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The What, Why, & How of Podcasting in Higher Education

Learn how higher education institutions are using podcasts to make learning more accessible, engage with students, and increase global appeal.
June 5, 2024

Education is constantly changing, and universities need to keep up. One great way to do this is through podcasting. Podcasts offer a fresh and easy way for universities to connect with students, teachers, and everyone else.

In this article about podcasting in higher education, we'll explore how universities can harness the power of podcasts. From engaging with students in meaningful ways to disseminating new research and offering diverse perspectives, podcasts can give institutions the unique opportunity to expand their reach and impact.

Ready to explore the powerful potential of podcasts? Let’s dive in.

What Are Podcasts?

In the digital era, podcasts have emerged as a dynamic and versatile medium, offering a unique blend of information and entertainment. A podcast is a series of digital audio or video files that users can download or stream conveniently.

At their core, podcasts are about storytelling and sharing knowledge. Unlike traditional radio broadcasts, podcasts offer on-demand accessibility that allows listeners to engage with content according to their own schedules and interests. This flexibility is one of the key factors behind the growing popularity of podcasts.

As of 2023, there are over 450 million podcast listeners globally, with a large majority (55%) of those listeners between the ages of 12-34 - 40% of those are weekly podcast listeners. Podcast listeners are also often more affluent, employed, and educated. 

In reality, podcasts are no longer a niche medium. A remarkable 83% of the US population aged 12 and above is familiar with the term podcasting, illustrating that podcasts have become a part of mainstream culture and conversation.

So how can higher institutions, like universities, take advantage of the continued rising popularity of podcasting? Let’s explore this question a little more.

Why Create a Higher Education Podcast?

As times change, so does the landscape of education. Podcasts have emerged as a valuable tool in this evolving environment, offering a new approach to benefit students and higher education institutions. They provide a unique platform for sharing knowledge and insights in an engaging, easily accessible format.

The benefits of creating a podcast are endless. Podcasting for students offers flexibility, allowing students to listen and learn at their own pace and on their own time. This is particularly beneficial for students who juggle studies with work or other commitments.

Flexibility goes hand in hand with personalisation, as podcasts can help foster a sense of autonomy and engagement for students. Through a personalised learning experience, students can select topics that align with their interests or academic pursuits.

Along with helping students, podcasts can extend the university’s reach far beyond the classroom. Podcasts can serve current students while also attracting potential students and a worldwide audience, increasing the institution’s visibility and appeal on the global market. Moreover, podcasts are an excellent platform for highlighting university faculty's talents and research accomplishments.

Adopting podcasts in higher education can also reflect a commitment to progressive teaching methods and technological advancement - underlining the institution's adaptability and dedication to innovation.

A podcast studio

7 Innovative Ways Universities Are Using Podcasts

Integrating podcasts into higher education has opened up several innovative approaches for universities to connect with students, faculty, and the wider community. Here are some of the key ways universities are leveraging this medium:

1. Official University Podcasts

Many universities have launched official podcasts to share news, research breakthroughs, and discussions on various academic and administrative topics. 

These podcasts bridge the university and its stakeholders, providing insights into campus life, upcoming events, and significant achievements. They serve as a valuable tool for engaging with current and potential students, alumni, and the academic community at large.

2. Faculty-Led Podcasts

Encouraging faculty members to start their own podcasts has become a trend. Podcasting for teachers often goes into specific subjects, showcasing the expertise and research interests of the faculty. They provide an informal way to learn about complex topics, making education more accessible and relatable. Faculty-led podcasts also help build a personal brand for the professors and foster a closer connection with students.

3. Addressing Universal Topics

Universities also use podcasts to address broader topics that resonate with a wider audience. An exemplary case is Productivity Puzzles - a podcast we produced in partnership with The Productivity Institute. Hosted by Bart van Ark (a Professor of Productivity Studies at The University of Manchester), the podcast investigates why UK productivity is lower than in many other countries. These types of podcasts enhance the university's reputation and contribute to the wider discourse in their respective fields.

