Northeast course podcasts having broad impact

During recent workshops Northeast faculty and Apple Computers professionals taught educators from area school districts, including Tupelo and Prentiss County schools, how to create, edit and distribute podcasts of their own material.
“Among the comments we received from students after last year’s classes was a statement that ‘It’s like being able to take the teacher home with you,’” said Dean of Instruction Charlie Barnett.
Though Barnett admits to planting the seed of the idea to launch podcasting classes, he gives distance learning coordinator Holly Melvin and webmaster and technology specialist Jeffrey Powell credit as “the ones who really made it as successful as it is.”
After starting with a public speaking class in the summer of 2008, the list of available podcast classes has grown to nine offered this fall.
“We developed the podcast classes to supplement the online learning already going on at Northeast,” Melvin said. “The feedback from students said they really wanted more of the lectures available online, so the podcasts are a combination of lectures, step-by-step problem-solving in courses like algebra, a sample speech in the public speaking class. The students say the best thing about them is they can go back and review the podcasts as often as they need to.”
The goal was to provide material for Northeast students, but a surprising byproduct is the number of people across the United States and abroad – New York, Switzerland and many more – who have e-mailed to say they have used the courses and asking for more, Melvin said.
Between January and July Northeast’s podcasts were downloaded 26,622 times, from two history classes, public speaking, math and two English classes.
“Our goal is to not expand too quickly, but to add two courses each semester,” Melvin said.
The college has a formal agreement with Apple Computers, which provides free server space to host the podcasts. Apple also is the creator of iTunes U, a way to provide students access to mobile learning outside the classroom through various digital devices such as iPhones and iPods, as well as Apple and PC computers.
“We had to submit sample podcasts for them to approve the quality,” Melvin said.
Student response has been extremely rewarding, she said, with requests for more podcast courses.
“A lot of nontraditional students are coming back to college, and some say they probably couldn’t have come back and passed college-level courses had it not been for podcasts,” Barnett said. “Retention and success is a challenge for us, and the podcasts have made both those areas go up tremendously.”

Contact Lena Mitchell at (662) 287-9822 or lena.mitchell@djournal.com.

Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal