Harvard Medical School have started offering podcasts of their lectures to their students, allowing them to learn while on the move.

Students can subscribe to a feed from their ‘MyCourses’ page, a web portal that handles each student’s calendar, lecture timetable and contains notes to multimedia case studies and reference sites. New lectures are automatically downloaded to a student’s iPod using podcasting software.

Courtesy of AppleJohn Halamka, Harvard Medical School’s associate professor of medicine and chief information officer at the faculty told the university’s online newspaper: "This is the first time any medical school, to my knowledge, has used an iPod as an educational tool to distribute the entire curriculum."

According to HMS, 68% of students already have iPods. Halamka said that as media outlets and medical journals were already using podcasting, education was the obvious next step. "It’s the education device of the future."

Harvard Medical School also allow students to view videos of the lectures online, which are sorted using searchable tags. The tags are automatically added through voice recognition software and are transcribed, which allows users to skip to the part of the lecture they are interested in. The videos are also available for compatible iPods.

Imperial College has also started looking at ways in which podcasting can be used in education. Although no lectures from the medical school are being currently offered, the college has started to deliver a feed of its public lectures, and is planning to use a range of video and audio services.

A spokesperson for Imperial told E-Health Insider that work was at an early stage, but was ongoing: "Imperial is excited by the possibilities offered by these new audio visual technologies and is piloting some things to find out how they can be successfully used."

Video podcasting was tried but difficulties were found with file sizes. "As a compromise between the two, we are experimenting with ‘enhanced podcasting’ – an audio file with graphics such as Powerpoint slides dropped in. This enables us to keep the file to a manageable size while allowing the user to see images that the lecture relies on," said Imperial.