4. Lecture Supplements & Course Material

Some universities use podcasts as supplementary material for lectures and courses. This approach provides students with an additional resource to reinforce their learning. Podcasts in this category often delve deeper into lecture topics, provide alternative perspectives, or offer class summaries and key takeaways.

5. Insight in to Campus Life

Podcasts focusing on campus life give listeners a glimpse into the everyday experiences of students and staff. They cover various topics, from student activities and cultural events to the challenges and triumphs of university life. These podcasts can be particularly useful for prospective students who wish to get a feel of the campus culture and for current students to stay connected and informed.

6. Alumni Engagement & Networking Podcasts

Universities can create podcasts dedicated to engaging with their alumni network. These podcasts can feature successful alumni sharing their career journeys, insights, and advice for current students. They can also cover alumni achievements and events updates, creating a sense of ongoing connection with the university. Additionally, these podcasts can serve as a platform for fundraising and development efforts, highlighting how alumni contributions are making an impact.

7. Interdisciplinary Collaboration & Exploration Podcasts

Universities could launch podcasts that focus on interdisciplinary collaboration and exploration. These podcasts can bring together experts from different departments and fields to discuss complex, multifaceted topics. For instance, a single episode might feature a biologist, a philosopher, and a data scientist discussing the ethical implications of artificial intelligence in healthcare. This approach showcases the diverse expertise available within the university and encourages a holistic understanding of subjects. It can spark interest in students to explore courses outside their major, promote cross-disciplinary research, and highlight the university's commitment to fostering a comprehensive educational environment.

7 Great Examples of Higher Education Podcasts

Now we've outlined the various innovative ways and creative strategies for universities to utilise podcasting, let’s look at some examples. We’ve picked out 7 examples of higher education podcasts to show how institutions are leveraging audio to augment the learning experience, disseminate knowledge, and engage with their communities.

1. Productivity Puzzles (The University of Manchester)

Productivity Puzzles podcast artwork

We referenced it above but we’ll include it in our list, too. Hosted by Bart van Ark (Professor of Productivity Studies at The University of Manchester), this productivity series delves into improving productivity across various sectors. It explores why the UK's productivity lags behind other nations and offers insights on policies and practices to enhance productivity, prosperity, and sustainable growth. 

2. BG Ideas (Bowling Green State)

BG Ideas podcast artwork

This podcast series brings forth innovative thoughts and discussions from Bowling Green State University, covering a range of intellectual and creative ideas. It's a platform where faculty, students, and alumni share their groundbreaking concepts and experiences.

3. Remarkable Stories (UCL)

Remarkable Stories podcast artwork

UCL Student Support and Wellbeing's weekly series celebrates the diverse and resilient UCL community. It shares inspiring stories that reflect the spirit and strength of students and staff during challenging times.

4. Breakthroughs (Northwestern University)

Breakthroughs podcast artwork

This podcast focuses on medical innovations and research from the Feinberg School of Medicine, showcasing the latest medical breakthroughs.

5. Democracy Works (Penn State University)

Democracy Works podcast artwork

Aiming to educate future democratic citizens, this non-partisan podcast from Penn State University explores various faces of democracy in the USA. It’s a platform for thoughtful discussions on democratic issues and citizen engagement.

6. The Buddle Huddle (McGill University)

The Buddle Huddle podcast artwork

Join Dean of Students Chris Buddle as he engages in conversations with students across McGill University. Episodes feature weekly conversations about university life, student success, and educational insights. It’s a unique glimpse into the vibrant student community at McGill.

7. The Future of Everything (Stanford Engineering)

The Future of Everything podcast artwork

Hosted by Stanford bioengineer Russ Altman, this podcast explores the intersection of technology, science, and medicine in shaping our future. Topics range from driverless cars to genetic health advancements, offering insights into tomorrow's innovations.

These are just a few podcasting for educators examples of higher education podcasts, each showcasing unique approaches to engaging with students, faculty, and the wider community through informative, thought-provoking, and inspiring content.

7 Tips for Launching Your Higher Education Podcast

Now that we’ve convinced you to start your higher education podcast, you might be wondering where to start. So, here are 7 tips to help you launch your show successfully.

