Podcasting

What is Podcasting?
  1. A podcast is a media file (such as audio or video files) that is downloadable from the Internet. These can then be played back on a computer or be copied to and played by portable audio/video player (e.g. iPod). Video podcasts are also known as "vodcasts."
  2. A key feature that distinguishes a podcast from other media files that can be downloaded or streamed is the ability for end users to download the podcast automatically using software that reads RSS or Atom feeds.
  3. The term "podcast" is both a noun and a verb. As a noun it refers to the file that is downloaded or streamed; as a verb it refers to the process or method of delivering the file.
Why use Podcasting?
  1. By subscribing to podcast (using an RSS or Atom feed), users do not have to seek out files that are of interest to them. Instead they are received automatically using an aggregator. Users can then listen/watch previously recorded media files at their convenience.
  2. Commonly used in teaching: instructors podcast lectures so that students can listen to/view these as a review, if they missed class, or in distance delivery of a course, as the means by which they obtain information that is podcast. Also guest speakers who cannot come to face-to-face class can be interviewed (in person or via telephone or VOIP service) and the interview shared as podcast.
  3. Personal and professional use: users can subscribe to podcasts on a wide range of topics (such as through iTunes podcasting library). Increasingly articles from professional journals are available as podcasts (e.g. Educause, Phi Delta Kappa's e-Kappan). News organizations provide podcasts of news stories, and TV stations are beginning to podcast TV shows (for purchase by viewers).
  4. Students can create podcasts to demonstrate understanding or for final project (especially valuable in foreign language classes).
Advantages of Podcasting?
  1. The automatic subscription feature of podcasts is a key advantage in ensuring that subscribers receive the latest files without having to go to each site that hosts media files check to see if there have been updates. This is especially helpful when users wish to keep up with multiple sources. e.g. (1) students do not have to check each of their course websites to see if there are any new podcast files; instead, using an aggregator, all podcasts from all classes will automatically be "delivered" to their computers. (2) users can keep up to date with latest podcasts from news and professional organizations.
  2. Flexible learning opportunities: can listen/watch any time.
  3. Do not have to use computer for playback --> can review audio files while driving, walking, biking etc.
  4. Valuable to students to review classes. This is especially an advantage for students who may have had difficulty understanding what was said during the "live" class (e.g. speakers of other languages, students with disabilities). If transcripts of the podcasts are also made available, students can read along and listen at the same time (note: accessibility issue: transcripts must be provided to students with special needs who are unable to listen to the audio files).
  5. Students learn through more than one modality (listen to audio files/watch video on content as well as read course materials)
  6. Audio files can easily & inexpensively be created & uploaded to course website/blog/wiki.
  7. Greatly increases access to classes, lectures, talks (educational, professional and personal) by making these available for download to people who could not attend the session in person (this is especially an advantage to college students who miss lectures).
Disadvantages of Podcasting
  1. Accessibility issues:
    1. Transcripts must be made of files to ensure accessibility (time consuming & costly)
    2. Large file size (especially of video files) requires broadband connection, thus making these files difficult (or even impossible) for users to access if they have slow dial-up connection.
    3. Creators need to ensure that file format is appropriate for all mp3 players (not just on iPods).
Issues & problems with Podcasting
  1. Important for those who share podcasts to consider copyright issues (e.g. when podcasting of a guest lecture, ensure that permission from lecturer is obtained for podcasting the lecture).
  2. The ease of recording talks, lectures, concerts and so on (by people attending them) makes it possible for these sessions to be recorded with or without the knowledge of the person who is speaking/singing and subsequently podcast (or shared through other digital means). This raises issues of copyright.
  3. Although it is relatively quick, easy, and inexpensive to record and podcast a lecture (or other recorded event), editing and creating high quality files can be time consuming.
  4. Instructors wishing to podcast lectures immediately following a class can do so quickly & easily if they podcast the entire class without first editing it, but as soon as they want to edit out parts that are not needed for the podcast (e.g. silent time during class when students are working independently, or during group activities), and if transcripts need to be made for students who cannot hear or are not able to access the podcast, then this becomes a much more complex, time consuming and costly endeavor.
  5. Although podcasts can easily be made available through iTunes, iTunes shares files in a format not accessible to all computers and mp3 players.
Emerging issues and tips regarding Podcasting
  1. It is very important to ensure that podcasts are created in a format that can be played on all mp3 players and not just on iPods.

Resources

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