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The effect of podcast lectures on nursing students' knowledge retention and application.


Aim. This pilot study sought to evaluate the effectiveness of academic podcasts in promoting knowledge retention and application in nursing students.

Background. Nursing education no longer simply occurs in a fixed location or time. Computer-enhanced mobile learning technologies, such as academic podcasts, must be grounded in pedagogically sound characteristics to ensure effective implementation and learning in nursing education.

Method. A convenience sample of 35 female undergraduate nursing students was randomized into three groups: a traditional face-to-face lecture group, an unsegmented (non-stop) podcast lecture group, and a segmented podcast lecture group. Retention and application of information were measured through a multiple-choice quiz and a case study based on lecture content.

Results. Students in the segmented podcast lecture group demonstrated higher scores on multiple-choice and case-study assessments than those in the other two groups.

Conclusion. Nurse educators should be aware of this finding when seeking to employ podcast lectures in nursing education.

Key Words Academic Podcasts--Knowledge Retention and Application--Podcasting


MOBILE LEARNING, OR M-LEARNING, IS THE MOST RECENT GENERATION OF COMPUTER-ENHANCED EDUCATION, and it is regarded in many nursing programs as effective, flexible, and innovative. An investigation into the use of technology in medical and nursing school curricula by Lemley and Burnham (2009) indicated that 58 percent of nursing schools planned to implement Web 2.0 technology in their curriculum within the next year--an increase from 53 percent--and that podcasts were the most common technological tool used in nursing curricula.

Podcasts were not a part of the education of most college faculty, but most current college students have grown up with them. Copley (2007) defined a podcast as "a media file that is distributed over the Internet for playback on personal computers and portable media players" (p. 387). Individuals can subscribe to these files and automatically download them onto a desktop computer, laptop computer, or MP3 player. The Pew Internet and American Life Project (2012) reported that 21 percent of adults reported downloading podcasts in 2010.

Despite strong support for the integration of technology into nursing education, the pedagogical basis for incorporating podcasts into nursing education is limited. Educators cannot simply assume that the instructional design of a traditional classroom lecture will convert to a podcast format; further examination is necessary.

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of common designs of academic podcasts in the promotion of knowledge retention and application among nursing students. By examining the use of traditional lecture, a segmented podcast lecture, or an unsegmented (non-stop) podcast lecture, this study's primary question was, "Does the instructional design of podcasts affect nursing students' retention and application of material?" A secondary question was, "Do significant differences exist among nursing students exposed to the same lecture content received via three different instructional designs in terms of retention of nursing knowledge?"

Review of the Literature A literature review was conducted on the use of podcasts in education. Databases searched included the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC), EBSCO, PsycARTICLES, e-journals, and dissertation abstracts.

A survey by Huntsberger and Stavitsky (2007) showed that podcasts engaged journalism undergraduates' interest and enhanced teaching and learning. McKinney and Page (2009) evaluated nursing students' views on the integration of podcasting and video streaming with more traditional teaching methods in a pathophysiology course. Most students claimed that these newer technologies promoted the learning of pathophysiology by providing opportunities for review and revision. Schlairet (2010) showed that podcasts were helpful for learning and exam preparation by nursing students.

Some studies indicated that the characteristics of flexibility and mobility, associated with podcasts and m-learning, were not necessarily the central attributes to their use in education. A 2008 study by Forbes and Hickey showed that nursing students listened to podcasts at home on a computer, not by mobile means, a finding supported by McKinney and Page (2009). Respondents noted that while they valued the convenience of access, most did not listen on an MP3 player. Mostyn, Jenkinson, McCormick, Meade, and Lymn (2013) found nursing students viewed podcasts as a valuable learning tool because of their availability and accessibility.

Respondents to a study by Ormond (2008) stated they preferred podcasts to be shorter than 10 minutes, a finding supported by McKinney and Page (2009), who identified a long download time as detrimental to instructional use. Huntsberger and Stavitsky (2007) noted that a shorter podcast demands less file storage space and increases download speeds.

Current higher education uses of podcasts span many possibilities: to replace a traditional classroom lecture, to augment a traditional lecture before a face-to-face session, and to provide information for absent students and those wishing to revise and review their notes. Numerous researchers have demonstrated the value of podcasts for review and exam preparation. Forbes and Hickey (2008), in their investigation of podcasts in nursing education, found them to be an important resource to review subject matter, reinforce material, clarify content, and facilitate note-taking. Similarly, a study by Pilarski, Alan Johnstone, Pettepher, and Osheroff (2008) found that preclinical science students viewed podcast use positively for studying and learning, saying their availability reduced stress and anxiety.

