Justin Timberlake. The Beatles. Professor Richard Regan.

Fairfield English professor Richard Regan uses media technology to make his Shakespeare classes more enjoyable and educational for his students. But could his use of podcasting, in particular, actually decrease student attendance?

Attending class could become a thing of the past as podcasting provides students with lectures at their fingertips.

The University of Florida recently began providing class lectures in the form of audio and video podcasts. Rather than going to class, students can download a podcast of their class lecture and listen to it on their own time.

Meghan Popick ’07 doesn’t think podcasting lectures are something that could work at Fairfield because it would cause students to skip class. Students pay a great deal for class interaction with classmates, she said.

“It would take away from the small classes,” Popick said.

“I think [providing lectures as podcasts] would be a good use of technology,” said Alex Lee ’09. “But some people might not go to class.”

Lee said that if he were in a course that provided lectures as podcasts, he would attend “sometimes.”

“I wouldn’t worry too much about skipping class,” said Brian Davey ’08.

Some professors feel that this option takes away from the Jesuit ideals of Fairfield.

“I don’t even teach two sections of the same course the same way,” Information Systems and Operations Management professor Winston Tellis said. “How would I burn a podcast once and have no opportunity to explain something to a student who does not understand the material?”

“We pride ourselves on ‘cura personalis’ – the care of the whole person,” Tellis added. “Getting to know the students in their own context; how will that happen if the student is not in class?”

“I like to hear what my students are thinking and I count on my students to challenge me in the classroom as well,” said communication professor David Gudelunas. “I think that in our class here are Fairfield there is a dynamic in that classroom that can’t be time-shifted through technology.”

Politics professor John Orman agrees.

“If you podcast to individuals you would miss the dynamic of class interaction and discussion,” he said. “I like the communal aspect of listening to music and media. I also like the communal aspect of the college classroom.”

Tellis does see, however, the positive attributes of utilizing podcasts in the classroom.

“I can see uses for uploading segments of videos or speeches etc, which would relieve class, but then the class could discuss the issues raised in the podcast material,” he said

“I think there are places and spaces within academic life where technologies like podcasts have a purpose,” Gudelunas said.

Regan has found some of those places and spaces. He is already using podcasts in his Shakespeare I and II classes. Regan records his class lectures on his iPod and then uploads them onto iTunes University.

“I make podcasts available to students so they can re-hear important concepts, as a supplement to class presentation,” he said. Regan provides podcasts of every class through iTunes University and takes attendance at every class.

According to Fairfield’s Web site, Fairfield was invited to join iTunes University. “The program essentially provides Fairfield with its own ‘home site’ within iTunes where Computer and Network Services can create courses for faculty members to upload content for their students,” the Web site said.

Because Regan lectures and shows videos of Shakespeare plays during most class meetings, he also uploads video onto iTunes University.

“It’s so much fun,” he said. “I don’t mind doing it.”

Regan has found that students are doing better in his Shakespeare courses and he attributes that to the supplementary material he is providing them on iTunes University. On the second test he administers during the semester, Regan said he finds that student’s grades drop. Last semester students did just as well on this second test as they did on the first test, he said.

While students might like the option of skipping class and not missing material, they also see podcasts as a positive supplement to class time.

Brenna McEntee ’08 is taking Dr. Susan Campbell’s Maternity course in the School of Nursing and class lectures are provided in podcast form.

“I find it to be really helpful,” McEntee said. Being able to download and listen to a podcast of a lecture allows McEntee to catch concepts she might have missed in her notes and prepare for tests.

But for non-major classes, McEntee thinks podcast lectures would have an opposite affect.

“If my religion or philosophy class was on a podcast, I don’t think I’d go,” she said.

“It’s good as a supplement, if they miss class or need clarification, it’s helpful,” Jenn Stedman ’07 said.

“Don’t get me wrong, I can’t walk from point A to point B without my iPod,” Gudelunas said. “But I prefer some Peter, Bjorn and John to a lecture on Peter, Bjorn and John.”

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