1. Benefits of podcasting in education
  2. Educational uses for podcasting
    1. 1.  Capturing full lectures
    2. 2.  Student capturing for media-rich assignments
    3. 3.  Capturing shorter segments or episodic podcasts.
  3. Getting started
    1. Planning and preparing to produce your podcast
    2. Audio podcasting
    3. Enhanced audio podcasting
    4. Video podcasting
    5. Making your podcasts available to students
  4. Will podcasting affect student attendance?
  5. Resources

Students seem to always be hooked up to an iPod or other audio player these days, listening to their favourite podcasts or music. Transforming this activity of entertainment to one of education can be an effective means of engaging students.

  • Podcasts are a medium for communication and a new, enhanced means of expressing information. They can come in an audio only, video, or in enhanced audio formats.
  • A podcast is typically made up of a series of episodes and is usually not just a single audio or video recording. Rather a podcast is made of regularly updated, multiple audio or video recordings.  We have included one-off video and audio recordings in this guide to address the need to share video and audio with your students that may have educational benefits.
  • Please note that you do not need to have an iPod to listen to podcasts – they can be played on any computer or portable media device.
  • The best podcasts are frequently or regularly updated, have fair to good production values, and are most importantly, interesting and establish a connection with your intended audience

Benefits of podcasting in education

  • Extending the learning experience for flexibility and mobility. Meeting students where they are (on their iPod or other mp3 player, on the computer outside of class) can increase engagement and deepen student learning.  Also beneficial for distance education classes.
  • Accessibility to unique needs. Podcasting lectures allow them to be available for review to assist students with different learning styles, international students with language barriers, and some types of learning disabilities.
  • Increasing understanding of course content. Students have the opportunity to review and revisit specific sections of lectures that they struggled with in class, which may lead to better learning of course materials.
  • Increased absorption and engagement in classroom activities. Liberated from the need to intensely record notes as the lecturer speaks, students are free to listen more intently and/or participate actively in class, with the option to review the podcast for detailed notes later.
  • Accessibility to those with valid reasons for absences. For those students who are absent due to valid reasons, the availability of podcasts ensures they are able to take their own notes from the lecture – which may be more accurate and effective than those they borrow from another student.
  • Ability to have guest lectures or supplemental audio content. Open copyright audio interviews and content can easily be appended to a lecture podcast or made into a separate episode.  Likewise, phone or in-person interviews with guest lecturers can be recorded and made available to students in podcast format.

Educational uses for podcasting

1.  Capturing full lectures

There are a number of interesting benefits to capturing and publishing full lectures.  A recent study done by the University of South Australia observed that students who did not speak english as their native language used podcasts more frequently than their english speaking classmates.  They appreciated being able to listen to lectures and pause them as needed to comprehend the material or look up the meaning of certain words.  Without this technology, important lecture content could be lost to them due to a professor who speaks too quickly for the student to understand or from the use of an uncommon word.

2.  Student capturing for media-rich assignments

With many unique benefits, projects led by students can take the form of study aids for their classmates, presentations of their final papers, or weekly “teasers” of information for the class to stimulate in-class discussions.

Looking at several published assignments online, we have put together a Top 10 list of recommendations for a possible launch of your own podcasting assignment for students.

1. What is a podcast? Educate them well and give lots of resources. Despite the fact that many students subscribe to podcasts and have some familiarity with the application, there will be those students who are hesitant to take on a podcasting learning curve. Ensure that you devote some class time to educating them clearly about how to create podcasts, as well as access to the necessary equipment to create them. If students have to use their own computers to create the podcasts, make sure to clearly outline the software and equipment they will need to do so. There are plenty of free and effective guides written by instructors online, we have included excellent ones under ‘Further Reading’ as great starting points.

2. Protect their privacy. In the event that you wish to share the student podcasts via ITunes or any other podcasting website, you will need to have students sign a consent form to abide by the Ontario Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) upheld by Carleton University. Consent forms are available on their website, but you may also wish to communicate with the Carleton representative to ensure your project covers all grounds.

3. Keep it simple, but leave room for complexity. Lengths of the assignments we found online ranged from four to 15 minutes. While you need to be careful to make it seem as non-intimidating as possible for students, there may be a few students who will engage wholeheartedly with the assignment and may wish to take it a step further. Leave room for such students, allowing them to create enhanced (using still images) or video podcasts, and consider having a higher end of length requirement of podcasts. Thus while a podcast can be as short as four minutes, consider instituting a range of 4-6 minutes, or 10-15.

4. Make subjects for podcasts accessible and connected. You can give them a list of topics relevant to the course, or even make the podcasts relevant to a major paper they will hand in for the course, in lieu of in-class presentations. Since the students will be tackling the creative and technical aspects of the medium, it will make it easier if they have clear choices for topics. They will be able to focus on the clarity and effectiveness of the information knowing they have a solid foundation for what material to cover.

5. Balance criteria for grading between information and delivery. While may have clearly outlined to students criteria for what you consider an effective podcast for the medium itself, it is important to also balance this in your criteria with the quality of the writing of the podcast script in terms of the accuracy and clarity of the information presented about the topic. See the accompanying sample rubric for an example of how to set up an effective grading scheme for podcasts.