Such findings are not irrefutable. For example, participants in a study by Bongey, Cizadlo, and Kalnbach (2006) overwhelmingly preferred traditional lectures to podcasts. They valued the podcast as a resource but not as a substitute for an actual class session. Maag (2006) noted that the integration of technology-enhanced learning methodologies in nursing education prepared nurses to meet the safety goals of the Joint Commission and the Institute of Medicine.

Method Approval for this study was received from the institutional review board at the college.

SAMPLE This pilot study used a convenience sample of 35 female undergraduate nursing students attending a private four-year women's college in a major city. Institutional review board approval was obtained, and written consents were completed by willing participants.

Nearly nine percent of the participants were 19 years old; 60 percent were between 20 and 25 years old; 20 percent were between 26 to 30 years old; nearly 9 percent were between 31 to 35 years old; and 2 percent were 41 years old or older. All were enrolled in an accredited bachelor of science in nursing program. Most were full-time students (n = 28; 80 percent), and the rest were part-time students (n = 7; 14.3 percent).

Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: traditional lecture (n = 12), unsegmented podcast lecture (n = 11), or segmented podcast lecture (n = 12). Questionnaires were given to the two podcast groups (n = 23). An examination of prior podcast listening habits found that 66.7 percent (n = 14) of all podcast group participants had never before listened to academic podcasts; 28.6 percent (n = 6) had listened one to two times, and 4.8 percent (n = 1) had listened three to five times.

FACE-TO-FACE AND PODCAST LECTURES The pharmacology course content was the same in all three groups and was presented by the usual course instructor. Paper and online versions of an accompanying PowerPoint handout were provided to all participants. The face-to-face lecture took place in a lecture hall and included impromptu questions and discussion. Students in the podcasting groups were able to ask the professor questions through email or office visits. The podcast groups could listen to the podcasts as often as and wherever they chose.

The face-to-face lecture was roughly 90 minutes long. The nonstop podcast lecture was just over 57 minutes long. The segmented podcast lecture, just over 51 minutes long, consisted of three sections (segment 1 was 24 minutes long, segment 2 was 14 minutes, and segment 3 was just under 13). Appropriate introductory and closing sentences were used to bridge material in the segmented podcast. Variations in podcast lengths, which were minimal, were attributed to talking speed.

The podcast lectures were produced using GarageBand software, version 8, on a Mac desktop computer in an academic technology lab. The faculty member used Logitech headphones with a microphone to record the lecture. Lectures were placed on CDs, and a production specialist edited them for clarity. After formatting, the podcast lectures were uploaded to 1-GB flash drive devices.

Prior to receiving the podcasts, students in those groups were given a demonstration and written instructions about how to access and play podcasts via the flash drives on their computers and MP3 players. Each participant in the podcasting groups was given a 1-GB flash drive containing either an unsegmented ora segmented lecture. The flash drives were distributed on the same day and rime that the face-to-face lecture was given. All participants could take notes while listening.

Eighty percent (n = 28) of participants had no prior knowledge of the pharmacology course content and 20 percent (n = 7) did.

MULTIPLE-CHOICE QUIZ Students' retention and application of the knowledge imparted in the lectures were measured by a 10-question multiple-choice quiz. Its design was based on Bloom's Taxonomy and Bloom's Hierarchy. All participants were instructed to prepare for a quiz several days after initial exposure to the lecture content. The paper-and-pencil quiz and case study were given to all participants on the same date, at the same place, and at the same time.

CASE STUDY Participants were asked to demonstrate the application of content from the lecture in a post-exposure case study selected from the podcast lecture. The case study methodology has been used successfully in higher education: Chaplin (2009) used case studies to demonstrate significantly improved student performance in terms of knowledge application and analysis, and DeSanto-Madeya (2007) identified the use of case studies in nursing education as a strategy for enhancing critical thinking in situations similar to those that students will encounter as nurses.

All participants were instructed to prepare for a one-page case study that was administered several days after initial exposure to the lecture content. This case study provided a real-life scenario in which the students were to demonstrate the correct application of the pharmacology information in the lectures. Students were given as much time as needed to complete each part of the assessment.

Findings Cross-tabulations comparing the demographic characteristics of participants in all groups were done to check that random assignment was successful in creating groups with similar backgrounds. The first comparison was conducted on participants' age: 90.9 percent (n = 10) of unsegmented podcast participants were 20 to 25 years old, while just 50 percent (n = 6) of the traditional lecture group and 41.7 percent (n = 5) of the segmented podcast group were in that age range. In addition, 41.7 percent (n = 5) of the traditional lecture group was 26 to 30 years old, while none of the unsegmented podcast group and 16.7 percent (n = 2) of the segmented podcast group were.

