02 January 2009

Podcast Review: Isabelle Pafford on the Roman Republic

This podcast is a series of lectures on the Roman Republic given by Dr. Isabelle Pafford of Santa Clara University. The lectures take us from the founding of Rome down to the death of Julius Caesar. Unfortunately some of the lectures are missing due, I gather, to technical problems. It's the first time I've listened to the iTunes U, so I'm not sure how much of what I have to say is specific to Dr. Pafford's course and how much is due to a format imposed by iTunes U or Santa Clara University itself.

Dr. Pafford struck me as an engaging and stimulating lecturer who interacts well with her students. There were certainly times when I was dying to leap in and ask questions. On the other hand, there did seem to be an awful lot of moments when she lost her place in her notes or slides and we had to wait for her to find her place again -- but perhaps that is more noticeable to those listening in than it would be to those present. She does have a penchant for trying to draw analogies with contemporary personalities and events, some of which work better than others.

On her page at the Santa Clara University website, Dr. Pafford says of herself, "She likes to use technology in her classroom, when possible, and many of her class lectures are available as podcasts." I think more thought needs to be given to who the podcasts are actually aimed at -- are they simply for her own students who miss lectures for whatever reasons, are they aimed at whetting the appetite of prospective students, or are they aimed at the interested public at large? If the podcasts are meant for the public at large, then it would be helpful if she could put notes online in the form of reading lists or links to sources to accompany the lectures. I'm not sure how useful the podcasts by themselves without any supporting material would be to anyone who had no knowledge of the Roman Republic to orient themselves.

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