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Higher Education Podcasting

enhanced podcasts, iTunes U, and higher ed

I just completed my first enhanced podcast using PowerPoint, ProfCast, and the internal mic on my laptop. I haven’t included it here for two reasons.

  1. The quality of the internal mic is ok but not great
  2. The podcast is for a first-year course introducing students to the concept of culture…not all that interesting for you guys.

But I do have a few observations (which those of you who have done this probably already know).

  1. ProfCast is not going to pick up any animations or slide transitions in your PowerPoint presentation, so don’t bother with any of those.
  2. In iTunes or on an iPod your slides will not really be legible (in iTunes you can get a larger image of the slides but you can’t follow along with the presentation that way…i.e., the slides won’t shift). You can watch an MP-4 file in QuickTime, which is how it would work if it were embedded on a web page. The point is that if you are making enhanced podcasts primarily for use on a iPod, you should recognize that the slides will really only function to help a user identify the various chapters of your presentation.
  3. I converted the .m4b file (which is the variety of Mpeg-4 ProfCast produces for an enhanced podcast) to an .mp4 video file. This format can be watched as a video on the video iPod, which means that your slides will be legible. However, there are some significant drawbacks. First, you lose the chaptering feature of the enhanced podcast. Second, the file size is quite larger. Mine went from 9.9 MB to 35.9 MB, so more than 3.5 times the size (it may be possible to compress it further; I haven’t played around with that). It is important to note that for viewing on a web site there’s no difference between the two; both play in QuickTime. The only reason to convert to MP4 video, at least for me, is to make it playable on the iPod video. However, for me that’s a key point as we will be requiring our students to purchase such devices for our learning community next semester. That said, it is possible that I will have to generate two feeds.
  4. This is easy to do. It is not atypical for students to be required to make PowerPoint presentations in a class. If a student can create a PowerPoint, than he or she can create an enhanced podcast. The few extra steps of recording the presentation and uploading (which can be done in ProfCast or Garage Band 3) are not difficult.

The makers of ProfCast contend that students primary interests in enhanced podcasts are listed in this order:

  1. Good audio
  2. Visual representation (a thumbnail to aid in navigating between chapters)
  3. Full slide representation
  4. Animated slides
  5. Video

ProfCast manages to do the first three (though full slide representation doesn’t really come through in the way these files playback in iTunes or on an iPod). I suppose I can accept this claim (it conveniently supports the features of their product). And I am quite interested in how students view this technology and how they might use it. However, I also recognize other priorities (like my own).

Students, like many others, may imagine this technology in connection with coursecasting. In that sense, these priorities make sense. The coursecast is really just a supplement (that word always gives me the Derridean twitches) to the "real" lecture given in the class. The point is that students are supposed to go to the lectures and then use the coursecast as notes.

But I am more interested in these technologies as a primary mode of communication. Sure I might record some classes, just to try that, but I also want to produce materials for use in online and hybrid course contexts. In those contexts, a more immersive media experience might be important. I know watching the video of my podcast on my iPod was more engaging than just listening to it with the slides not really providing a strong visual message.

Of course, if I am going to create video, then I might do it in a more full-on way (i.e., I could get out my video camera at least). True enough. But then I am getting into a whole new level of production labor. Here I can easily make slides, record a lecture, produce an enhanced podcast, and then convert it to video.

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4 replies on “enhanced podcasts, iTunes U, and higher ed”

This is really helpful. I’m very interested in Profcast, but a bit bewildered because podcasting is new for me (I know html, and use alot of blogging in my classes, but podcasting is new to me). If you could give a quic reply to this I would appreciate it: in what format can files made in profcast be saved to a webpage or a blog or a server, if you want them to be seen as quicktime? Does profcast allow saving as quicktime? Thanks.

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Great insight. I am trying to tell people that there is no way to make your enhanced podcast full screen on a video iPod. You can change the mode to show just the images – but it will not display them full screen – it scales them to fit in a square box. I have found that by setting up your PowerPoint to square dimensions you can maximize the amount of space your slides takes up, but it is still very small. Pictures are fine, but slides with lots of text are not going to be of value. BTW – ProfCast creates m4b files. You can export to GarageBand and then save as a movie.

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A Discovery and a Question:
Regarding viewing photo images full time during an enhanced podcast rather than having to press the center button every time they drop back to thumbnails…. if just after pressing to get to the full image you press the menu portion of the scroll wheel (12 o’clock position) prior to the full image completely occupying the screen, the image will drop to the text menu momentarily then return to the image at full size and stay there UNTIL you use the center button to change back to thumbnail view. This may take a few tries to get the hang of it. While in full picture mode, you will be able to move chapter positions and adjust volume with the scroll wheel, but those settings will not be visible. This is a fortunate hack that I discovered after searching the web the other day.
A QUESTION I have is are there any Windows programs that will create an enhanced podcast or allow conversion of a Powerpoint presentation to enhanced podcast in a pure Windows environment? Please email me in addition to posting. Thanks.

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Thanks for the tip Mark. I’ll pass that along to my students. Unfortunately I don’t know of any Windows program that allows you to create enhanced podcasts. If I do find out about one I’ll be sure to blog about it though.

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