Beginning in the spring 2008 semester, some University
of North Texas students will be able to learn how healthy eating
habits can reduce risk of diabetes, heart disease and other chronic
diseases while driving, exercising or just walking across campus
to their classes.
Priscilla Connors, an associate professor in
UNT's School of Merchandising and Hospitality Management,
and a group of UNT alumni are creating podcasts for students enrolled
in Principles of Nutrition. The distributed learning course — using
instruction that relies primarily on indirect communication between
students and teachers, including Internet delivery — was
first launched at UNT in 2002.
Available to students for the spring 2008 semester as portable
auditory lessons, the podcasts include contents of the course's
online textbook that Connors, a registered dietician, authored
and updates annually.
Connors says Principles of Nutrition is a popular course because
it satisfies the wellness requirement in UNT's core curriculum,
which is required for all students receiving bachelor's degrees.
The course delivery is one hundred percent via the Internet and
features self-assessment, interactions, online lessons and links
to relevant web sites.
Connors says podcasting overcomes several limitations of online
teaching. She noted that students in focus groups have says they
don't feel a sense of urgency in reading e-mail messages from instructors
of online courses, so a podcast is part of the solution to the
problem of reaching them.
"Podcasting is a mode of communication that students find natural.
Lessons travel with any MP3 player-enabled student," she says. "We
have found that students like alternate channels of receiving information
besides seeing it online. IPods and podcasts may not meet the needs
of every student, but they do assist those who are auditory learners."
In addition, she says, once a student downloads a podcast, the
course information will be available to him or her even if the
student can't have access to a computer.
"Podcasting also has the potential to accommodate students with
visual disabilities and enhance understanding for non-native speakers
of English," Connors says.
During the 2004-2005 academic year, all first-year Duke University
students received iPods and voice recorders as part of the university's
iPod First-Year Experience project. Podcast course content was
created for 15 fall semester courses and 33 spring semester courses.
A report about the project found that students liked using the
iPods and voice recorders for the convenience of portable digital
content for classes, reduced dependence on printed materials and
laboratory or library locations and hours for use of computers,
greater engagement and interest in the courses' contents and enhanced
support for individual learning preferences and needs.
The podcasts for Principles of Nutrition are the first to be created
at UNT for the full course content. UNT's Center for Distributed
Learning, which assists faculty members with creating quality technology-based
courses, mostly produces audio streams that are not true podcasts,
says Amber Bryant, senior marketing specialist for the center.
However, the center has created a seminar on the Internet that
will help faculty members in the design process for effective podcasts,
Connors hired Tom Rose, a 2005 UNT graduate,
to help her create the podcast for her course. Rose, the owner
of Art Six coffee shop in Denton, had taken Principles of Nutrition
and recognized Connors as the course's instructor when she visited
"She asked me what I thought about the course and what could be
done to improve it. With the whole new wave of iPods, I thought
that podcasts would be a good way for students to download information,
just as they download music. Even if they don't listen to the whole
thing, they can be a great portable way for students to review
Rose, who studied theater design and technology as a UNT student,
asked Olivia de Guzman, a 2003 theater graduate
at UNT and co-owner of Art Six, and Ben Mayer,
a UNT graduate who does voiceover work in the Dallas/Fort Worth
area, to provide the voices for the podcast. The two prepared for
the recordings by reading the print version of the textbook used
for the online course.
"Dr. Connors says that the recording didn't have to be verbatim
from the textbook — we could have fun with it," Rose says.
De Guzman says she used different vocal techniques to keep students'
attention. She says she and Mayer alternated reading every few
paragraphs "so the voices didn't get monotonous."
"After about 30 minutes of speaking aloud, words tend to get jumbled," she
says. "Ben and I may go back and add something, like some witty
banter between lessons."
Connors also had Cynthia Beard, a doctoral student
in musicology, create a jingle to sound whenever students opened
the MP3 file. In addition, Rose says he, Mayer and de Guzman are
working on a video that will introduce students to the podcast
and the voices they will hear.
"We want to put a fun spin on the video to interest them," Rose
He added that he hopes more UNT faculty members will consider
making podcasts for their students.
"If someone talks to you in conversation, you're more likely to
retain the knowledge than if you just read about the subject," he
UNT News Service Press Release
Nancy Kolsti may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.