Podcasting at a Big Univeristy and iTunes U Thoughts

Podcasting at Penn State is getting closer and closer … we’ve worked very hard since January to provide an end to end podcasting opportunity that supports both in and out of the classroom activities. In the last few weeks we’ve gotten quite a few pieces of the puzzle figured out … our podium machines are getting Audacity, LAME encoder, and potentially ProfCast (for the Macs). That is in addition to the standard and growing suite of audio tools currently installed in all of our classrooms and labs. Wireless microphones are coming in to support this activity as well. We are launching a call for participation program next week that we hope will get faculty engaged. Both our Faculty Multimedia Center and student centered, Studio 204 are gearing to help get people moving as well. All in all, things are moving fast as we race towards Fall.

In addition to all that, we are getting closer and closer to testing iTunes U here on our campus. With that in mind, I thought I’d jot down some of the major questions I am getting as I am sharing the news with people. I get asked some basic questions from faculty and staff every time I start the iTunes U discussion. We will be maintaining our public podcasting site as a portal to open and free PSU content as well as a big front door to iTunes U on our campus. The big questions I hear going in look something like:

  • Can we have both public and private content in our our single iTunes U implementation? You know, I have heard a couple of different takes on this and am very interested in seeing this in action. There is so much content that we would want open to the public while keeping a bunch of other items closed. We did a very limited pilot this past Spring and there were some serious concerns about posting lecture-based podcasts in the open. The single biggest concern was that the microphone would pick up some sort of private conversation between instructor and student — a real concern. I am hopeful that we can simply designate certain areas open and certain areas private … that would make life much easier.
  • How will iTunes U play with our CMS, ANGEL? For now I am telling people that every space in our iTunes U space can expose a URL that will allow instructors to easily provide a direct link to the space itself. I think for the first few months that is the direction we’ll explore. After we get our ideas straight and really understand how it all works, I am guessing we’ll explore a greater level of integration with ANGEL. Imagine tools in ANGEL that allow instructors to manage much of their iTunes U spaces without jumping around different environments.
  • How easy will it be for faculty to use? I have no idea … I am assuming it is very easy, but time will tell. I’ll be able to report on that soon enough. For now, from what I have seen there will be a small learning curve, but once it is climbed we should be OK. We have amazing adoption of ANGEL on our campus, but that took time. I am expecting that this will take time as well. I doubt we’ll have explosive use of the service without solid programmatic initiatives in specific Colleges and disciplines. In the early going that is what we will focus on — getting specific partners moving and see what we learn from there.
  • What kind of content can be delivered? This to me is the exciting part of the whole thing … instructors can use the space to deliver audio, video, and PDF documents. When I get to that part in my discussions with people I can see light bulbs going on. Once they get the whole subscription model, the next thing they get is that things they want their students to get just show up. If managed correctly, this could have profound effects on efficiencies in the classroom. Imagine not having to worry if your students get their feedback, assignments, or whatever it is you currently push around via email or LMS/CMS? That is a powerful thing … it also gives us the chance to look at how an iTunes U space can be a dynamic syllabus environment.
  • Does it support teams? No idea, but I seriously doubt you can make certain tabs and spaces private to sub-groups within a class. We shall see.

So there’s a quick brain dump to get me back on the blogging bandwagon. I have been off for a week or so … been crazy busy and dealing with some things that have sapped my writing energy. Any thoughts from people out there about these questions or have questions of your own?

5 thoughts on “Podcasting at a Big Univeristy and iTunes U Thoughts

  1. hi cole
    I find your blogs so stimulating. Our humble institution in Manchester (UK) is grappling somewhat further down the ladder, but in our discussions the emphasis is not so much on what teaching staff can deliver to students, but what tools we can give to students to create for themselves. In fact a colleague suggested to me that maybe the essay is dead and blogging (in its broadest, generalised sense), and personal broadcasting will replace the traditional essay format.

    Or if teaching staff are going to podcast, how will it augment what goes on in the classroom? What could students hear/see that suits the medium and adds value?

    I certainly look forward to feedback about iTunes U and podcasting on campus – some dos and donts maybe.

  2. Pete, thanks for the feedback. I keep telling people around me that comments keep you going and is what stimulates bloggers to push to TRY to create interesting content. I’ll be sure to share my iTunes U thoughts as it all unfolds this Fall and further down the line.

    I am very curious about how podcasting and blogging (and other easy personal publishing models) will impact what faculty expect from students. Will they accept digital content as a substitute for the more traditional stuff? I am betting they will — it will take time, but as we as educators and administrators add more opportunities for students to be digital, things will change. I’d like to hear more of your thoughts as your programs evolve as well.

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