Start a Podcast! Canadian eLearning Day 1

Start a Podcast! Canadian eLearning Day 1

June 21, 2024 Off By JR

Last week, I spent a couple of days at the Canadian eLearning Conference in Toronto. This was my first time attending this conference, and it’s been around for about 10 years I’m glad I finally got around to it. One of the people in my workshop on day one volunteered with the group, and if I recall correctly it began as a conference for certain health sector elearning professionals and grew from there. Very cool. Anyway, here’s my attempt to put together some thoughts about the workshop I attended on day 1.

From the Top

Podcasts can be for exactly the right audience, and nobody else.Dan

The session, Start a Podcast!, hosted by none other than If You Ask Betty and Dan Hirt (of Mosby Learning Podcast) was a full day of podcast planning ending with participants making a trailer for their proposed podcast.

They asked what podcasts everyone in the room currently listened to, and even who listened to one at all, this week, today type activity. This is a medium a lot of people use every day. The breadth of the types of podcasts that came up in the initial discussion ranged from L&D (work!) podcasts to general interest, to serialized stories, to comedy. One comment made by a participant was that podcasts were for her time and so she didn’t listen to work-related shows for that reason. That’s an interesting consideration to keep in mind as you plan to make one for your work/discipline. I personally listen to work-related news, general interest, and comedy podcasts on a weekly basis.

script what needs to be scriptedBetty

In just a few minutes the facilitators demonstrated how easy it was to record using and even had some audience participation. Overall the session focused more on planning than on technology specifically, which hit the spot for me. I’m very comfortable with audio/video production and editing, but wow, I had not realized podcast-specific tools had come so far. I remember making a podcast episode in grad school over 10 years ago, and my guest and I recorded it separately (they were in the UK), and I stitched it all together in the end. The tools they showed last week blew that method away. Anyway, it was an interesting point about scripting. I find for narrations that I tend to over script but then during the reading I don’t read it word for word. Getting that conversational tone can be really difficult if you write everything out.

Content that provides contextBetty

So what types of learning transfer well to podcasts? Podcasts are particularly effective for non-visual learning, such as sharing lived experiences and storytelling. They can also be used to introduce the team, overcome barriers to video participation, and deliver short, segmented learning content. Additionally, podcasts can serve to backfill course content, provide updates on new literature, and offer immediate takeaways for listeners. One participant shared that they actually use some of their work’s podcast content as content items in different elearning courses. By incorporating multiple modes of representation and providing context through stories, podcasts can effectively support the transfer of learning.

Beyond the context-forward method of providing learning resources, you might consider creating a podcast over another modality if you need to be super mobile, and it provides flexibility for both short-form and long-form content on demand. One participant describes his workforce as mobile, working in transportation, so the workers would almost never be near a computer terminal. Podcasts seemed like a way to reach this group. One other approach I’ve heard, not in the session but elsewhere, was using QR codes and short videos for volunteers in a non-profit setting who were doing set up and tear down type tasks. The short video, available immediately on mobile at the point of need, ended up being the best approach for that audience.

It comes back to building community. we have a problem with retention, I’m capturing organizational memory, showing new employees how to behave, capturing culture, etc.Participant

The idea of community through podcasting came up a few times, and this one participant was not the only one in the session who brought up capturing expertise and organizational knowledge. (I overheard this at the conference quite a bit, actually. It seems like organizations are actually having trouble with retention these days.)

Finally, podcasts should be considered part of a buffet of options. They probably won’t be your go-to for compliance training, which is okay. They don’t have to be the hammer you reach for every time you want to deliver a learning resource to your audience (side-eye slides-based click-clicky bling-bling elearning).

Is this really a medium to pursue?

I’d not heard of media research from Edison (stats on digital media consumption), but I’ll be adding it to my list of resources to draw on. Some of the stats presented at the session around podcast:

Those 12+ Years Old Podcast Use

USA 2022 USA 2024 Canada 2022
Familiar with Podcasts 79% 84% 77%
Have Listened 62% 67% 58%
Listened Last Month 38% 47% 43%
Weekly Listeners 26% 34% 26%

I don’t have them handy right now, but the Better Offline Podcast cited stats about a pretty significant decrease in activity on various search engines and social media platforms since 2019. Contrasting that with this upward trend for podcasts, while an incomplete story, is an interesting trend to pay attention to. I think it does speak to the viability of using podcasts as part of the L&D toolkit.

Planning Your Podcast

The facilitators took us through the concept/crowd/content of what we hoped to achieve, and some really awesome ideas came up that I never would have thought of. One person spoke about how the podcast could be used to distribute culture across the organization. Hearing stories and approaches from those who are working toward the organization’s vision and mission at all levels sounded like a really interesting approach. It reminded me a bit of the non-course approaches Roger Schank talks about in Teaching Minds. The one example that always stood out to me in that book was that he hired an author to write a novel to target the learning needs of the organization and started a book club. That beats the heck out of a click-through snooze-fest.

I’m currently working on an onboarding component in my work, and the idea of using a podcast as part of the onboarding as a getting to know the organization element is stuck in my brain now. The one addition that came up to this idea was that this could be particularly useful for newcomers to Canada, too, if it branches out slightly from just the organization.

One other example that came up (I’ll try not to give out too many specifics) was bringing two guests from different work areas or perspectives to chat. Oftentimes in organizations, we run into the “well, why is it this way/why can’t it work like this” conversations. This pretty much happens anytime a human interacts with a process or technology. I thought it was a neat idea to have that conversation facilitated not only for the show but the kind of progress that could be made from having dialogue rather than just two sides staying opposed to each other.

People want to ‘see’ youBetty

This is one I struggle with quite a bit anytime I do a workshop, presentation, interview, or whatever. I think it is one that could be a barrier for quite a few people wanting to use podcasts as an approach. In some cases, it makes a lot of sense depending on the audience. I remember my one colleague years ago working with a group of lawyers for a course and she wanted to have mini-lectures in it. They were so resistant at first because they wanted to, and likely needed, to get things just right. So that is a consideration for the production of your show as well. Sometimes this could be alleviated by choosing different distribution channels. One tool that came up allows you to lock access to your podcast behind SSO, but the audience can still use their podcast apps, I believe. It was interesting but for a cost, service.

The session ended with everyone scripting a trailer for the idea they worked through during the session, recording it, and then sharing it with the group. Everyone did awesome. For me, something went wrong with my mic, so I ended up having to do a live reading. Recording alone definitely felt better, but I’m glad the facilitators pushed me to do the live reading.

I have plenty to work on now to see how I can put this new learning to work.