Podcasts enhance students' garden experiences

February 10, 2010

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University's Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture is using a popular electronic tool to aid learning in a study abroad course.

Associate Professor Paul Siciliano has created podcast tours for students who will visit England as part of a course on history, horticulture and landscape architecture.  Siciliano and two other professors will accompany the students on the trip.

Visiting various gardens is a key part of the course -- an aspect he noticed can be problematic.

"In an outdoor environment, it's very difficult to have good contact with students," Siciliano said. "What we found was they weren't really getting the fundamental concepts."

The audio tours provide students the information they need as they walk through the gardens at their own pace.

Siciliano created the podcasts with the assistance of Purdue Agricultural Communication.

"We looked into how we might turn these into podcasts -- not just the audio files, but enhanced podcasts as well," said Joan Crow, ag communications' multimedia unit coordinator. "We took some of the pictures that Paul had taken and put those with the sections in the script, depending on where they are in the garden."

This past summer, Siciliano conducted research to test his new product and found that the audio tours seemed to increase the students' understanding of the material. Siciliano observed that students who had used the audio scored higher on oral exams than the students who did not.

There are three tours available for these English gardens: Sissinghurst Castle Garden in Kent; Hampton Court Palace in London; and Corsham Court in Wiltshire.

Siciliano said the podcasts contain essential ideas and theories about the making of the gardens that will help students and garden enthusiasts alike.

"Its usefulness is beyond this particular course," Siciliano said. "It's intended to be for anyone who's traveling and would be interested in visiting one of these particular gardens."

Each podcast includes commentary with practical information, extensive descriptions, pictures and a brief history of each garden. Each lasts 20-30 minutes.

If the three podcasts are well received, podcasts could be created for 11 other English gardens.

The tours are available for $9.95 each through Trek Exchange -- an online marketplace for downloadable walking tours.

For more information and to hear sample sound clips of each tour, visit https://extension.purdue.edu/historicgardens 

Writer: Julie Preble, 765-494-8402, jmpreble@purdue.edu 

Sources: Paul Siciliano, 765-494-1346, siciliano@purdue.edu

                 Joan Crow, 765-494-2110, crow@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-8415;
Steve Leer, sleer@purdue.edu
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