As part of her second-year History module ‘America in Black and White’, Dr Lydia Plath encourages students to think about how to engage with the public on issues around race and racism by asking them to design a podcast series and produce a pilot episode. Students worked in groups of 4 to choose a topic for their podcast series related to the module, design a website for the series, produce a 10-minute sample episode and write a short essay explaining how and why they decided on the content of their podcast and how they hoped to engage the public. Students were encouraged to choose broad, wide-ranging topics for their series and focus on a smaller sub-topic for their pilot episode.
The aim of the group podcast project is to encourage students to think about how to communicate complex, historical and contemporary issues around race and racism to a non-academic audience. The podcast project also contributes towards widening participating by allowing students to speak in their own authentic voice, benefitting students from a range of backgrounds or those who may have previously struggled with traditional academic writing.
Dr Lydia Plath, History
- Dr Plath randomly assigned students to groups of 4.
- Students chose their topics, which Dr Plath then signed off.
- Students were provided with detailed instructions around form and content. They were encouraged to think about budget, and identify their audience and key themes. As students had previously completed a podcast for a first-year History core module, they were not provided with technical support other than some written guidance and advice on software.
- Students listened to an existing history podcast and reviewed it according to the marking criteria for their podcasts. They then posted these reviews on the Moodle forum for others to read and comment. This helped to answer many of the questions they had about their own podcasts.
- Dr Plath held a group meeting for students mid-way through the module to discuss the podcast project and go over the students’ plans for their podcast series.
- In addition to the pilot episode and short essay, students designed a webpage for their podcast series, which included 5 episodes on a common theme, and submitted this either as a pdf or PowerPoint. Using PowerPoint or pdfs ensured there were no barriers for students without the necessary software or digital proficiency.
Students tend to like the freedom and flexibility, and doing something that seems like it might actually be useful to their real lives in a way that essays don’t always.
The thing that [students] don’t do very well as a rule…is think about themselves. Quite often they don’t introduce themselves and who they are and why anyone should listen to them about the topics they’re talking about. I think probably because they don’t feel that they actually are experts even though they are studying this and they have some expertise…they feel like this is an assignment and they should have some distance from it.