Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Should I Podcast My Introductory Economics Lectures?

Several days ago, John Chilton sent me this article about professors who podcast their course lectures. Since I have been involved with several Radioeconomics podcasts in the past few months, that article prompted me to think about whether I, too, should put audio versions of my lectures on-line for students (and others?) to download. I realize this is a fairly lengthy posting, but I would really appreciate some feedback on this question.

When I asked my intro students if they would be interested, over half seemed quite enthusiastic, for what it's worth to judge enthusiasm from a show of hands in a classroom. Here are some thoughts/concerns I have had so far:

  1. Will students cut classes more often? Probably not much in economics. Much of what happens in class involves graphs and equations. These will not transfer easily to pure audio presentation. Rather, most students who download the lectures would do so for review. At the same time, if students miss a class, getting a podcast audio version, along with a classmate's notes, would be better than not being able to hear the audio. And in the end, if providing the lectures on-line helps most students learn more economics, that's what counts for me.
  2. Technology. I have no idea what to do. I expect I do not want to use a voice-activated recorder, that I want one that will produce high quality recordings, and that the lectures must be easily downloadable to my PC and then easily and quickly uploadable to the internet. I am presently considering an Olympus DS 2200 or Olympus WS-310M digital recorder, but I have no idea whether either of those is the right recorder for what I would like to do. I guess whatever I do, the final uploads should be in MP3 format, right?
  3. Who owns the lectures? My instinct is that the intellectual property of my lectures is as much mine as are the notes used by professors who write textbooks for their courses. In that sense, I would have the right to use the audio recordings of my lectures in ways that would suit me. But I am not sure about this.
  4. Related to #3. If the university has the property right to the audio of my lectures, it will surely insist that the lectures be placed on its password-protected course websites, meaning others would not be able to download the lectures.
  5. Protecting intellectual property. I have no reservations about other individuals' listening to my lectures. I would, however, be upset if I learned that other universities were requiring their students to download my lectures. What remedies would I have (remember I'm in Canada) and how might I deal with this potential problem? I am especially concerned that access not be restricted to individuals who might want to listen to them.
  6. As I contemplate recording my intro lectures for others to hear, I realize I really need to tighten up my lecture style and presentation. There are things that I say and do in class [e.g. a discussion of why, in an example, I should set fixed costs at 69 instead of 60] that I might be reluctant to go through if I knew the lectures were being recorded for podcasting. How much spontaneity will I lose, and how much might this loss in spontaneity affect the quality of the lectures (for better or worse)?
  7. Language. Several years ago, in a snit because the university refused to give me an early retirement buy-out, I started swearing in class. A LOT. Friggin' this and farkin' that, only not the euphemisms. I shouldn't have been surprised, but student evaluations of my teaching went up.
    This year I have tried to clean up my language in the lectures. My students tell me the podcasts would be much more popular if I would start cussing again -- Trash-Mouth Economics:
    "Shift the G.D. supply curve upward, not downward!"
    "It's like taking a frickin' derivative, for those who've taken calculus."
    "J. Flippin' C.! You folks aren't sociologists, are you?"
  8. Addendum: I'm not sure where to host the podcasts. Any suggestions for a good host/server would be very welcome.


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