By Patrick Lang
These days, technology plays a major role in how students get their information. While some may view this as a hassle or a barrier, Union University is using technology to its advantage.
At first glance, the Union Audio Project may not seem to greatly impact the university and its mission. However, the project is helping Union grow outside of Jackson.
In the spring of 2005, the Union Audio Project introduced podcasts to its line-up of tools helping those on- and off-campus keep up with the happenings on campus. These podcasts are enabling the university to record special events or interviews and make them available for people to download.
“Someone in Spain could listen to what we are doing,” said Mark Kahler, associate vice president for university communications.
Podcasts are spreading Union’s mission far beyond West Tennessee. Cam Tracy, Web development agent for Union, said he recalls receiving a phone call from a man in Seattle who listened to the podcasts.
One area students and faculty can learn through the use of the podcasts is the Faculty Research Leave Program. According to the Faculty Handbook, the purpose of the leave program “is to create and sustain an institutional culture of faculty scholarship.” This program provides faculty with the opportunity to take paid research leaves to work on projects.
Barbara McMillin, associate provost and dean of instruction, said the leave program “affords them the opportunity to focus attention on their field away from the campus. It gives them the luxury to invest the time needed in a project.”
There are 22 interviews with faculty members who have taken research leaves available via podcast, and McMillin said she hopes these podcasts will “encourage others to pursue a leave also.”
When searching iTunes for that perfect song or video, consider listening to an interview with a Union University faculty member who has taken a research leave to better their knowledge, as well as their students.
Another great use for the podcasts is recording chapel. The podcasts make many chapel messages readily available for students to listen a speaker they may have missed. It also provides the opportunity for anyone outside the Union community to enjoy one of the many special guest speakers Union offers.
“You are able to sit down and just listen to what they have to say,” Kahler said.
Union also keeps parents of students in mind when it comes to podcasts.
“Parents are much more connected,” Kahler said. “Even my 86-year-old grandmother has a Facebook.”
Parents of Union students can use the podcasts to keep up with what is happening on campus.
Tracy said he believes growth in the field of technology is making the classroom a better and more exciting place for students.
“We are just beginning to see some of the possibilities,” he said.
The Union Audio Project also offers videos and a photo program that is 13,000 pictures strong. Audio on Union’s website can be found at www.uu.edu/audio.
It can also be accessed through iTunes by searching for Union University. Once users are subscribed to Union’s podcasts, iTunes will automatically check the podcasts for updates each time a person logs on to his or her iTunes accounts.