As most everything at Arizona State University gets bigger — its student body, campuses, research funding — the size of its instruction at one campus is about to shrink to fit in a student’s pocket.
By the end of September, classrooms at ASU’s downtown Phoenix campus will be equipped to convert every lecture into a podcast, an electronic file that can be listened to or watched on digital audio players or computers. The files will include any video or slides that professors use to explain the material.
The university is hardly the first to make the classroom lecture portable, however executives at Anystream, the education technology firm providing ASU the equipment, argue it’s among the first to embrace this advanced podcasting, which includes visuals, on a whole campus.
“Lecture capture itself is not that prevalent today,” said Mark Jones, vice president for education products at Anystream.
Many universities have been increasingly turning to podcasts to offer students lectures as well as additional information not provided during class. ASU’s experience in this digital realm has been limited to specific colleges and schools.
More than a dozen podcasts can be downloaded from the university’s Web site — including ASU President Michael Crow’s weekly audio commentary — but none of it is related to classes.
Getting students to download coursework onto their iPods along with music should be easy, said Renee McLeod, a clinical professor in ASU’s nursing college, now located at the downtown campus.
“It just provides (students) another way to do something,” McLeod said. “They’re going to listen to something anyway, they might as well listen to a lecture.”
Five of the 27 classrooms downtown are outfitted to record digital video and the rest can capture audio, Jones said. “They can now literally put this into a classroom, record every session (and) make it immediately available,” he said.
The lectures will be available for download through iTunes, said Matt Dornic, an Anystream spokesman.
The nursing college plans to use the technology extensively, said college spokeswoman Mingo Atkinson, as it will allow professors to work together easily despite being scattered across three ASU campuses.
Anystream is covering the cost of the trial at ASU, Temple University and the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.
The cost for the audio podcasting technology is $10,000 a year to equip an entire university, Jones said.
Once the trial is complete, university officials will decide whether to continue or expand the technology’s use.
Though podcasting is largely untested at ASU, none of the instructors or administrators expressed concern that students would opt to skip class in favor of learning solely from their iPods.
“Almost everybody assumes that and almost everybody has that as a concern when they go in,” Jones said.
Several universities have studied the impact of podcasts and “they really haven’t seen a statistical difference in attendance patterns.”