Bryn Mawr College home page

   - Bryn Mawr Now
   - Recent Issues
   - Bryn Mawr in the News
   - College Publications
   - Public Affairs Office

   - Campus Events Calendar
   - Performing Arts Series
   - Visiting Writers Series
   - Library Exhibits & Lectures
   - Alumnae/i Events Calendar
   - Conferences and Events

Search Bryn Mawr
 Admissions Academics Campus Life News and Events Visit Find
November 10, 2005



Michelle Francl
Professor of Chemistry Michelle Francl

Your average quantum mechanic isn't accustomed to fan mail, says Professor of Chemistry Michelle Francl. But Francl has been getting pats on the back from as far away as Australia since her podcast, "Introduction to Quantum Mechanics," broke into the iTunes Top 100 a few weeks ago. To be sure, the Internet-disseminated recordings of Francl's Chemistry 221 lectures aren't threatening the market share of The Wall Street Journal Report or Comedy 365, but Francl has a solid position among her worldwide listenership of struggling physical-chemistry students.

"Podcasting," a term coined in 2003, is the automatic distribution of files (usually audio) directly onto computers or mobile audio devices such as iPods and other mp3 players. Its popularity boomed when Apple recently added a podcast section to its popular iTunes software, and instructional technologists were quick to recognize its potential as an educational tool. Francl created her podcast, as well as a screencast that includes video content, with the help of Bryn Mawr instructional-technology guru Laura Blankenship. After Hurricane Katrina struck early this fall, Francl joined a collaborative effort of the American Chemical Society and the Sloan Foundation to create a collection of educational podcasts for students whose colleges and universities were temporarily shut down by the hurricane.

But Francl says that the technology is a boon for her Bryn Mawr students, too. "They love it," she reports. "They say it's like being able to TiVo the professor. They can listen to it later and repeat the parts that they didn't quite get in their notes, or pause me so that they can think something over and absorb it if I'm going too fast." Francl's chemistry students gain access to the podcasts through her course blog at

Laura Blankenship  
Laura Blankenship  

Blankenship notes that professors who are considering podcasting their lectures often express concern that digital files will become a substitute for the face-to-face lectures, but Francl says that she has seen no drop in attendance as a result of her podcasts and screencasts. "They are finding it really effective as a study aid, not a replacement for going to class," she says. "But I do make sure that none of the administrative details are included in the podcast — if you want to know when the quiz is going to be, you have to show up. After all, the guy in Nebraska who's listening to the podcast while he drives to work doesn't need to know that stuff."

Blankenship, who plans to give a presentation on podcasting and screencasting courses at a January conference sponsored by Educause, a nonprofit that promotes information technology in higher education, is enthusiastic about the prospects of podcasting at Bryn Mawr. She discusses some possible applications of the technology in her blog, ETC@BMC.

"Podcasting is great because its impact can be very high, but it's a really easy technology to use," Blankenship says. "You don't need any unusual technical aptitude or expertise."

"Some professors have required students to listen to a podcast lecture before class, so that time in class can be spent on more interactive kinds of learning than lectures," she says. She herself has recently used screencasting to comment on student writing in her C-Sem course, "Web of Influence," which explores the effects of digital text on contemporary society. Assistant Professor of Computer Science Douglas Blank has recently begun posting audio files of the Center for Science in Society's Emergence Working Group at

For more information on podcasting and screencasting, see the Educational Technology Center's Web page at .


<<Back to Bryn Mawr Now 11/10/2005

Next story>>




Bryn Mawr College · 101 North Merion Ave · Bryn Mawr · PA · 19010-2899 · Tel 610-526-5000