6. Get feedback. Continually prompt students to give feedback about the process of creating podcasts. Did they feel that your initial instructions were clear? Did they struggle with any steps you could refine for future assignments? Consider this project as a learning experience for both yourself and the students as you can use their suggestions to improve and refine the process for future assignments.

7. Supporting research: Make it accountable. Have students submit an accompanying bibliography which details the sources of the information relayed in the podcast. This may depend on the type of content you have requested for podcasts; in some cases you may have emphasized the need for personal expressive opinion on a common course reading. In any case, having a bibliography to demonstrate influences and inspirations from written sources which allow you to understand what level of research students have taken in their project.

8. Support the planning process. Help students in their development of the podcast by defining clear stages in project development. Clearly define for your students the different steps in creating a podcast to help them in their planning and productivity – this should go a long way to preventing any procrastination panic with an unfamiliar medium.

9. Making it public: Publish podcasts. A true podcast is one which broadcasts to the wider internet public, hosted on iTunes or other podcast sharing websites. You can decide between making publishing mandatory or optional, but consider the means of sharing the podcasts with other students in the class for peer-review, learning, or studying purposes. A recommended means of doing this is to host the completed podcasts on a course webpage which can be linked into ITunes for a more public audience. Make sure that you outline and enforce podcast copyright rules to your students (for audio and video clips), and review their content for adherence to these rules before opening up the podcast for publishing.

10. Have fun with it! Taking on this assignment will be a learning experience for both the instructor and the students. Engage students with exciting examples of existing podcasts, different techniques of capturing listening attention and entertaining their audience, and ensure to create an atmosphere of support and the encouragement of creativity. This will go a long way towards an effective and transformative learning process.

Considering a sample rubric might help you in your course planning.  See this rubric for the Balcatta Senior High School project.

3.  Capturing shorter segments or episodic podcasts.

Shorter podcast episodes have many possible uses, including:

  • Audio or video supplementing assigned readings can be listened to before class (and after they have done the readings) to help stimulate and prepare students for in-class discussion.
  • Audio or video in language learning can be developed to supplement learning in between classes and/or provide opportunities to hear pronunciation of important phrases they’re learning.
  • Episodes performed by the instructor can take the form of a kind of audio-blog discussing research, course news, and student contributions.
  • Episodes performed by single students or student groups can be study-aids for the course material, presentations of their final papers, or weekly “teasers” of information for the class to stimulate in-class discussions.
  • Episodes can include “extra voices” such as Creative Commons audio lectures found online, invited guest lecturer interviews (in person or on the phone), or student interviewing projects on a given topic.

Getting started

An audio podcast is the most common and basic form of podcasting, it consists of only an audio track. Enhanced podcasts take this a step further by syncing the audio track with images. This allows the creator to talk over images that can be viewed by the listener as they are hearing the podcast. A great use for an enhanced podcast would be to embed PowerPoint slides so that students can listen to the lecture while being able to see what slides are referred to. A video podcast, also known as a ‘vodcast’, is both recorded video and audio; this can take the form of anything from recording a professor giving a lecture or speech to making an annotated screen-capture of your computer to better illustrate a concept.

Planning and preparing to produce your podcast

Providing structure is important. Think of radio programs, sitcoms, and movies. For the most part they follow a well-defined structure. The structure allows listeners to connect and to establish a rapport with the radio program or television show. If you regularly listen to the radio in the morning, you are probably consciously aware that the morning shows seem similar from day to day (news at the top of the hour, followed by commercials, followed by some commentary, followed music etc). This structure is repeated everyday, but we as listeners generally don’t get tired of it because the structure provides all kinds of freedom because the content is interesting, informative or/and entertaining.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What makes your podcast interesting?
  • Who is your audience?
  • Why will people listen?
  • How often can you record new episode? And how much time can you dedicate to your podcast?

It can be helpful to think of your podcast as a production.  Before you can produce your podcast it’s a good idea to have your material at the very least partially planned. Rambling podcasts are not usually particularly interesting or informative. Depending on your speaking ability, you may just need a few speaking points on a cue card, or you may need extensive notes or even substantial background research before you start you actually start recording.

Find a quiet space to record in: it could be your office with the door closed (turn off your telephone), a bathroom (the acoustics are quite good!) or some other space. It should be comfortable and quiet.

Practice makes perfect…Speaking to microphone can initially feel awkward and weird. Have some fun before you actually start record your real podcast. Get used to the recording software you choose. Record yourself singing, make funny noises, and try to get comfortable. Listen to your voice; try to get used to its sound; it will sound different from what you are used to. This can be disconcerting to many new podcasters. Podcasting is NOT a presentation. What you are trying to do is to establish a rapport with your listeners. Imagine speaking directly to a student in your office, a colleague, a friend or a family member.

Audio podcasting

Equipment:  Producing audio podcasts requires little more than some basic software and a microphone. An external microphone works best, however a built in mic can also be used.

