iTunes U Follow Up: An Answered Question

The other day I posted some thoughts about where we are heading with both our podcasting and the iTunes U projects here at Penn State University. I haven’t gotten comments (other than 1), but I have gotten some email from people asking more about some stuff. One of the items we immediately set out to answer was the private and public content in the same iTunes U instance … we discovered that thankfully you can do both from one space!

As an example, if you jump over to Duke University’s School of Business you’ll see something interesting … when you click the link to launch iTunes U you’ll notice you come into the site a couple of steps down the breadtrail. If you try to follow the breadtrail back out to the “main” Duke iTunes U space you are kicked back out the web to authenticate with your Duke credentials. That is very cool. It makes our lives on campus so much easier — we get to run one instance and expose some materials we’d really like to share widely without putting our private content into the wrong hands. So, there is one question answered.

Duke iTunes U

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?

Interesting Comments

On Wednesday I was asked to present a breakout session for my unit’s all staff meeting on podcasting and iTunes U. I did the typical thing, but very quickly as I only had 20 minutes. Again, I should have recorded it, but I blew it again. One of the things I discussed was the choice of supporting Audacity on podium machines for faculty podcasting during class. Yes, there are better tools to create podcasts with, but Audacity is a cross platform solution. One of the things that struck me were the comments by one person after the session that there were so many better solutions on the Mac. I told him I understood, but he insisted that we were cheating faculty by pushing Audacity. I hate to say it, but I sort of agree … unfortunately, the reality of our situation is that only about 75 of the hundreds of podiums on our campus have Macs in them. Maybe in the next couple of years I can rely on more Macs and push some of the best software out there … between GarageBand and ProfCast there is so much we could be doing. All of our Macs do have GarageBand installed.

I imagine over time we’ll develop more instructional material to support all these tools. We are collecting a list of all the software pre-installed on the podium Macs and PCs and will begin creating instructions on how to use them all. Until then, we’ll train on Audacity because it can serve the masses.

Looking at ProfCast … Again

Several months ago I spent some time with ProfCast … really looking at it through the podium podcasting lenses of the current podcast project we have underway here at Penn State.  I recently decided I was doing both the app and the project a disservice by not taking a closer look at the features.  The first time around I was put off by the apps inability to easily edit the captured event.  I was also a little frustrated by the preferences and publishing options … they seemed a little overwhelming for novice users.  This time around I found something much different.

Last week I gave two talks at the Penn State Web 2006 Conference … one on podcasting (where I gave ProfCast some major thumbs up with the collected audience) and the other on Web 2.0 in the Higher Education Landscape.  Prior to going live, I actually used ProfCast as a practice tool.  It was so easy to use … I just dragged my Keynote file onto the ProfCast screen and everything happened from there.  It was even smart enough to do a nifty little overlay (ala, growl notifications) when I stopped my presentation to ask if I was done, or if it should pause.  Very cool and a very important capability.  The enhanced podcasts it produced are first rate … slide transitions are managed well as I use lots of builds to illustrate processes in my talks.  It was effortless.


I would have used ProfCast during the talks, but the rooms were big and I was getting feedback from wearing two mics.  Too bad, but I will be using it to release a podcast soon … maybe even revisit the Podcasting talk to release on the Podcasts at Penn State site.

I am still a little put off by the publishing options … it is still a little much for faculty member to figure out in the 30 seconds they have to wrap up in a classroom and get out.  Maybe a simple publishing mode that could be set by an administer that would publish to a default location (or set of locations like a default podcasting serivce, iTunes U, and locally)?  I did like the edit in GarageBand feature — a good lecture during an hour class should only really have 30 minutes or so of podcastable material, the rest should be “dead air” as students engage in conversation or activity.  Editing this out is critical.  That is another killer feature … I wish it could be pushed to Audacity as well, but that is a format issue.

All in all, this is an application to keep a very close eye on as a classroom podcasting solution.  I hate to say it, but if this were cross platform we’d probably be jumping all over it.  Who knows, it may show up in our classrooms as part of a podcasting suite.  To the makers of ProfCast, nice work!  Talk to us and let us provide some feedback to make it the podcasting toolset.  Has anyone else used ProfCast and have thoughts to share?

How Long …

We’ve been waiting on a new voice recording solution for the 5G iPod for a long time … way too long of a time as a matter of fact. I’ve seen demo solutions … there’s the Belkin TuneTalk, the Griffin iTalk Pro, and the XtremeMac MicroMemo — all of these look great and take advantage of the iPods new, higher quality recording capabilities. I am just very frutrated that we are looking at a situation where I can’t get my hands on these things. Am I missing something here, or is this taking way too long?

