Politics as Pedagogy: 2016 election podcast as a model for a virtual teaching and learning commons

Concurrent Session 1

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

At Sacred Heart University, an audio podcast focused on the 2016 election has begun to have a global impact – with 1000+ plays and listeners from 26 countries. Using this as a case study, this session will focus on the conceptual framework for building a virtual teaching and learning commons.

Extended Abstract

At Sacred Heart University (SHU), we have been developing a virtual teaching and learning commons called SHU Square. The academic goals are to promote free exchanges between faculty and students, strengthen student learning outside the classroom, and expand the audience we reach when showcasing academic excellence.

In spring 2016, the Office of Digital Learning partnered with Dr. Gary Rose (chair of the Government, Politics, and Global Studies Department at SHU) to develop audio podcasts about the US 2016 Presidential Election. This was a pilot project for a virtual teaching and learning commons. The relevance and timeliness of the 2016 election 2016 proved to be an advantage.

In these podcasts, Bridget Hughes, an undergraduate student, interviews Dr. Rose, a well-known political science scholar, on a weekly basis. Between the beginning of February 2016 and the end of April 2016, these podcasts received more than 1,000 plays. One unanticipated result was the global impact, with listeners from twenty-six, countries including the United States. Within less than three months of starting the weekly podcasts, this project achieved all the stated goals of the virtual teaching and learning commons: intellectual exchange between faculty and students, an alternate avenue to continue learning outside the scope of the course, and a global impact that expanded the boundaries of a structured classroom.

This session will take up the Election 2016 audio podcasts as a case study to examine the following elements of a virtual teaching and learning commons:

  1. The conceptual framework and the process behind the development of the virtual teaching and learning commons. In presenting the Election 2016 podcasts as a micro-level project, we will provide a detailed description of how this shaped the development of the macro-level SHU Square virtual commons website. SHU square has captured several examples of work from faculty and students under the categories of Teaching Experiments, Continued Conversations, and Interdisciplinary Learning. A demonstration of these elements will highlight how the abstract vision for a teaching and learning commons was converted to concrete applications.
  2. Pedagogical applications and challenges for building learning communities across different disciplines. As instrumental as these podcasts have been in building a community of inquiry, it has not been without challenges. Having achieved participation from international listeners outside the institution, we now require strategies to harness this Open Education Resource, a fruitful area to explore in pedagogical design. Challenges will be discussed and possible solutions offered for a liberal arts context. Quantitative results from the podcasts will be shared to prove that if the quality of the podcasts is high, people will listen to 45-minute podcasts.
  3. Strategies for effectiveness. An analysis of the design and implementation of this virtual teaching and learning commons will show how SHU Square adds value to the intellectual archiving of a thematic liberal arts curriculum. Three students from the College of Arts and Sciences made important contributions to building SHU Square. We will examine how including students as collaborators enhances the planning and implementation process. Description of the technological infrastructure and support mechanisms from the Media Studies department will emphasize the matrix of collaborative partnerships necessary to bring an academic vision to fruition.

Activity for Interactivity and Engagement: For the second half of the session, we will engage with the audience to show “how to build audio podcasts” and discuss digital tool options, the hosting environment, and a variety of pedagogical approaches for anchoring it to different academic contexts.

Session Outcomes: Important take-aways for the attendees will be strategies that contribute to effective practices – namely, innovative pedagogical design, the potential for addressing accessibility issues, and most importantly, replicability of a virtual teaching and learning commons in other institutions.