This year at Purdue University, students won't just be listening to the latest tunes on their MP3 players. Students also will be using the devices to replay class lectures.
"Many universities are experimenting with podcasting, but I'm not aware of any other university that is deploying a podcasting service on the scale that we are," says Michael Gay, manager of Broadcast Networks & Services for Information Technology at Purdue. "As far as I know, we are the only university that is offering both streaming and podcasting of lectures in this manner as a central university service."
Students and faculty will be able to listen to podcasts of some large lectures on campus beginning immediately. Any faculty member can request that their course be available via the podcasting service, which is called BoilerCast.
"Once the students have this set up, they don't have to revisit the Web site to get the content," Gay says. "The most recent lectures of the courses they've subscribed to will be downloaded to their computer - and possibly to their media player - automatically."
Justin Williams, a senior in computer technology at Purdue, says that he's been asking individual instructors to podcast their courses for the past year.
"Having the audio of lectures and review sessions is a great way to complement the presentation slides many professors already offer," Williams says. "Being able to subscribe to the BoilerCast feed and have the new lectures automatically synchronized with my iPod sweetens the deal even more."
BoilerCast audio content also can be streamed to a person's computer if they don't want to download a file.
BoilerCast lectures have several advantages. Among them:
* Students are able to repeat lectures at their convenience, whether that's while exercising, driving or walking on campus.
* Non-native English speaking students can replay lectures to increase their comprehension.
* Students can review lectures before exams.
* Instructors can listen to their own lectures to improve their presentations.
* Students can listen in on classes they've missed.
Although the potential exists for students to use the service to skip classes, Gay says that he doesn't expect this to be a problem.
"Our experience has been that students who are going to skip class will come up with a reason to do so regardless. However, to put instructors' fears at ease, we will only BoilerCast a course if the instructor specifically requests the service," Gay says.
Purdue has offered audio recordings of certain lectures since the early 1970s. However, students needed to go to the undergraduate library to check out cassette tapes. Gay says BoilerCast is more convenient than the previous service.
"How many students even come to campus in 2005 with a cassette player?" he says. "Probably not very many."
The university also is evaluating other uses of the BoilerCast service. One of the first uses outside of the classroom is by Purdue Libraries, which is using the BoilerCast service to deliver self-tours of undergraduate library resources.