Pace Magazine

This Episode is Sponsored by: Pace University

Lance Pauker
January 19, 2023
CHP Occupational Therapy students working on student-made podcasts

University teaching, traditionally, is often conceived in the form of a lecture—the professor, equipped with years of knowledge and credentials, espouses their wisdom as students furiously scribble notes; or, more likely today, type furiously on their laptops.

Yet, as we all know, teaching and learning comes in many forms—especially with today’s endless array of technological innovation.

CHP students working on student-made podcasts
OTH 500 students at work in the podcast studio, thanks to the innovative Classroom Based Research Award from the Office of Research. 

“I’m obsessed with student engagement and active learning—I try to avoid that sort of blah-blah lecture, which is hard to avoid in its entirety, but I like to where I can,” says College of Health Professions Occupational Therapy Professor Lisa Raymond-Tolan, OTD, OTR/L. “I think it’s just so much more beneficial for students to be actively co-creating their own learning. I like flipping the classroom.”

Raymond-Tolan commutes to the Westchester Campus each day from her home in Brooklyn—which often leaves her stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, listening to podcasts to pass the time. On one of these commutes—Raymond-Tolan credits driving for her giving her all her best ideas—something clicked.

“What if students not only listened to podcasts to support their learning, but if they created a podcast? It hits all the points I love—it’s hands on, it’s engaging, it’s co-creating learning, and then it’ll be a study tool for everyone else.”

“What if students not only listened to podcasts to support their learning, but if they created a podcast? It hits all the points I love—it’s hands on, it’s engaging, it’s co-creating learning, and then it’ll be a study tool for everyone else.”

Fortunately, Raymond-Tolan’s interest in active and innovative learning methods is shared by Pace’s Office of Research. The Office of Research offers a Classroom-Based Research Award, in which faculty members can receive grants for innovative ideas to incorporate original, authentic research projects into the undergraduate curriculum. In part, this grant plays a role in ensuring that Pace is at the forefront of continually advancing the possibilities of classroom-based learning; and helps ensures that the Pace classroom experience is much more than, in Raymond-Tolan’s words, just a “blah-blah lecture.”

Raymond-Tolan’s project, Creating Podcasts as an Innovative Learning Tool in Occupational Therapy Graduate Education, was awarded this grant. She and her students in her OTH 500: Occupational Therapy and Analysis class then got going, working in teams to create 15-minute episodes about concepts covered in class. Episodes focused on topics ranging from ethics, history of occupational therapy, models of occupational therapy, and much more.

Listen to: Call Her OT: Occupational Therapy and Ethics

“Through the grant we were able to get podcast microphones, and then we figured out platforms people felt comfortable with for recording on and editing with. They had ‘callers’ into their shows. It felt like an authentic podcast experience.”

Raymond-Tolan believes the podcast initiative is very much in the spirit of occupational therapy, a profession which isn’t conducive to passive learning.

“In OT we have labs, and our labs are very active. OT is about how do we do things and participate in things that are meaningful to us. I wanted to take this one step further and make foundational lecture content a more active learning experience.”

On a practical level, the podcasts have been a resounding success. This fall, the inaugural “podcast class” concluded the semester with a listening party. The episodes were then made available to all students, who were able to use them for reference while studying for finals.

As for the future? Raymond-Tolan plans on continuing the podcast project for the Fall 2023 OT 500 cohort and is considering expanding it into other classes. Discussing the ways students consume information in 2023, she adds that meeting students where they currently spend time and consume content—whether that’s on social media, podcasts, or anything else—can be a great way to get students more engaged in their studies and, if executed well, can truly enhance the educational experience.

Plus, it’s not a bad alternative to grading papers.

“I think doing this kind of material is really engaging for students, but it’s also really fun for a faculty member,” she adds.

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