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Sept. 1, 2011
The use of podcasting in dental hygiene educati
The use of podcasting in dental hygiene education

by Julie P. McCullar, RDH, BAS

This literature review gathered information addressing the application of course-relevant video podcasts to the
performance of freshman dental hygiene students. The objective was to review the current knowledge and analyze a broad range of podcasting characteristics, including production, advantages, disadvantages, usage, student reaction, and educational results in higher education. The use of audio and video podcasts is considered as a supplemental or replacement learning tool for both online and traditional classroom settings.

The research describes the usage, student’s perception, and effectiveness of podcasts in the classroom setting; however, little is reported utilizing video podcasting in a clinical setting within health-care education. Further studies to examine and present the outcomes of current research using video podcasts to demonstrate fundamental procedures in health-care education are inevitable.

Modern higher education aims to provide effective instruction to the full spectrum of student learning styles, lifestyles, and daily schedules. There is an increasing demand for cost-effective, convenient, and flexible platforms for delivering instruction to students in higher education. Computer technology provides instructors and professors such a tool to achieve these aims and has quickly become an integral part of the teaching/learning process in higher education.

Despite increases in the availability of technology, manufacturing and implementation of video podcasts containing foundational practical procedures for dental hygiene students are limited. Computer-related technology is an evolving tool that can be useful to increase the understanding and enhance the memory of students who have hands-on clinical courses in their curriculum.

The objective of this literature review is to gather current information addressing the applications of course-relevant video podcasts to the performance of freshman dental hygiene students. The literature review assists in the determination of how podcast technology has been used and provides evidence for and against using this technology to improve student competency outcomes.

Many review articles agree on the majority of research concerning audio and video podcasts; therefore, the literature presented is a general consensus of the concepts and delivery of data. A minimal amount of video podcast usage to demonstrate fundamental clinical procedures relating to dental hygiene education has been researched.

Podcast usage

Although the primary use of podcasts has been for personal information and entertainment, there is an increased interest in podcasting technologies for their potential use as instructional tools. Podcasting is one of the fastest growing technologies worldwide with video podcasting (vodcasting) use increasing in education. Vodcasting is one of the latest innovations which exchanges the audio of traditional podcasts for video and is played on a laptop or on a PDA.1

In general, the literature definition of podcasting refers to any automatically downloadable audio or audio/video file.2 For the purpose of this article, a simpler defi nition of podcasting will be any digital audio and/or video file developed to provide instructional content and delivered through a computer network.3

Universities and colleges across the country are implementing podcasting technology repeatedly to improve students’ learning experience in both classroom and distance learning. Apple’s iTunes U is a popular platform for over 50 universities and colleges to distribute both video and audio educational podcasts.2 Podcasting has become more common to a broad range of disciplines including business, engineering, geography, law, nursing, and psychology.4 Podcasts are being used by health-care providers to provide patient education.5

Repetitive lectures and/or supplementing classroom lectures are the two forms of podcasting being used in education. 6 Instructors are creating a wide variety of objectives and uses for these two forms of podcasting which include: “enrichment of distance learning, facilitation of self-paced learning, remediation for slower learners, enrichment for advanced and/or highly motivated learners, assistance for students with reading and/or other disabilities, auditory support for multilingual education, and collaboration among transnational students.”2

It is possible that the use of podcasts on campus may help students with specifi c learning needs, such as dyslexia or dyspraxia, and help note-taking for students with English as their second language.7 The extension of classroom teaching onto the Internet, augmented with podcasts, is known as “blended” instruction.4

The impact and potential of using podcast technologies for online and blended courses was examined by having instructors create a “how-to” podcast presentation of a recreatable activity and having the students view it.3 Viewing demonstration podcasts in a computer lab enabled students to reach the “ah-ha” moment from online courses, similar to what a student would experience in a face-to-face demonstration. While watching video podcasts, students are able to view a demonstration multiple times, allowing the instant review of the material and increasing the sense of social presence. Podcasting technology, through voice and image, provides a more intimate, human experience for distant learners.3

