This post is about one simple question: Do you listen to podcasts?
I have been listening to podcasts for a long time. At least since my first iPod. Remember the "click wheel?" I had a long commute to work at the time and found the drive a perfect opportunity to consume content. I also remember attempting to explain podcasts to people. The idea of a podcast is not a complicated concept and yet I often met with blank stares, and "why would you just listen to people talk?"
We've come a long way since then and yet podcasts are still a bit of a mystery for many people. And I'm not sure why. It's just content. Like YouTube, there is a lot of content you will not like. And that's okay. The beautiful thing about podcasting is that anyone can do it. Just like anyone can create a YouTube channel. Think of it as an audio blog. The subscription model driven by RSS technology is the same for blogs as it is for podcasts. If you subscribe to a podcast you will automatically receive the content every time something new is posted. This makes staying updated on new "episodes" very simple. So why hasn't the practice of listening to podcasts caught on?
When I first learned about RSS and podcasting I remember being so excited about the technology that I was certain it would revolutionize eLearning. I saw a workflow of learning that allowed anyone the ability to subscribe to any content and listen. No gatekeepers. At the time, one of my favorite podcasts was done by a Harvard Business School professor. The title escapes me, but I learned a lot just by listening to someone I otherwise would never have the chance to learn from.
I don't believe in learning styles in the academic sense. But I do know that some people prefer to read books, some prefer to listen to books, and others switch between both activities. So, I also believe some people will just never enjoy listening to other people talk. Are you one of those people?
Or are you an avid consumer of podcasts? If so, which are your favorites?
The one I listen too consistently is The Tim Ferriss Podcast. He interviews the most amazing people. And while I wouldn't say that I listen specifically to learn, I do listen to get inspired to learn. I enjoy listening to others share their experiences. From the perspective of being a learner, I find podcasts to be extremely useful. But if you're wearing your instructional designer hat, I can see how it would be hard to understand podcasting as part of your solution toolbox. It is definitely more suited as a communication and entertainment medium.
Ah yes, communication and entertainment. This doesn't completely eliminate podcasting from being useful in the corporate setting. I'm often asked about how to get more people to consume the content provided by the training department. The first answer is always, is it needed and good? The second answer is, "how are you marketing the training department and the library of content?"
There is also the learning concept of spaced repetition. Couldn't a podcast be used as part of your strategy to support spaced repetition? I think so. But a lot of this depends on how creative you are willing to be. But I'll save creativity for another blog post.
So let's take a second look at podcasting. Training departments need to get better at marketing themselves and their content. Check. There is course content that needs to be restated, recalled, and restated again, over time in order to solidify that knowledge in long term memory. Check.
So maybe podcasting isn't as useless as you thought? In an age where attention is scarce, we need break through the noise. Sending out reminder emails will only get you so far. A short 5min podcast produced by the training team... with some creativity... might be a strong part of your strategy. Of course, there are a lot of corporate cultural variables to consider. But don't let that stop you from considering the benefits of podcasting for your training department.