Using Audio Technologies in the Classroom

Can audio technologies help students learn better? Can we assign podcasts in the same way we assign course readings? Does it take a lot of instructor time? These questions and others led to a discussion at the Center for Teaching and Learning on March 20, when around 15 faculty members gathered to think through audio over wine and cheese.

Organized and led by CTL Visiting Instructor Ian Cook, faculty at the workshop represented a broad range of disciplines and programs, including International Relations, Political Science, Gender Studies, OLIve, Medieval Studies, the School of Public Policy, the Center for Policy Studies, the Yehuda Elkana Center, and Visiting Myanmar Fellows. They engaged in an exploration of digitally enabled audio environments in teaching, including using audio diaries for ongoing reflections, podcasts in lieu of readings, and pre-recorded lectures. The group then dived deeply into one option—replacing written assignments with podcasts. After investigating structure, planning, and the potential advantages and drawbacks, they made a podcast on the spot. What this revealed, aside from how much fun it is to call on colleagues to volunteer as we also do with our students, is that audio technology can be extremely low-tech: podcasting is tech-enabled, but that technology is not so complex it takes away from the course focus.

Their conclusions? Nearly all came to agree that podcasts, as integrative assignments, can spur students to think through their work more carefully, explore sources or ideas they might not otherwise do, and, enlivened by the possibility to showcase their work to a wider public, push themselves to places they might not go in a ‘private’ written class assignment.

Stay tuned:  Due to the popularity of the workshop, it will be run it again during the last week of May. If you would like more information please email

Teaching materials, practical audio editing guides and example student podcasts will all be available on the soon-to-be launched podcast library – – which is currently in beta mode. The workshop built on the research, teaching and dissemination activities developed within the project Sound Relations: Transgressions, Disruptions, Transformations.