Authors were surprised to fi nd that many students were unfamiliar or lacked technical experience necessary for podcasting. 2 Students increased their knowledge of podcasting when instructors made them available. Students were willing and ready to change from traditional learning after attending a podcast orientation and experiencing just one podcast presentation. Educators realized that not all students are knowledgeable about or skilled in podcasting technology, regardless of the podcasting type and technology used.2

The Millennial Generation learners have grown up using many forms of communications, media, and digital technologies, so they expect their educators to teach using these technologies.5 Podcasting can provide asynchronous learning opportunities and a unique method for reviewing material taught prior to examinations. Podcasting can also positively impact the learning abilities for the auditory learner or the student with language or cognitive special needs.5

Advantages and disadvantages of podcasting

The literature points out several advantages and disadvantages of podcasting technology. These advantages of educational podcasting include portability, popularity, flexibility, convenience, and user friendliness.2,5,6,7,8 Important qualities of podcasting in nursing education have been identified as “unlimited access to the material, ability to demonstrate skills and equipment, assuring consistency of information relayed, cost effectiveness, improved learning, valuable for lectures and feedback for projects.”6

Listening anywhere, anytime, with easy Internet access, and repetitive capability are additional advantages of using a video podcast presentation.2 The production of podcasts can be relatively easy, inexpensive, and are digital — unlike the expensive and restrictive distribution costs of traditional video or DVDs. Podcasting encourages unlimited access to the material, provides opportunities to demonstrate skills, assures consistency of information relayed, is cost effective, promotes discussion, and supports individual preferences and needs.6

Several studies describe the effects of podcasting, which include helping to reduce student anxieties, increasing students’ satisfaction ratings, contributing to informality and engagement, and making material more accessible to a greater diversity of learners. Podcasts can be combined with wikis and blogs to engage the learning experiences of students, clinicians, and patients in the health industry.8 Multitasking can be an advantage for audio podcasting; however, very few students indicated that they used podcasts while engaged in other tasks.7

The disadvantages of audio and/or video content podcasting include technology infrastructure integration challenges, a lack of academically available content, and diffi culties with licensing agreements from commercial resources.9 Although the potential is there, podcasting for student instruction faces obstacles relating to technical support, bandwidth, storage, and accessibility of video podcasting.10

A podcast is essentially a passive learning experience focused on an audio or audio/video facility alone. But it can become an active learning experience by developing more interactive podcasts through the use of pauses for reflection.9

Technical limitations, lack of training resources, and lack of awareness and knowledge among faculty and students of podcasting functionality are potential stumbling blocks. The production of a video podcast requires an investment of a video camera, a microphone, compatible file formats, and appropriate file size.7

A disadvantage noted with podcasting is that some students are not familiar with the technology and may become frustrated with the time needed to learn the technology or download the podcasted materials.5 Disadvantages of using the technology for faculty may be an increased workload for material preparation and the possibility of a decrease in face-to-face attendance due to accessibility of podcast lectures. 5 This possibility of students skipping classes so far seems unjustified.4 Podcasting characteristics were evaluated to determine how podcasting could improve students’ personal study process between traditional and distance courses.1 Positive features of podcasting include: an increased feeling of permanent contact between students and teachers, increased student motivation, and allowing instructors to respect students’ diverse talents and ways of learning. In addition, students said that they listened again to the podcasts many times in order to remember the most important concepts of the course.1

Podcasting appeared to have significant potential for enhancing the revision process and helping to meet the needs of modern learners.8 Nursing is a unique discipline, as is dental hygiene, requiring complex critical thinking skills and decision-making that can ultimately impact clinical competency. Podcasts allowed instructors, who prerecorded lectures, to implement active learning activities and innovative teaching strategies in the traditional classroom. A sample of nursing students was given iPods so that they could repeatedly view and practice previously recorded demonstrative skills. It is suggested by using iPod recordings of small groups of student suggested by using iPod recordings of small groups of students in simulation scenarios for them to review contributes to team building skills. A video podcast made during a student proficiency check off can be used for student evaluation, remediation, and group discussion.6

Students were satisfied overall with how valuable they found podcasting for lectures and feedback projects. It was the opinion of most instructors and students that the ideal use of podcasting was as a supplement to traditional learning rather than a sole substitute for content delivery. Podcasts did not require the students or instructor to be technologically advanced.