Participants in the traditional lecture group were less likely than participants in the other two groups to be full-time students; 33.3 percent (n = 4) of the traditional group, none of the unsegmented podcast group, and 8.3 percent (n = 1) of the segmented podcast group were part-time students.

Findings demonstrated that 90.9 percent (n =10) of the unsegmented podcast group had no prior knowledge of the lecture content; 83.3 percent (n =10) of the segmented podcast group and 66.7 percent (n = 8) of the traditional lecture group did.

Questionnaire inquiry continued with an examination of podcast listening habits. Findings demonstrated that 90.5 percent (n = 19) of podcast participants listened to the podcast one or two times. One participant (4.8 percent) was unable to listen to the podcast at all due to time constraints. One participant (4.8 percent) listened three to five times.

QUESTIONNAIRE RESULTS Participants in the two podcast groups were asked to respond to statements on their retention and application of key concepts contained in the podcast. Response selections were available on a 5-point Likert scale, ranging from "strongly disagree" to "strongly agree." The retention query stated: "To what degree do you agree with the following statement: The use of this academic audio podcast helped me remember the pharmacology concepts." Results demonstrated that no participants strongly disagreed with this statement, 4.8 percent (n = 1) disagreed, 14.3 percent (n = 3) neither agreed nor disagreed, 61.9 percent (n = 13) agreed, and 19 percent (n = 4) of podcast participants strongly agreed with this statement. (Two participants in the podcasts groups did not respond.)

The question on the application of key concepts stated, "To what degree do you agree with the following statement: The use of this academic audio podcast helped me to apply the pharmacology concepts." There were no participants who strongly disagreed, 5 percent (n = 1) of participants disagreed, 20 percent (n = 4) neither agreed nor disagreed, 50 percent (n = 10) agreed with the statement, and 25 percent (n = 5) strongly agreed.

MULTIPLE-CHOICE QUIZ RESUt, TS To address whether retention of lecture content differed by instructional method, mean quiz scores were compared across groups. The segmented podcast group had the highest mean score (M = 85.83, SD = 13.79), followed by the traditional lecture group (M = 76.67, SD = 12.31) and the unsegmented lecture group (M = 70, SD = 22.36).

The non-parametric Kruskal-Wallis Test was used to compare the three groups on multiple-choice quiz scores because of the small group sizes, which violate the normality assumption for analysis of variance (ANOVA) testing. The Kruskal-Wallis examined whether students' retention of information differed across type of lecture exposure. The resuhs were not significant ([chi.sup.2] = 4.202, df = 2, p = .122), although the differences in mean scores demonstrate a positive trend for higher scores among those in the segmented lecture group.

CASE-STUDY RESULTS A second level of outcome assessment, addressing this initial research question, incorporated a case study developed from the lecture content. The means and standard deviations of case-study scores were also examined across the three groups. The segmented podcast group had the highest mean score (M = 55, SD = 28.44), followed by the unsegmented lecture group (M = 45.45, SD = 23.81) and the traditional lecture group (M = 43.43, SD = 23.86).

The Kruskal-Wallis test was used to compare the three lecture exposure groups on case-study scores because of the small group sizes, which violate the normality assumption ANOVA testing. This test's results were not significant ([chi.sup.2] = 1.121, df = 2, p = .571).

Spearman's rho was used to examine the relationship between information-retention scores on the multiple-choice examination and application scores on the case-study assessment. This was done to explore whether participants who were successful at retaining the material also performed well when applying the material. Spearman's rho was used because the small sample size would otherwise skew the data. These findings demonstrated a weak but positive, statistically significant relationship between the variables (rs = .351, p = .039).

Results from this quantitative analysis demonstrated that participants in the segmented podcast group had the highest mean scores in both the retention and application assessments. Although findings were not found to be statistically significant due to sample size, a trend was found when comparing the three groups and multiple-choice retention scores in the Kruskal-Wallis Test. This was not the case with application scores. A weak yet positive, statistically significant relationship was found between multiple-choice retention scores and case-study application scores.

Discussion This study has identified that the retention and application of lecture content was supported by intentional podcast segmentation. Nursing educators must maintain an awareness of these factors to facilitate effective implementation of academic podcasts in nursing education.

The current study extends existing research by specifically exploring the effect of a segmented podcast format on knowledge retention and application. The findings suggest that students perceived podcasts as having enhanced their retention and application of nursing pharmacology content. In fact, findings indicated that segmented podcast lectures supported a trend toward a deeper understanding of lecture content as demonstrated by improved retention and application scores.


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Karen S. Abate, PhD, APRN-BC, is a nursing education consultant. She is also a mentor at Thomas Edison State College, Trenton, New Jersey. Contact her at
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Title Annotation:RESEARCH
Author:Abate, Karen S.
Publication:Nursing Education Perspectives
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2013
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