4 Ways to Maximize the Learning Potential of Podcasts

"I was listening to a podcast the other day and I learned that…”

Chances are, you probably heard someone say this (or a variation thereof) in a conversation recently. You might have even been the one to say it!

Podcasts have been exploding in popularity over the last decade, with no sign of slowing down. Initially synonymous with the ‘chum-cast’ or ‘chat show’ format, the medium has expanded into a variety of genres and these days many podcasts take an informative or outright educational approach. So what makes it so good as a medium for learning?

Podcasts are a fantastically unique and fresh method of delivery. Podcasts allow your team to listen in and learn anywhere, anytime, whether it’s while exercising, travelling in a car or on the train, or working in the field.

Yet the benefits extend well beyond breaking out of the office. Here are four reasons that podcast are a great medium for teaching and learning:

  1. Podcasts are ideal for telling stories
  2. Podcasts can share diverse voices
  3. Podcasts are naturally intimate
  4. Podcasts capture the power of personality.

Podcasts are ideal for storytelling

Storytelling as a methodology for learning has been around since the dawn of man, and is one of the most reliable tools in a learning designer’s toolbelt. Stories are inherently engaging and memorable, and can be used as a vehicle to convey bigger ideas and concepts.

An early example of this was the first season of Serial (2014), one of the most successful podcasts of all time. Hosted by Sarah Koenig, it explored the events and individuals involved in the death of American teenager Hae Min Lee. More than just recounting the story, the series brought up ideas of justice, memory, trust, relationships and witnesses from its very first episode that stay with the listeners long after the season is over.

Podcasts can share diverse voices

Digital learning that relies heavily on text to convey information also inherently suffers from a lack of diversity of voices. This can quickly lead to narrow perspectives and the exclusion of experiences. The podcast medium is ripe for incorporating a multitude of voices through interviews, discussions and even a simply a range of snippets.

In HowToo’s own company induction course, we include short audio interviews with our people welcoming new members to the team and offering advice for getting started. Not only does this add a more human element to the course, but it gives the team a chance to share their different experiences and surface perspectives that might otherwise remain hidden.

Podcasts are great for learning and training programs.

Podcasts are naturally intimate

Audio is a naturally intimate medium. Podcasts are most often consumed through headphones in transitory spaces, making the listener a fly on the wall for a conversation, the voices a whisper in your ear that only you can hear.

This intimacy can create an important connection with the listener that may be hard to achieve with text alone. This connection can build trust that eases the adoption of new ideas, and make challenging or complex topics more accessible by demonstrating that ‘regular’ people can talk about them.

Podcasts capture the power of personality

As humans, we are able to glean a huge amount of information from vocal inflections. This can bring far more clarity to text that might otherwise be confusing. It can also convey enormous degrees of personality and bring a memorable vividness to stories and information that can easily be lacking in text alone. A listen may well remember a story as much for how it was told by the speaker, as for what it was about.

Another highly successful podcast from the medium’s early days was The History of Rome (2007-2012), by Mike Duncan. Duncan’s curiosity, interest and enthusiasm for his chosen topic was easily discernible and infectious for the listening audience. The effect was clear, as he developed a loyal audience willing to follow the series for five years and almost two hundred episodes well before podcasting was as ubiquitous as it is today. As well as winning awards for best educational podcast, it remains in top charts today.

Podcasting today

The steadily rising popularity of podcasting has led to a corresponding rise in the accessibility of recording technology. It’s never been easier to capture voices and add them as a key component of your learning course or program. With so many benefits, why not consider adding audio or podcast elements to your next project? If you're looking for more inspiration, why not check out four podcasts that have inspired HowToo?

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Jan 14, 2021

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