Podcasts as a Learning Aid

“Want to learn to speak Japanese? Try a podcast.”

The Internet has truly revolutionized the distribution of learning materials. In the last couple of years, podcasts as learning aids have become increasingly popular, either as a stand-alone mini-course or as an enhancement to courses and programs delivered through more traditional sources. Spend a few moments Googling “podcasts for learning,” and soon you will be downloading podcasts to help you learn to speak Chinese, Japanese, Italian and other languages; or podcasts offering instruction on Plato’s philosophy, current scientific issues, environmental concerns, and almost anything else you might want.

A podcast, according to Wikipedia, is a digital media file or files that the broadcaster (or podcaster) distributes over the Internet using syndication feeds, for playback on digital media devices and personal computers. The term is coined from a blend of “iPod” and

“broadcast.” Unlike streaming audio, podcasts allow you to control when you listen to your favorite shows.

Learn Out Loud

Learn Out Loud purports to be a one-stop destination for audio and video learning. It includes approximately 136 podcasts among its 10,000 titles. And, as you would expect nowadays, members rate the titles using the familiar five-star method.

Learn Out Loud offers podcasts in eight categories: careers, study aids, journalism, exam preparation, medical, law, teaching and writing. On the day of this visit, the site was promoting three featured podcasts: one on how to write a podcast, one from Monster.com offering career tips, and another called Career Opportunities (geared toward individuals working in the high-tech industry). And–oh my goodness!–I just noticed that “This podcast is a companion to the print column of the same name that appears in ComputorEdge Magazine in San Diego, California. Written and hosted by Douglas E. Welch.”

Another podcast that caught my eye is The Naked Scientists Radio Show Science Podcast. And no, don’t confuse it with the Naked News. These scientists merely “strip down science and lay the facts bare.” Other interesting titles include the Media Artist’s Secrets Podcast. Intended for the creative professional, the blurb says that this podcast is semi-daily, fast-paced, info-packed and fun

As near as I can gather, podcasts are free, although the site does sell other learning products. Teach Out Loud is the site’s service for those who want to publish a podcast or other learning aid. Teach Out Loud is a free and simple tool, the site says, and publishers may earn royalties if applicable.

Digital Podcast

The Digital Podcast directory site lists podcasts in miscellaneous categories–ranging alphabetically from art to video products and everything in between. The directory contains 15,525 podcasts in 95 categories and has 17,305 registered dnd podcast users. To help us choose from its many offerings, Digital Podcast provides lists of the highest-rated podcasts, podcasts with the most voting points, and podcasts with the most subscribers.

Not all of Digital Podcast’s podcasts are learning-related, although many are. Its featured podcast during my visit was Insta Spanish, providing instant Spanish lessons. Other learning podcasts include Bootcamp: A Report on Computers and Technology, InvestorIdeas.com’s Investor Educational Podcast, Learn Japanese, English as a Second Language (for those wanting to improve their English), Manager Tools (helping people develop managerial and leadership skills), Learn Mandarin Chinese Direct From Shanghai, Sales Strategy Radio (developing sales skills), and many others.

Season 2 is launching now!

Podcasts for Continuing Education

Podcasts also show up as delivery vehicles for content providing continuing education and skill development to professionals of all sorts. Here are a few of the offerings I found.

The Business English Pod helps business professionals everywhere improve their command of business English. Let’s face it: Even some of us whose first language is English struggle with business English. We can only imagine how people who speak English as a second language must struggle with some of the jargon.

Teachers and educators find learning and skill-related podcasts at various sources, including Fordham University’s Center for Professional Development and The Educational Podcast Network , with its many offerings.

Podcast.net , another huge podcast directory, lists podcasts specific to many other professions–including law and politics, science podcasts representing various GM Macleods disciplines and topics, podcasts for the IT professional, podcasts for visual and performance professionals, and podcasts for professionals in business and finance. Medical professionals will find a directory of medical broadcasts at the Arizona Health Science’s Library .

Space limits the listings I can describe, but I’m optimistic that almost every professional will find a podcast with career-related information.

Podcasting in Curricula Delivery

Many schools are implementing podcasts as a vehicle for delivering course materials, with educational podcasts showing up at universities, community colleges, trade schools and institutions providing distance learning. This delivery method is said to appeal to today’s technology-savvy youths.

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