Podcasting by Design

By Nathan Loewen, Department of Religious Studies

Podcasts are cool. Podcasts are the new Twitter. By that, I mean podcasts may be one of the “next things” in higher education. They are a great way to invite people into discovery through conversation. Both the Twitter-sphere and the world of podcasts are resplendent with people wanting to share their critiques and ideas, and both are great mediums for creating and extending academic conversations in ways that disseminate to a variety of publics.

Do you want to start a podcast?

Podcasting and teaching are not unlike each other. “Podcasting by Design” is a riff on Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe’s pedagogy, where course planning begins with setting objectives and outcomes. Questions about technology and platforms are not the first step. So do not begin by wondering what kind of microphone you should buy!

So, how do you get started?

Spend no money

Do not start looking at or buying microphones or any other technology.

Find podcasts you like

Start listening to podcasts or create a list of your favorite podcasts. Analyze those podcasts according to their audience, frequency, and goals.

Seek out mentors

Talk to people who are already podcasting. There are conversations about podcasting in several corners of the UA campus, including the College of Arts and Sciences, the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, the College of Continuing Studies, University Libraries, and the Faculty Resource Center. These conversations offer great opportunities for faculty and staff to start learning how to podcast.

Several A&S faculty are already creating podcasts, such as Dr. Michael Altman in religious studies and Drs. Jim Bindon, Eric Peterson and Jo Weaver in anthropology. Dr. Altman is the only faculty member at UA who teaches graduate students how to podcast. He has a published article that reviews the state of podcasting in his discipline, too. Please contact me, and I will put you in touch with people at UA.

Create your learning objectives

Take time to reflect upon and articulate why you wish to do start creating a podcast:

  • What will be your general topic? Why?
  • Who will be interested in this topic? Who are your audiences?
  • How many specific issues or questions do you think need to be discussed?
  • Is this your podcast, or are there guests? Why? Who is on the guest list? Why those people and not other people?

old Nokia cellphone with a corded microphone

Set some goals

Determine the milestones you want to meet for your production timeline:

  • By what date do you want people listening to your podcasts?
  • How many podcasts do you want ready prior to your launch?
  • How do these goals coordinate with your learning objectives?

Many of these questions are not unlike designing a course syllabus where you determine what students need to learn prior to designing your assignments. What you want people to learn and how you want them to learn it comes prior to thinking about what sorts of technology you plan to use in service of those goals.

Only after a sustained consideration of these steps should you start working on the practical issues like audio quality or background music. Your mentors should be able to help with these kinds of questions. If not, then please contact me!


Nathan Loewen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies and Faculty Technology Liaison for the College of Arts & Sciences