Michael Cheney

LSC431 website screenshot

LSC431: The Beatles: Popular Music and Society

At the beginning of the Fall 2005 semester, UIS professor Michael Cheney began welcoming his online students to class via a podcast and vodcast. He is pioneering this unique effort at UIS with the help and support from the Educational Technology department.

A podcast is an audio file that can be downloaded from the Internet and played on a digital music [mp3] player or a computer. Unlike traditional radio broadcasts and streaming audio on the Internet, podcasts will allow you to listen to content at your convenience [on-demand].

Vodcasting works similarly to podcasting, but has the added feature of video and/or still images.

For his liberal studies course, “The Beatles: Popular Music and Society,” Cheney prepares weekly podcasts and vodcasts that include lectures and supporting material. Students use Apple Computer’s iTunes software to listen to and watch the pod- and vodcasts.

The inspiration to podcast and vodcast course content came as Cheney was putting together his syllabus last summer.

“I came up with the idea as a way to further enrich the online learning experience. Having students not only read the material – but also listen to my comments and view images – gives them a fuller experience, especially because this course deals with many sounds and images,” said Cheney.

Using this new technology, Cheney has introduced an innovative approach to classroom communication, one that engages the different learning styles of class members, and provides a personal dimension to the course.

“I am also trying to liberate students from being able to learn in an online course only when they are on the computer. For example, I have a student who is traveling this week, but with the podcasts, the readings, and her collection of Beatles tunes, she is able to use her MP3 player to continue with the course, even without Internet access,” added Cheney.

With the release of iTunes 4.9 in June 2005, Munindra Khaund, Multimedia Education Coordinator in the Educational Technology department, seized the opportunity of offering UIS faculty with podcasting and vodcasting techniques as an innovative way of integrating technology into a curriculum.

Professor Cheney is the first UIS faculty member to jump on the pod/vod bandwagon.

A combination of Cheney’s pedagogy with Khaund’s support in instructional technology brought the idea to fruition just in time for the fall ’05 semester.

The reason for choosing iTunes – software for storing and playing digital audio – is its ease of use, it is cross-platform software, and it is free. The popularity of iTunes across campuses is widespread, and many students already own iPods for recreational use.

Khaund calls iTunes “drag & drop” technology, due to its simplicity. Both Cheney and Khaund believe it makes delivery of instruction truly an “any time, any where” concept. Cheney says, “This is like TiVo for the online learner.”

Khaund says, “Surely, it will not replace classroom instruction; but it opens up another possibility of engaging students outside of the four walls of a classroom.” In addition, he is excited about the prospect of students creating their own podcasts as a way to record activities, collect data and notes, and provide reflections on their course materials and assignments.

Where Next?

“This has been a truly collaborative effort between a faculty member, Educational Technology, and Campus Technology Services,” remarks Khaund. He plans to collaborate with other faculty members who wish to integrate a similar pedagogical approach into their courses.

As for the future of this technology, Khaund is looking at a new program called ChapterTool. The application allows creating of “enhanced podcasts” that contain chapter markers, pictures, and web links within a podcast.


Additional Reports on Professor Michael Cheney’s Project