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MERLOT II


    

Peer Review


The Psych Files

by Michael Britt
 

Ratings

Overall Rating:

5 stars
Content Quality: 4.75 stars
Effectiveness: 4.75 stars
Ease of Use: 4.5 stars
Reviewed: Dec 18, 2013 by Psychology
Overview: The Psych Files website contains a variety of podcasts and videos exploring specific topics in psychology using a conversational, interactive tone. There are over 200 different audio or video presentations (most are audio podcasts) covering all major divisions of psychology. The presentations are not geared as lectures, but rather as interesting informational overviews and/or tips to make learning psychology easier (e.g., several presentations on mnemonics).
Learning Goals: As indicated on the website, the main goals are: 1) Discuss current events in the light of psychological theories. 2) Share observations of human behavior and tie them to ideas from psychology. 3) Review recent research in psychology that is of interest to a wide audience. 4) Interview authors and researchers about their work in the field. The author also specifies that the mission of the podcasts is to: 1) Engage listeners in a variety of popular topics concerning human behavior 2) Educate listeners on how science is used to answer intriguing questions 3) Encourage critical thinking.
Target Student Population: The podcasts are appropriate for use in high school, college or introductory graduate psychology courses; in addition, the podcasts are presented in a manner that would be easily understood (and enjoyed) by the general public. Topics are not presented like lectures, but rather provide a bridge between academic and popular psychology.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: None.
Type of Material: Collection of audio and video podcasts. The site also contains links to mobile apps covering issues, topics, concepts and theories in psychology.
Recommended Uses: The podcasts seem most appropriate to provide to students as out-of-class assignments and/or resources. Most podcasts are approximately 20-30 minutes in length; the majority of resources are audio-only (although everything comes with a short text-based description and "teaser"). While some of the activities would be appropriate for in-class use (particularly videos), the materials are designed for effective use on mobile devices; minimal (if any) interaction is required.
Technical Requirements: The site requires consistent online access, a media viewer and speakers. It was reviewed with a PC running Windows 7 on Internet Explorer with no problems. Players are embedded for viewing/listening to podcasts, but speakers are essential (as there do not appear to be transcripts for the presentations).

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4.75 stars
Strengths: a) The content is relevant, engaging and professionally created. There is a wide variety of content that covers the span of psychology sub-disciplines. Each podcast is created as an independent module; as such, no prior knowledge is required and podcasts can be effectively accessed in any order. The presentation style is casual and interesting, yet the basis of every presentation is firmly in academic psychology. b) The site is exhaustive and continuously updated.
Concerns: For some (more technical topics), complementary resources might be required to achieve full understanding.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4.75 stars
Strengths: a) As an out-of-class supplement, the podcasts have incredible potential to engage students to think more critically about psychology. The topics selected are intuitively engaging to both students and the general public. The author goes into detail about each topic/issue, yet is able to simultaneously provide adequate background information to make it understandable and relevant. b) The topic coverage is comprehensive and is organized according to 17 areas of psychology. The coverage and organization would make it easy to embed these resources in psychology courses. c) The author even provides APA format guidance for students who wish to cite episodes from this resource. This is a helpful addition.
Concerns: A very minor concern is that the audio format may not be engaging enough to sustain the attention of some individuals. If the idea is that the student would sit at the computer and listen to the podcasts, we do not believe that would happen. But, we do not believe this is the design intent; when accessed via a mobile device, the podcasts are a wonderful on-the-go audio supplement.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4.5 stars
Strengths: The search feature makes it very easy to find a topic (assuming one knows what one is looking for). In addition, the podcasts are organized by category (most beneficial for instructors seeking supplements for a specific class). When viewing each podcast, there is a written description (teaser), a photo, and a one-click button to listen to the podcast.
Concerns: a) The advertisements on the site could occasionally interfere with one's ability to focus on the written content. b) Users would need a clear idea of what they are looking for to find a specific episode. It is challenging to simply "browse" to find podcasts of interest. c) It would be helpful to have further prompts about how individuals can download a podcast.

Other Issues and Comments: The Psych Files is a very strong site with great potential for supplementing classroom information. The quality of the podcasts is exceptional, and the topic selection is very engaging. The author is actively involved not only with production of resources on the site, but interacts in the discussions/comments as well.