Background: There is growing research on student use of podcasts in academic settings. However, there is little in-depth research focusing on student experience of podcasts, in particular in terms of barriers to, and facilitators of, podcast use and students' perceptions of the usefulness of podcasts as learning tools. This study aimed to explore the experiences of non-medical prescribing students who had access to podcasts of key pharmacology lectures as supplementary learning tools to their existing course materials.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews were carried out with seven non-medical prescribing students (average age = 43 years), all of whom were nurses, who had access to seven podcasts of key pharmacology lectures. These podcasts took the form of downloadable audio lecture recordings available through the virtual learning environment WebCT. Low, medium and high users of the podcasts took part in the interviews in order to access a variety of student experiences. Interview data was analysed using thematic template analysis to identify key themes surrounding student experience of podcast availability, particularly in relation to barriers to and facilitators of podcast use, and students' experiences of podcasts as a learning tool.
Results: Students used podcasts for a variety of reasons such as revisiting lectures, preparing for exams, to clarify or revise specific topics and, to a lesser extent, to catch up on a missed lecture. Barriers to podcast use centred mainly around technological issues. Lack of experience of the technology required to access podcasts proved a barrier for some students. A lack of access to suitable technology was also a reported barrier. Family assistance and I.T. assistance from the university helped facilitate students' use of the podcasts. Students found that using podcasts allowed them to have greater control over their learning and to gauge their learning needs, as well as helping them build their understanding of a complex topic.
Conclusions: Students used podcasts for a variety of reasons. Barriers to podcasts use were generally related to technological issues. Students often found that once assistance had been gained regarding these technological issues, they accessed the podcasts more easily. Students felt that access to podcasts added value to their learning materials by allowing them to better manage their learning and build their understanding. Podcasts represent a valuable additional learning tool for this specific group of older students.