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Podcast for learning


mp3 playersYoung employees are digital natives, so what better way to develop their skills and share information with them than with a podcast, says Duncan Gotobed. Podcasts are easier to develop than you might think, he says. Read his practical guide to creating and using them.

Organisations are increasingly using new media such as podcasts to help them develop their employee's skills and share knowledge between them.

Podcasts in particular - which are a series of online audio or video files that can be downloaded onto a computer, MP3 player or an iPod - are being used as one of these key learning tools.

They are easy to produce, at a fraction of the cost of typical elearning, and can be far more engaging. Podcasts are also easy to deploy, as employees can download the audio or video files from a page on the intranet. It doesn't require any additional investment in IT infrastructure or 'consulting time' to make it happen.

Photo of Duncan Gotobed"Podcasting allows employees to use their downtime to learn - whether it is on the daily commute, on the treadmill, or walking the dog."

People are also leading increasingly busy lives and the thought of squeezing a day's training into an already overcrowded schedule is often just too much to think about. Podcasting allows employees to use their downtime to learn - whether it is on the daily commute, on the treadmill, or walking the dog. However, to get people to listen to podcasts in their own time they have to be interesting.

If you have young employees, they can be particularly effective. School leavers are digital 'natives' – they have grown up alongside computers, video games and the internet. They are used to searching for information, multitasking, processing images, sounds and video before text. They function best when they are connected to other people and they want to learn things that are relevant, useful and fun.

Who is doing it?

There are numerous examples of companies using podcasting to share knowledge.

Microsoft's Academy Mobile initiative is designed to enable its worldwide sales and marketing functions to share best practices with each other. Users can watch, listen, and share podcasts or videocasts with peers. They can also download their content onto their mobile devices. To encourage sales people to add to the Academy Mobile content, Microsoft has created a reward programme to incentivise the top contributors. It provides training sessions on how to create podcasts and audio and video recording facilities for people to use.

Capital One also uses audio content to prime employees before attending a training course by getting them to listen to a relevant audio book or article. Similarly, audio content is also used to reinforce what employees have learnt after the course. For example, after attending a workshop on difficult conversations a set of scenarios are uploaded to participants' iPods. This enables learners to listen to a vignette each week that reinforces their learning, by asking them to think about how they are applying the principles they have learnt.

So how do I create a podcast?

First of all subscribe to a podcast yourself. Go to and listen to a range of UK podcasts that are currently being produced.

Consider what you want to achieve with your podcast. Do you want to support the rollout of a new product? Record a message from the chief executive that could be used as part of an induction programme? Or do you want to interview experts in the company to get them to share their tips and tricks, etc?

"School leavers are digital 'natives'... they function best when they are connected to other people and they want to learn things that are relevant, useful and fun."

Think about your audience. Who are they? How will they access the podcast? How will you market it to them? If you are aiming your podcast at the sales team, then you could launch your podcast at their next sales conference and issue each of them with a memory stick containing a range of audio and/or video content, together with instructions on how to access the podcast.

Choose your format. Interviews are the most widely used format in podcasting for a reason – they are simple to do and can be enjoyable to listen to. Avoid putting a microphone in front of the interviewee and getting them to talk for 20 minutes as it will quickly bore listeners. You'll also need to consider how frequently you produce your podcast and how long it will be. As a general rule a podcast should be between 15–20 minutes in length.

Get your equipment together. If you are going to interview people over the phone, then all you need is your laptop, with Pamela for Skype installed - to record your Skype telephone calls - a headset with built in microphone and free audio editing and recording software such as Audacity. As with everything, you get what you pay for and the more you invest in your podcasting kit the better your podcasts will sound.

Brief the interviewee – tell them the purpose of the podcast. Explain why you want to interview them and the main points you will cover. But as a general rule don't give them the specific questions you want to ask in advance, as it can lead to stilted answers.

Always do a sound check at the beginning of the interview to ensure everything is working properly and that background noise is minimal, as it can be difficult to get rid of it during the editing stage.

Edit the audio and save it as a mono MP3 file to make it quicker for employees to download.

Upload it to your podcast intranet page, with a short description of what the podcast is about, inviting feedback from listeners.

Tell people in your organisation about your podcast.

Duncan Gotobed is the producer and host of Top Briefings' passionate people podcast, which features interviews, tips and anything else that will help you to develop your human capital. Go to to listen to an interview with Anders Gronstedt, president of the Gronstedt Group on using new technologies in learning.


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