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iPods: the lessons of the future?

Sussex is following in Derby’s footsteps with a scheme to provide lectures in podcast format (photo: Nick Blumsom)

Sussex is following in Derby’s footsteps with a scheme to provide lectures in podcast format (photo: Nick Blumsom)

The University of Derby has recently launched a new initiative giving ipods to students, pre-loaded with informative tutorials.

The University has given 35 first year radiology students ipods, valued at £99 each, to be used for the duration of their course and returned upon completion of their degree. Students will be able to upload their own music onto the devises but the university insists that it will check that the pre-loaded tutorials are still being used. A Senior Lecturer, Ruth Chester at the University of Derby has said that, “students want different ways of learning,” coinciding with the technology boom that surrounds the younger generation of learners.

Ruth Chester has also commented that ipods “are not gadgets, they are things of the future and they are here to stay.” The scheme has attracted widespread skepticism as well as similar schemes involving the podcasting of lectures. Many have condemned it as a means of supporting ‘lazy students.’ Media tutor Harold Flicker who in 2006, conducted research into the use of podcasting at the University of Coventry said, “We are not kidding ourselves – there will always be lazy students who prefer to stay in bed or let their minds wander during seminars. This technology provides a safety net.”

‘The Sussex ‘Sounds Direct’ scheme is currently still in its pilot phase’

In 2007 The University of Sussex launched a scheme called Sounds Direct, which is currently still in its pilot phase. It has set up recording facilities in four lecture theatres on campus giving faculty ways of providing podcasts of lectures and other audio and video related material which can be made available on Sussex Direct as an extension of traditional ways of learning. The Senior Management Group at Sussex have recently furthered the Sounds Direct scheme and provided start up funding to purchase equipment to support the podcasting of lectures.

Dr. Bill Ashraf, Director of Technology and Enhanced Learning at the University of Sussex, has written an article for the Guardian in which he comments that “students are increasingly digitally literate and techno-savvy” and considers that there is no longer a “one size fits all” student, due to the continual increase of cultural diversity within universities. Contrary to the notion of podcasts as a ‘safety net,’ Ashraf states that “Students demand inspired, interactive teaching” and questions the value of traditional lectures, affirming the need for a new way of learning relative to the new technological generation. Ashraf further comments that his “biggest surprise has been the student reaction,” rather than decreased attendance and promotion of laziness it has in fact produced the opposite effect. He comments that when students find out that the lecture is going to be available as a podcast “they engage even more than usual and start asking questions.”
Podcasts also provide clear benefits to students with disabilities, especially those with learning disabilities such as dyslexia or those with visual impairment.

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