Building a Community of Practice through Podcasting
Podcasting is a simple and powerful way to build a community of practice at your learning institution. Through interviews with faculty, staff and students, you can put a human face on the various members of the school committed to teaching and learning and share ideas, strengthen commitments and reinforce values.
The Problem of Alienation in Online Learning During COVID-19
In 1968, Andy Warhol stated “in the future, everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes.” While this prediction did not come to pass, it seems as if everyone has a podcast. Podcasting has proliferated due to the low technological barriers to creation and streaming, granting the ability to become broadcasters. While many have achieved fame through podcasting, this mode of broadcasting has interesting implications for creating local communities of practice in teaching and learning institutions. By shifting the focus of discussions to local issues, podcasters can share experiences from a broad array of constituencies supporting the learning community, helping to build empathy and broaden perspectives.
At the beginning of social-distancing, we decided to create a podcast to share our own personal responses as both instructors and faculty support personnel. The initial conversations were about the various losses we, our students, our colleagues and our University were experiencing. Soon, we decided to invite others to join our conversation, beginning with faculty and then branching out to talk with students, technologists, deans, and people from facilities who were working to adapt the physical plant to meet COVID protocols. These conversations helped to inform the University community of the work being undertaken to continue our mission of teaching and learning. Perhaps more importantly, these conversations built empathy and understanding, helping members of the University community experience the pandemic as a part of a community rather than as an individual.
The idea of community-building became central to our work on the podcast as we began to focus on the teaching and learning environment in new ways, thinking about both the affordances and limitations of online learning.
We soon realized that we were attempting to build a community of practice (CoP), a group of people who "share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.” The Community of Practice model, first introduced by Lave and Wenger, the CoP Model has been useful in describing both the processes and benefits of committed people working together to collaborate around common values and goals. Podcasting builds on the CoP Model, creating a Virtual Community of Practice, expanding participation and impact.
We decided to call our podcast Twice Over and it can be found at https://twiceoverpodcast.com/. Over the past year, we have recorded and shared twenty-eight episodes. We have interviewed faculty, students, librarians, technologists and administrators.
· Getting Started – identify your mission and values. Why do you want to create a podcast and what is the need you hope to address? Are you the best person to undertake this project at your institution?
· Find a partner with goals but a different perspective – If you are a faculty member, you may want to partner with a support person or administrator. The key to an interesting podcast is the coming together of different perspectives. It is important to remember that we are recommending consensus rather than argument. The CoP Model aims to build supportive communities, so podcasts that focus on controversy and debate do not fit this model.
· Identify your goals – what do you hope to accomplish? Clear goals will help in identifying topics and guests. A helpful step might be to conduct informal conversations with colleagues about potential topics of interest.
· Make a schedule – set an episode schedule. It’s best not to be too ambitious. When thinking about how often episodes will be released, be mindful of the work involved in identifying guests, scheduling interviews, recording and editing. The edited interview then needs to be shared with the subject for their feedback and approval. This can be a time-consuming process. It’s best not to make a schedule that is overly ambitious so that you don’t experience failure at the outset.
· Create an episode structure – the best place to begin is to decide how long an episode should be. Shorter episodes are easier to manage and consume. But, be mindful that editing a sixty minute interview down to twenty minutes can be difficult. Once you have an idea of the episode length, create an intro and an outro and then a series of standard questions. This will give your podcast a “flow," so that you, your guests and your eventual audience understand how the podcast works.
· Get institutional support – verify that the university administration is supportive of your efforts. There may be policies that inhibit your ability to have public conversations of this sort or topics that you may want to avoid. It’s best to know beforehand. Remember, in this model, the goal is to build community, not to conduct investigative journalism or air grievances.
· Name your podcast – Naming your podcast is an important step in making the project real. We used a quote (“to teach is to learn twice over”) to name our podcast. This proved to be an effective strategy.
· Promote your podcast – As mentioned before, our podcast is promoted through a university listerv but we also have a blog, a Soundcloud and a Twitter account. We also stream on Spotify.
The ubiquity of conferencing solutions makes recording interviews easy. Many solutions, like Zoom, record separate and downloadable audio files. Many free and simple to use audio recording and editing software solutions are also available. We use Audacity, which has the benefit of being able to import video recordings and convert them to editable audio files and then export these files as Mp3. Audacity also allows for multiple track recording and mixing so that you can record and then insert intro’s and outro’s for each podcast episode.
Recording and editing are only the beginning. You will then need to find hosting and streaming solutions. We created a wordpress blog to host a podcast episodes embeds (from soundcloud) as well as supporting show notes which include relevant links and episode numbers and descriptions. We also promote the podcast through a teaching listserv available to the University community.
Interactivity in this Session
This asynchronous session will make use of discussion capacities provided by PlayPosit. We will participate in asynchronous conversations to clarify the concepts discussed in the presentation and offer whatever guidance we can from our experience a podcasters.
We will review the technical procedures for creating a podcast using free and simple to use recording editing and streaming tools. We will share anecdotes and effective practices based upon our past year of podcasting during the pandemic. Attendees will complete the workshop and asynchronous discussion with technology tips and guidelines for how to structure and engaging podcast suitable for their specific context.