For your learning pleasure

Public radio provides platform for coursework 

Radio is back in the classroom, but it’s nothing like when kids gathered around the transistor unit to hear news reports of the moon landing or a World Series game.

Capital Public Radio

A new teaching tool, developed by a former professor, is bringing Capital Public Radio to a new audience of Sac State students armed with ear buds and a web connection.

Nick Burnett, emeritus professor of communication studies, tapped the station’s archives and recent stories—on topics from psychology to business to environmental science—as the source material for his Capital Public Radio Curriculum.

The idea originally sprouted from newspaper-in-the-classroom programs in which teachers and professors would assign students to read an article in the newspaper and give a response, offer a critique or begin a discussion.

“The bigger newspapers actually employed people who would develop curricula so that the newspapers could be used in the classroom,” says Burnett. “In the past, I had used stories from Capital Public Radio in my classes. I thought, ‘Wow, this would be a great way to get a new generation of students to listen to Capital Public Radio,’ which is a remarkable resource. So it really came down to finding a way to package it to make it accessible to students.”

The format for Capital Public Radio Curriculum is simple: Students log onto the website (, select the assigned module, listen to the story and respond to the attached prompts.

The straightforward, online format allows students and professors flexibility. Public radio’s news coverage is more thorough and analytical than the one- or two-minute snippets common on other radio stations.

“I imagined them as really good replacement classes for when the professor is away at a conference, or is sick, or wants to provide an extra-credit assignment,” Burnett says.

The program launched in the fall on a limited basis and buzz began to build. There are more than 80 modules in the program now and Burnett is working with professors around campus to find and develop new material.

“I’m stepping outside of my comfort zone of a well-prepared lecture, but this seemed very natural and quite logical,” says Jackie Donath, professor of humanities and religious studies. “He’s developed study questions that really help students analyze what they hear. The fact that there are current news stories demonstrates relevance to what they’re studying in class.”

     “It's a no-lose proposition.

      It's a great thing for Capital

      Public Radio and for Sac State.”

           —Rick Eytcheson  

Capital Public Radio operates under the license held by Sacramento State and is funded primarily by its listeners. The station produces award-winning local content and airs National Public Radio’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered, which provide much of the material for Capital Public Radio Curriculum.

“We’re just thrilled that Nick came up with this idea,” says Rick Eytcheson, president and CEO of Capital Public Radio. “It’s a no-lose proposition. It’s a great thing for Capital Public Radio and for Sac State.”

The program has great potential to expand to community colleges, high schools and other university campuses.

“I like that it’s not just passive listening,” Eytcheson adds. “This can help get young people interested in NPR and once they’re exposed, hopefully they’ll develop a passion for it.”

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