1. Be Realistic

The first thing you need to do is a realistic assessment of your capabilities and resources. Consider the time commitment involved - producing a podcast isn't just about recording episodes but also includes pre-production planning, post-production editing, and marketing efforts. Evaluate whether you have the bandwidth to manage these aspects alongside your existing responsibilities. Being realistic upfront can save you from stress and overcommitment, ensuring a more sustainable and enjoyable podcasting experience.

2. Set Goals

Begin by determining what you want to achieve. Are you looking to educate, entertain, or inspire your audience? Do you aim to increase the visibility of your brand or institution, or establish yourself as a thought leader in a particular field? Setting specific, measurable goals will guide the direction and content of your podcast. 

It's also important to define what success looks like for you. This could be a certain number of listeners, levels of engagement, or achieving a specific impact in your community. Clear goals help track progress and make adjustments to ensure your podcast is effective and aligns with your vision. Check out our below guide on how to measure podcast success for help with this.

How to Measure Podcast Success: The 12 Key Metrics to Use

3. Plan It Out

This includes everything from choosing a catchy name and developing a unique branding strategy, to determining the format and content of your episodes. Start by brainstorming the themes and topics that align with your goals and audience's interests. Then, decide on the structure of your podcast. Will it be interview-based, narrative-driven, or a mix of various styles? Consider the length and frequency of your episodes, too.

Creating a content calendar can be immensely helpful. It allows you to outline topics and schedule recordings, ensuring a steady flow of content. Remember, the planning phase is where you lay the groundwork for your podcast's identity and future success.

Bonus Tip: Don’t forget about your target audience. Who is your ideal podcast listener? Understand their interests, preferences, and listening habits to create content that resonates deeply and keeps them engaged.

4. Assemble Your Team

Creating a successful podcast is a team effort. It requires diverse skills and roles, including (but not limited to) a creative host, a detail-oriented editor, a graphic designer for captivating visuals, and a marketing team to increase its reach.

Each member brings a unique perspective and skill set crucial for producing a polished and professional podcast. Ultimately, assembling a skilled team is essential for producing content that truly stands out and captures listeners' attention.

5. Choose the Right Equipment

The quality of your podcast’s audio is incredibly important. So, investing in the right equipment is crucial for clear, professional sound. Consider microphones, headphones, and recording software that fit your budget and needs. 

Additionally, think about the recording environment. A quiet, echo-free space is ideal. If your podcast includes remote interviews or co-hosts, ensure you have reliable internet and software for recording these sessions. Remember, great content deserves great sound quality, so don’t skimp on the tools that elevate your podcast from amateur to professional.

6. Create a Marketing Plan

Before you hit the publish button, it’s important to establish a clear plan to reach your target audience. This includes selecting the right platforms for distribution, leveraging social media for promotion, and considering collaborations or guest appearances to expand your reach. Develop a consistent schedule for releasing episodes and teasers, and engage with your audience through interactive channels like social media or email newsletters. Effective marketing ensures your podcast reaches the ears of potential listeners and keeps them coming back for more.

How to Promote a Podcast in 2024: 19 Proven Strategies

7. Outsource Your Podcast Production

For many educational institutions, launching and editing a podcast just isn’t feasible given their time constraints. But that doesn’t mean it’s not an option. 

By working with a podcast production agency, you can outsource the entire production process. All you have to do is get behind the mic and talk, and they’ll handle everything else - from editing and branding through to distribution and marketing.

How to Find the Best B2B Podcast Agency for Your Business

Here at Cue Podcasts we offer complete done-for-you podcast production packages. If you want to tap into the power of podcasts without the hassle, outsourcing to a team of experts allows you to skip the awkward years and launch a great show right away.

Check out some of our work in our showreel below:

Final Thoughts: Podcasting in Higher Education

Ultimately, learning podcasting skills and integrating them into the educational sphere offers a dynamic and innovative approach to knowledge dissemination. The journey of podcasting for education enriches the academic experience and broadens the horizon for institutions to connect and engage with a global audience.

Whether you’re a university or community college, educators and institutions need to harness podcasting to adapt to the evolving landscape of digital learning and communication. Through strategic planning and focused execution, podcasting can become a pivotal tool in modern education.

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