Is More Better?

I have been tossing around in my head some podcasting stuff the last week or so … People on campus keeping asking us to take part in our Fall podcasting pilot. I really like that podcasting has captured the imagination of our faculty and staff, but I am still feeling like there is so much more to all this. Administrators’ first question is always, “what classrooms can faculty podcast from?” The answer is obviously all of them — but the answer they are looking for is the number of classrooms we have rigged with wireless microphones, recording software, and easy capture from the podium — that number is much lower then all. You don’t need all that gear to podcast from a classroom — especially if you are doing something other than simply recording a lecture. The first question thoughtful instructional designers and technologists on campus ask is, “so what are the interesting things being done with podcasting?” That is the better question.

I have been shocked at the polar opposite approaches many faculty are taking with this opportunity … some faculty are just recording their lectures while others are doing stuff in between classes to create new learning opportunities. Guess what I think is the good stuff? As more faculty come on board it is our responsibility to pull out the novel and effective uses of the technology to share with them. Our pilot will yield some good stories (there are too many to share here in this post) for us to tell. To tell you the truth, at the start of the Spring semester I am hoping we are thinking beyond simply reporting the number of faculty in pilots, the number of classrooms wired up, and the number of lectures captured. I want to be talking about the impact, the students’ reactions, and stories of faculty doing things they hadn’t done in the past.

Kansas State recently decided they were going to launch the world’s largest podcasting initiative. They are claiming to podcast 6,000 lectures by converting older lecture recordings into enhanced podcasts … while it is ambitious, it seems to be an attempt to simply be number 1 through brute force. I think providing access to course lectures is a good thing, but getting everyone engaged may be a better approach. I have no idea if K State is doing that … the press release focuses on numbers and partnerships with corporations.

I am not saying we are doing it better at PSU … we will not have numbers like that for quite some time — even with a huge student and faculty population. We recently started a faculty podcasting user group and turned it over to faculty — sure we’ll be in the back of the room but it is up to them to organize agendas, invitations, and to make it happen. We see the faculty as the primary driver of adoption and diffusion of innovation in our environment so why not tap into their interest and energy? Sure, K State can say they are the biggest but I am taking a different view of this — let’s sit back, study it, and see what interesting opportunities emerge. One of my primary goals is to create partnerships that are meaningful for the long term — working with faculty to review what has been done and to dream up where we go from here is a first step towards a trusted relationship.

Sorry for the long and winding Sunday morning post — Max was up quite a bit last night and my mind is spinning. It clearly isn’t spinning perfectly as I am not sure this post hits a mark or is just a mess of rambling thoughts. At any rate, you might get the point and I’d like to know about your approaches.

5 thoughts on “Is More Better?

  1. Sorry to be so slow on the uptake with this post. Catching-up after the 3-Day has been a challenge. I’m from Texas, so I get the whole “bigger/more is better” deal. With that said, I appreciate the focus on how podcasting is being used v. how many lectures are available or classrooms are equipped. Seems to me that the central question with instructional technologies, including podcasting, needs to be how students’ learning can be enhanced. What’s the value added from the standpoint of the educational experience? That kind of question necessarily requires attention to pedagogical considerations. As with other kinds of multimedia development, placing students in the role of producers of content has the potential to be a powerful learning opportunity. I know there are others who share this perspective. Hopefully we will have some solid examples to share soon. Thanks for plugging WPDS in Happy Valley.

  2. I have been slow on the uptake getting to Penn State’s iTunes U, because since this past May I have been strictly Linux on my personal computers. After some struggling, I finally got Vista RC1 installed under VMWare so that I can install iTunes.


    All I can say is, I went through all that for this?? I think you have more content on Is it just because I am a World Campus student that I see VERY little content outside of your 4 podcasts from last springs IST? (Which I listened to last month by the way and I enjoyed the audio.)

    Where is all the content this excited faculty and staff are creating?

  3. A majority of the content at Penn State on iTunes U is private — restricted to class lists. At the moment there are about 45 sections on iTunes in the pilot … by default they are set to restrict to students enrolled in the classes. Will that change? The big picture is that we hope so. Faculty are coming around to the idea of opening the door to their classes beyond registered students. The site is completely open — at the moment that is a decision point for faculty … do they want it open? If so we work them into … if they demand private they go to iTunes U. We will be expanding the pilot to more faculty in the Spring and will be talking with most of the existing pilot faculty about allowing us to sue it as public content.

    Here’s a question for you … do you want to start a podcast? Or at least take part in one? I’d be interested in seeing how we could work together on something interesting.

  4. Cole,
    I’m associate professor of HVAC at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology down in Lancaster PA. I’m trying to get into this podcasting thing as a way to extend the classroom so students as well as other interested parties can learn more in our specific trade of HVAC. Do any of your technical programs at Penn Tech do anything with podcasting? Our administration is very interested in getting faculty more involve in the e-learning so they would support this kind of activity. Just trying to get more information on what works best.

  5. Why don’t you email me and we can start the conversation. U have taught Information Sciences and Technology courses at PSU for six years or so and I have been podcasting lectures for the last couple of semesters. Currently there are a handful of other faculty getting into the game. Again, email me off blog at cole at psu dot edu and we’ll talk further.

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