McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)
Nick Burnett, from his CSUS
website. Used with permission
He gave all the lectures this summer in a studio, where they were recorded and launched onto iTunes. And in what Burnett believes is the first such large-scale experiment at California State University, Sacramento, 224 of his students will be able to hear him only by downloading his lectures onto their iPods or MP3 players.
Graduate assistants still teach once-a-week labs that go with Burnett's class, but students listen to Burnett when and where they want – through their earbuds as they stroll across campus, on their home computers.
"I'm a working mom, and I can just fit listening into my schedule when I have free time," said Stockton resident Cindee O'Neill, an account executive for Pacific Gas and Electric Co. who is juggling a business degree, commuting, parenting and work.
"I found it is best to just put on headphones and sit at my computer. If I want to catch up, I can listen to three lectures in one sitting."
At the end of the semester, students will evaluate the podcasted class, and their comments will help determine its availability in the future, said Burnett, chairman of the communication studies department.
In May, Apple launched iTunes U within its iTunes Store, offering free course lectures from 28 colleges and universities, including Stanford and UC Berkeley.
Burnett's lectures are not available from iTunes U. His lectures are available from his website at www.csus.edu/indiv/b/burnettn.
Burnett notes that the company may sell a few iPods along the way, which is why his podcasting does not exclusively work with the Apple brand.
Bruce Bikle, chairman of the faculty senate, says students don't have to have a professor in front of them to learn. "But in the ideal world, there should be somebody interacting with you on a face-to-face basis, either a graduate assistant, instructor or a professor's expanded office hours."
Burnett still offers a traditional version of his presentational speaking in businesses and organizations class to about 280 students who meet in a large hall for the lectures and break into groups of about 28 students for the labs.
Eliminating the need for lecture space is important on a campus where space is at a premium, Burnett said. "We certainly don't have a lot of large lecture space."
Business major Rachel Celebrado juggles two part-time jobs and nine units at Sacramento State. She often listens to Burnett's lectures at 9 p.m. after getting off work.
She said she doesn't need to see Burnett to benefit from the class.
"Our graduate assistant can answer questions for me," said Celebrado. "Podcasting overall is a great system because of the convenience for somebody like me who has to work so much. And I can listen to it over and over again."
Burnett, 51, recorded his lectures over the summer in a 10-foot-by-10-foot studio.
"I didn't anticipate how bizarre it would be to give what used to be a mass lecture to myself," he said. "Frankly, I use a fair amount of humor when I lecture. It is really hard to get any energy for that when there is nobody responding."
And students are good barometers to how the lecture is proceeding, Burnett said. A quizzical look on a student's face tells him he needs to give another example to explain his point. When students roll their eyes, he knows they understand, and it is time for him to move on.
He has some reservations about podcasting.
"I worry about what podcasting might do to the future of teaching," he said. "So, great, we have people who are good speaking in 10-by-10 rooms. What happens when that professor is before a live audience and somebody raises their hand with a question or challenges what they are saying?"
(c) 2007, The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.).
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