As we are getting set to roll out not only a podcasting service at the University, but a call for participation that will help faculty and students create content I would really like to be able to give them this solution. But, I can’t. I am starting to get proposals from faculty wanting to do this stuff, but there isn’t a viable solution … or is there?

When I had my “old” iPod I could slap my iTalk on the top and it was good enough for basic conversations … as a matter of fact I used it for all sorts of things — meetings, phone calls, and even an interview here and there. I am just ready for a new solution as I am searching high and low for something to put in the hands of my customers. As I am preparing to travel yet again, the thought of packing recording gear just in case I decide to podcast seems like a real pain … I mean, they even look cool:


Podcasting Scenarios

As we are moving closer and closer to full blown podcasting service here at PSU, I have been working up some scenarios to help us talk to faculty and students about podcasting.  What I am interested in doing is getting people turned on to podcasting by creating contextual references to podcasting opportunities.  While I think it will be helpful, what I am hoping for are some novel uses of podcasting to turn people on.  So far all I really have are fairly common examples to share:

  • Podium Podcasting: Providing the right tools for faculty right from the podium in a technology-supported classroom.  In our environment this means having the right tools in place in all podiums — software, wireless microphones, support, and easy content storage/distribution.  Actually this sounds difficult, but given the way Penn State manages classrooms it can be straightforward.
  • Faculty Podcasting: I’d really like to provide faculty with the ability to check out a physical kit to support their out of classroom podcasting efforts.  What I’d like even more is to provide them with a bundle from our Computer Store to purchase the right stuff to do it on their own.  We have a Faculty Multimedia Center here in ETS that can provide the hands-on training, so this is a good option as well.  Honestly, I like this model of podcasting much more than podium podcasting.
  • Activity Podcasting: This is what I am calling the opportunities where students get in the mix.  We have a group here in ETS that runs Studio 204, a student studio where they can go and get help with audio and video development.  More interestingly is the option of faculty coming in and working with the instructional design staff on pedagogical innovations in this space.

All of these are built more around a consulting model — one where faculty want to learn and do things themselves … that is also a much more scalable approach to this challenge.  Are there other scenarios that might interest faculty?  Some that impacts their research?  Outreach activities?  There has to be more.

When is a Blog not a Blog?

I was having a conversation with a colleague of mine last night about the PSU Blog project and we started to consider a strange concept — not branding it a blog service at all. I have recently been talking to people about the notion that more and more students are showing up on campus with personal blogs and are not making the jump out of that space and into University-provided environments. It got us thinking about what a blog really is under the surface … a personal content management system.

Fast forward to this morning and I had the opportunity to sit down with Glenn Johnson from the Dutton eEducation Institute to talk about ePortfolios with a group from Elmira College. Glenn is Penn State’s project manager for our ePortfolio project. You can see some of his work by visiting the Institute’s ePortfolio research site. Glenn showed us some of his data (1, 2) that showed how students are actually beginning to use the 1 GB of space the Univeristy allots us for academic work.

Why do I bring this up? In my mind the power behind common blogging tools can/should/will empower students to store and manage their portfolios. Should they have to care about html and web design? I guess if they want to, but in my mind once you get over the html stuff a personal content management system (like WordPress or MT) is the key to tracking and exposing their intellectual development. All of my notebooks from undergrad were lost in a flooded garage … all my work from grad school is locked in Zip disks labeled “stuff” … how do I take a look back? I have been blogging for several years now and have the unique ability to look back and see where I have been to help inform where I am going. I wish I had access to my thinking from 10-15 years ago.

So, when is a blog not a blog? When you brand it as a personal content management system. Think of the power then … you want to blog, publish, take notes, turn in papers, or do anything in an e-model? The personal content managent system can do it and it can do it so it is stored, managed, searchable, accessible, and easy. There is more to come in this space as I explore what it would mean to pitch this idea this way … anyone have thoughts?

I Thought There Would Be More …

Hmm … maybe it is true. Maybe only 2-3 people actually show up here. Maybe it is a tired question … I don’t know. I thought I’d get more response to the question about blogging at a big University. I thought more edu-bloggers would have something novel to say to help move the thinking forward. Chris dropped the social notion on me, but I am looking for more insight before the next big PSU Blogger meeting. Any help?