Podcasts as Course Material


The past two years I have taught the course Law & Inequality at University of California, Irvine. Because this is not a course subject that requires teaching a series of canonical text like theories of crime, for example), I have had more freedom in what reading materials I would assign. For several reasons, I decided to assign podcast episodes as “reading” during a handful of the weeks. I discovered that my students absolutely loved it. Here are some of the reasons podcast episodes have been such an effective teaching tool, and an important resource for creating inclusive classrooms

  • By hearing the voices and testimonies of people impacted by the social problems we are discussing, students are able to gain relational and affective knowledge about the course subject. In other words, they are able to feel why the problem matters.

  • Students who commute to campus are able to use what might otherwise be dead time to complete their coursework.

  • The course subject is able to come alive through human voice. This is especially important for students who are auditory learners or struggle with maintaining attention while reading a traditional text.

  • Podcasts are free, making the course more financially accessible for low-income students.

  • It is incredibly easy to find podcasts episodes or segments made by people historically under-represented in academic texts. This means that my students are able to learn from a diversity of knowledge producers.

Though I think it is important to continue using traditional academic texts in the classroom, podcasts are one way to bring the course subject to life and help students understand course concepts and ideas in new ways.

Amanda Petersen