed that 56% of the students felt that they could learn via podcasting. However, when asked if they preferred podcasts to lectures, 69% either disagreed or strongly disagreed indicating that students do not see podcasts as a means to replace classroom lecture. Half of the students revealed that they would like to see lectures be made available as podcasts and that they would like to see them used more often in the classroom. In addition, half of the participants indicated that they enjoyed listening to podcasts. These results suggest that while students believe they can learn from podcasts, they do not view them as a replacement to lectures and class discussions. Nonetheless, they do believe that podcasts would be useful as a supplemental lecture tool and would like to see them being implemented into classroom settings more often. Results from the open-ended responses uncovered similar responses.

Responses from the open-ended questions were coded and analyzed.  The most common response students provided, when asked about the advantages to podcasting, was that they were an asynchronous means of content delivery, meaning they could be used anywhere and anytime. Example responses included: “The flexibility of time” and “can be obtained after the class is over as a future reference”. Students were intrigued by the idea that they could go back and listen to a part of a lecture. This was reiterated when students were asked about the best use of podcasting, which they suggested was as a supplemental lecture and content delivery tool. An example response includes: “As a supplement to teaching lecture, or something that can be used to review lecture to pick up missed notes”. When asked about the disadvantages of podcasting, students responded that they did not like the fact that podcasts were not interactive. They indicated that if they had a question, they couldn’t stop and ask for help. Example responses included: “A podcast doesn't have the interactivity of having an actual teacher at your disposal” and “Not very interactive between students and the teacher”.

Discussion and Conclusions

Given the increase in use and interest of podcasting in education, this survey sought to reveal college students’ perceptions of this technology in the classroom environment. This perspective helped to make known what students see as the potential strengths and weaknesses of podcasting and can help guide educators who plan to implement this technology into their curriculum. This survey revealed that most students had never used a podcast prior to the educational technology course and that over half of the students surveyed had been unsure what one was. Based on this notion, it is clear that podcast use is not as widespread in education as previously thought. Although this finding was not expected, it could be caused by the sample selected for this study, which only represents two educational technology classes at one university and did not take age, gender, or learning style into consideration. Therefore the results cannot be generalized to other programs, disciplines, or universities.

It was also discovered that students view podcasts as a valuable learning tool and as a means to enhance the learning process when used as a supplemental lecture tool. This is inline with Copley (2007) who found that both undergraduate and graduate students enjoyed listening to podcasts and wanted to see more classroom materials be made available in podcast format. Thus, it appears that students enjoy listening to and having access to course materials in podcast format, which could be due to the nature of a their flexibility, meaning that students can use them asynchronously, anywhere, anytime, and on multiple devices. If used in this capacity, students have the opportunity to use this technology to aid their learning experience. However, it was discovered that students do not prefer podcasts to lectures. They explained that they dislike how one cannot interact with a podcast as one can with a professor. Therefore, it is not recommended that podcasts be used to replace lectures as they do not give students the ability to interact with the instructor and peers. This should help ease fears that students would stop going to class if lectures were offered via podcast. Similar findings were uncovered by Lyles Robertson, Mangino, and Cox (2007) who conducted a study with 68 undergraduate students and found that students liked having class materials be made available as podcasts and that they would not stop going to class if they were made available as lectures. For that reason, it is clear that students appreciate the advantages offered in classroom discussion and that they generally would use podcasts to enhance their learning and understanding of material.

Future Research

Future research should be geared towards learners of different age groups and academic levels including K-12, undergraduate, and graduate students in order to compare differences in their perceptions and experiences with podcasts. In addition to age and academic level, variables such as learning style and gender should be taken into consideration as they could influence students’ perceptions and use of this technology. Furthermore, research should also include multiple disciplines from multiple universities in order to be able to generalize to a larger demographic population. This could help provide insight into different ways that podcasts are being utilized across schools and universities by highlighting its successes and failures. Additionally, future studies should examine instructor perceptions, uses, and experiences with this technology. This may help uncover some of the reasons for the low use of podcasting in the classroom environment as found in this survey and help us to understand the best uses for this technology.


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About the Author

Raymond S. Pastore

Raymond S. Pastore has 7 years of instructional design experience, which includes extensive corporate and academic experience. He has studied and practiced instructional design theories and methodologies through courses, research, teaching, and computer based training development. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Instructional Systems at Penn State University.




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