ASU students create podcasts to harness creativity, collaboration in class


A student smiles, looking at another student in front of them.

The podcast assignment allows students to rethink the boundaries of their creativity and find new ways to engage with research, bringing opportunities in the form of critical thinking and collaboration. Photo courtesy Mike Sanchez/ASU

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Karla Murphy and Chelsie Schlesinger, co-instructors at Arizona State University's New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, have spent the past few semesters steeped in student podcast episodes. 

After completing the Digital Fluency Creative course hosted by Enterprise Technology’s Learning Experience in 2021, the two are using Adobe Creative Cloud to break through traditional teaching modalities. One such example leverages podcasting in their Advanced English Composition course to spark creativity and collaboration among students. 

“I think the podcast makes them break outside of the mold,” Schlesinger said. “It makes them think about their topics in different ways.”

Now available as an XKit (ASU Experience Kit), the podcast assignment allows students to rethink the boundaries of their creativity and find new ways to engage with research. And experimenting with new mediums in the course has shown to bring opportunities in the form of critical thinking and collaboration.

“It was really interesting seeing to what extent we could push the boundaries of the assignment and how much we can get out of doing that,” said McKenzie Renfrew, a freshman majoring in forensic science at the New College. “It was just interesting to explore all the different avenues our conversations in the podcast led us and to dive deeper into our topics.”

Arranged in groups of three or four, students weaved diverse topics into a single podcast episode and created a poster to represent their audio. Topic areas ranged from the importance of coral reefs to the impacts of parenting on children to inadequate access to health care for deaf patients. 

The podcast assignment acts as a springboard for students, enabling students to bounce ideas off each other before drafting future written assignments. 

“The idea that people write a research-based paper and it exists unto itself is erroneous,” Murphysaid. “It's part of a larger conversation; you're responding to somebody else's work and that conversation happens instantly in that podcast recording.”

During office hours, Schlesinger said students often find themselves struck with writer's block despite being able to talk freely about their topic. Unanchored from the pressure of writing, the process of crafting, producing and editing the podcast helps get the ball rolling. 

“The podcast, the actual act of conversing, gets (them) into a space where they're able to articulate their ideas,” she said. 

“Taking very large concepts and tearing them down for a podcast to produce effective research was very good practice,” Renfrew said. “And I feel like this series of assignments throughout the class have helped me to conceptualize the process of research in my head.”

Moreover, the project does more than prompt deeper investigation — it allows students to identify unique skill sets, such as project management, problem solving and adaptability, while building their portfolios.

“They have these actual artifacts (the podcasts) to demonstrate the skills they say that they have,” Murphy said. “And not everybody has the same strengths, but they can begin to see where their skills are.”

As the fall semester comes to a close, students like Renfrew will carry with them an enriched set of multimedia skills such as audio editing and graphic design to use in professional settings or future classes as they work toward graduation. 

“This class really solidified the skills that I need to be successful in research,” Renfrew said. “So this assignment was really just the first step in ensuring those capabilities in myself.”

ASU offers students free access to the Adobe Creative Cloud suite of tools. Adobe is part of the ASU Digital Backpack, which offers 21st-century tools for learners of all backgrounds to create and collaborate. 

Written by Kevin Pirehpour.

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