Software:

  • On a PC – Using a free program called Audacity, one can create recordings, edit audio tracks and produce them to an  mp3 file with very little audio editing knowledge.
  • On a Mac – Using a Mac to create audio podcasts is fairly easy due to the software in the iLife suite that comes with the computer. The GarageBand application provides an easy way to record and edit audio tracks as well as sync the audio with added images for the enhanced podcasts. The program is very easy to use and requires little technical skill. Audacity is also available for Mac.

Enhanced audio podcasting

Equipment: Requires the same equipment as audio podcasting, but also requires that you have available the artwork, text, or images you would like to embed into the podcast.

Software:

  • On a PC – Tools for enhanced podcasting are more difficult to locate for PCs.  The best software for this use ProfCast or Camtasia, but both require purchase for use.
  • On a Mac – Enhanced podcasting on a Mac can be done using the built-in free GarageBand application, ProfCast, or Apple’s free ChapterToolMe.

Video podcasting

Equipment: Video capture is easy with new affordable personal camcorders such as the Flip camera or can be done at the computer using a built-in or external webcam. If you are using a webcam you can use the free software Windows Movie Maker on your PC or iMovie on MAC to capture video.

Software:

  • Free online video editors include Google Video Editor and Jaycut.com.
  • On your desktop we recommend the Windows Movie Maker (PC) or iMovie (Mac), while some great paid tools are Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere Pro.

Screen capture: You can easily capture your screen in a video to do voice over tutorials demonstrating to students how to use a certain online or software tool. Free screen capture programs include Camstudio.org and Screentoaster.com. Recommended paid tools are Adobe Captivate, Camtasia, or the MAC only program Screenflow.

Online video conferencing: Free tools such as Skype and BigBlueButton can allow you to set up video chat sessions where you can demonstrate with video live to students and even hold online guest lecturer sessions where students can ask questions and interact with guests virtually. In the case of Skype and upcoming from BigBlueButton, these sessions could be recorded and shared with students as standalone files or as incorporated into other videos.

For more advanced information about using video in your course, please see our video editing resources page.

Making your podcasts available to students

Brightspace is not an ideal place to place your podcast files if they are large sized files or if you have multiple episodes that would require a lot of space.  There are several ways to produce your podcast files.  We will provide an overview of a few recommendations but we advise you to contact us for more detailed, custom, one-on-one help with this process.

To share audio, enhanced audio and video with students as a syndicated feed via RSS:

1.  Compress audio files to .mp3 or other small file format. For video files as part of a video podcast, a great format to go with is .mov.

  • If you are using Audacity to record your podcast or file, you must download the LAME .mp3 encoder to convert the files to .mp3.

2.  Upload your files to a hosting site or server and link these files to an RSS feed.

What is an RSS feed?  RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication.” It is the web’s way of setting things up so that regularly-updated content that you want to keep up with comes to you instead of you going out to look for it. It is effectively a kind of “news feed” that you can subscribe to in a feed reader or aggregator. For podcasts, feed ‘readers’ are nicknamed podcatchers, the most popular one being iTunes. Subscribers can listen to podcasts in the feed using iTunes or another podcatcher on their computer, or can plug in their media player (such as an iPod) and download new episodes to it.

Find a host site and get an RSS feed:

  • The Internet Archive offers free hosting and bandwidth for podcasts and also creates an RSS feed for them.
  • The blog host Blogger can be used to create a more personalized RSS feed from your Internet Archive stored audio files. It allows you to link to each audio file in a post about that episode where you can write “show notes” – episode summaries or weblinks to references that you may have mentioned in the podcast.
  • An easy, effective way to set up a podcast is to purchase your own URL, secure hosting for that URL with space for audio or video files, and install the simple blog platform WordPress.org with the plugin Podpress. Basically you create blog posts that contain the episode’s “show notes” and title. Using the plugin you link the .mp3 or video file to each post. Podpress allows you to easily view episode downloads and sets up a podcast-enabled RSS feed which you can use as is.

3.  Share this RSS feed with your students and explain how to subscribe.

Individual video files:

To broadcast videos to students, consider using free online tools such as YouTube or Vimeo to upload your videos. You can embed these videos directly into your Brightspace course easily. If you wish to directly embed video files into your Brightspace site and the video is over five minutes in length, please contact us for assistance.

Will podcasting affect student attendance?

This is a very complex and nuanced issue. While podcasts are intended as learning aids to supplement in-person lectures so that students can re-visit things they did not understand or review for examinations, they are also convenient for those students who missed the lecture,  whether for legitimate or illegitimate reasons.

While in some cases attendance has been seen to decrease, there are a number of studies demonstrating the contrary. Both Duke University’s infamous iPod experience and University of Washington’s studies revealed a negligible effect on attendance with the introduction of podcasting. The same thing was also found at the University of Texas-Austin.

Ways to prevent or mediate effects on attendance:

  • Make attendance mandatory and/or grade in-class participation
  • Increase opportunities for valuable discussion and interactivity in the classroom
  • In the case of audio-only lecture podcasting, the fact that students will miss out on the contextual visuals of PowerPoint and the ability to hear student questions may motivate them to attend the lectures and use the podcasts only as a supplement.

Resources

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