In my last blog I wrote about the medium of instructional videos in learning. There’s another mode that’s caught my ear recently – podcasts.
It has puzzled me for a while why it is that audio is a hugely underrated medium for elearning content. It isn’t so in other arenas. In particular, podcast’s popularity in the mainstream is evident, as Apple has confirmed there are currently over 1.5 million on their platform. This has jumped extraordinarily from just 550,000 back in 2018.
It’s easy to see why they are so popular. Podcasts fit into busy lives, freeing up eyes and hands to do the dishes or drive home. And even more barriers than time and place are removed – speaking and listening is the most natural form of storytelling. No intonation is lost, and true meaning becomes easier to absorb.
The pandemic has introduced more people to podcasts. As our calendars begin to fill up at the start of each week we yearn for time away from the cameras and the screens, the ability let our minds wonder and ponder without worrying about that little white light that says ‘heads up – you’re on’.
The gift of an educational podcast to an employee is development in their role without being chained to the screen. It’s an invite to take a walk, a drive or complete something around the house at the same time as developing their thoughts on a certain concept, or hearing about some examples of best practices, or lessons learned from others’ experience.
It’s also a digital learning gift in that it tackles the challenge of avoiding cognitive overload. Given the option, a learner can also just sit quietly and absorb information. There are not many opportunities we can provide for learners to purely focus on content and their own reflection on it.
And on the development side, they are simpler and quicker to make than other mediums such as animation. There are pitfalls to this though – a podcast is definitely not just an mp3 file. While they are incredibly cost effective, production and planning needs to be involved to develop an effective high quality product. When you’re speaking right into somebody’s ear, you need to know what you’re talking about.
Without expert planning, guidance and production an instructional monologue can be soporific, or an interview/discussion becomes a wordy battleground. As with any learning piece that follows a microlearning approach (although a podcast doesn’t have to fall into this category) the learning objective should be discrete and well defined. Plus, there should be subtitles where possible to ensure it is still accessible for those who can't hear.
I would urge anyone to embrace this medium for digital learning design and explore the many possibilities learning podcasts could bring for L&D. Once you have the foundations in place, the right approach to development, structure and concept planning - all you need is a voice! It’s time for learning to jump off those screens and into people’s imaginations.
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