Podcasts longer than 15 minutes often failed to keep student attention. Increased faculty workload, institutional support, the sense of faddism of the technology, and the lack of competency of fluency with technology are issues to be considered. 6 What is the impact podcasting had on exam scores and student satisfaction for nursing students when compared to traditional classroom teaching? The student nurses exhibited no significant difference in correct responses on exam questions when the same format of information was presented by a traditional lecture or podcasting.5

The literature frequently has highlighted the usefulness of podcasting in higher education and suggests that video podcast technology is going to continue to increase. The literature with respect to the use of video podcasting as supplemental information, specifi cally demonstrating fundamental clinical skills, is limited. There is a gap in the literature differentiating between audio and video podcasting of specific information and skill demonstrations for dental hygiene students.

The literature review suggests that there may be a positive correlation between podcast use and the demonstration of clinical competencies; however, further research is necessary to determine better ways to use this technology to enhance teaching and learning productivity as well as to improve understanding and creating positive outcomes. There is a need to concentrate on the development of podcast technology and bringing the classroom into the clinic, specifically for the discipline of dental hygiene.

How students react to podcasts

Students believe using podcasts to revise their notes is more effective and effi cient than using their textbooks and their own notes in helping them to learn.8 It is suggested that, when learners are given more control of their learning process, podcasts can encourage the development of an active relationship with the material, rather than a passive relationship when using textbooks and lectures.

Podcasts should be specifically designed to help learners assimilate the material and construct their own understanding.8 Undergraduate nursing students found podcasts to be effi cient, effective, engaging, and easily received learning tools for revision. Students are able to use podcasts to prepare for exams, clarify concepts, and catch up on missed classes.5

The literature expressed an overall student satisfaction and enthusiasm for podcasting lecture and supplemental materials.5 Student satisfaction surveys demonstrated an overall satisfaction and a positive experience with podcasting by a class of 47 students; however, over half still preferred traditional lecture classes.5 Less than half of the students reported that podcasts were useful when doing homework or studying for quizzes.

Podcasting requires students to plan ahead and set aside time outside of scheduled class to access materials. Students who are not disciplined with time management may have difficulty finding time to access the podcasts.5

Students perform better after podcasts?

Advocates of podcasting suggest that this technology can improve student learning outcomes. Students who watch a lecture podcast signifi cantly outperformed a group of students who only attended the lecture in person.2

The cognitive theory of multimedia learning suggests that learners have a limited amount of stimuli they can process at any given time; podcasting could provide a solution to this limitation. Podcasting allows the learner to repeatedly access content and directly control the speed and pace of the verbal and visual stimuli. This allows the students to adequately process content before subsequent information is presented and lost, decreasing cognitive overload.2

Empirical studies indicate that students learn better “when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively” and “from animation and narration than from animation and on screen test.”2

Podcasts can simultaneously present audio stimuli with visual content. Therefore, based on this theory and supporting evidence, podcasting should improve student learning over textbooks, notes taken from class lectures, or even PowerPoint slides.2

Julie P. McCullar RDH, BAS, is a part-time dental hygiene instructor in the department of dental hygiene at Georgia Perimeter College in Dunwoody, Ga. She is currently pursuing a master of science degree in dental hygiene at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. She can be contacted at [email protected].


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  9. Jham BC, Duraes GV, Strassler HE, Sensi LG. Joining the podcast revolution. Journal of Dental Education. 2008; 72(3), 278-281.
  10. Brown A, Green T. Video podcasting in perspective: The history, technology, aesthetics, and instructional uses of the new medium. Journal of Educational Technology Systems. 2007; 36(1), 3-17.

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