Podcasting

Introduction

"Podcasting" refers to publishing a sound file on the Internet for streaming (broadcasting) or download. The term is a misnomer in that it does not refer specifically to iPods, nor does a user even require a handheld mp3 player to hear the file; these mp3 files can be heard directly on the computer when double-clicked. From the instructor point of view, podcasting could be considered simply making audio files available for download in the highly-compressed mp3 file format. Podcasting is often used as an ancillary to lecture-based courses but may also be employed to great effect to replace handwritten comments on student essays.

How Do I Get Started?

First, you need a microphone for your computer--this does not come standards on most computers. Some plug in with a connector that resembles headphones, others use USB connections. An inexpensive model will work fine (if you have an mp3 player that records, you could buy a microphone for that instead); expect to pay about $20.

Second, you need software to record your voice. While Windows includes some programs that can record short snippets of audio, you will need something more robust and with more features. An open-source ("freeware") program called Audacity can be downloaded off the Internet and it will handle all your recording needs, plus export the sound file in mp3 format. You can find Audacity from Google, or type this URL directly: http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/windows

Installing Audacity

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1. Launch a web browser and visit http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/windows

2. Download the installer to your computer. You may select any "mirror" you want for the download location. Note: if you have a popup blocker enabled on your web-browser or a heightened security setting, you may have to hold down the CTRL button on your keyboard as you click to download, or else the download will be blocked.

3. Once downloaded, double-click the installer to begin. If you had selected to RUN the program rather than save it to your computer, the installer should start on its own. Follow the prompts to install, making sure you select your agreement to the software license.

4. Before running Audacity, return to the URL and click to download the LAME encoder for mp3. Once the LAME zip file is on your computer, unzip it (Windows XP should allow you to right-click the file and select “Extract All”). For simplicity’s sake, unzip the files to the Audacity folder located under Program Files.

5. Launch Audacity. Record a test clip by using the mouse to press the “record” button (with a red circle) and speaking into the microphone. Use the mouse to press the “stop” button (with a square) after a few moments.

6. Click “File” and scroll down to “Export as mp3”. The program should ask you for the location of the LAME encoder. Click browse and locate the file you unzipped earlier. If you've been using these directions step by step, it should be located under C:Program Files/Audacity. Click OK. (You won’t have to locate the LAME encoder each time you export to mp3; just the first time.)

7. The program should now ask you where you’d like to save the mp3 file and what you’d like to name it. Name it “test.mp3” and choose a location that you can remember. The default is again in the Audacity folder.

8. At the moment, the test.mp3 file is encoded with a high bitrate, which is a default used to make music sound good. Since your podcasts will be voice-only, we can make future files much smaller. Click “Edit” and scroll to “preferences.” On the popup, change the tab to “file formats” and locate the “mp3 Export” area near the bottom. Change the pulldown menu to “16 bit” and click OK.

9. Close Audacity. There is no need to re-save the open file; for that matter, as long as you export to mp3 each time, there is never a need to save Audacity “projects” either.

10. Re-open Audacity and record another brand new audio file. Save it by “Export to mp3” and name this file test2.mp3 – you will find that this file takes up considerably less hard drive space. You’re ready to record long podcasts for real!

11. You can use Audacity to edit, crop, and adjust the raw recordings before you export them to mp3, but this is not required. Just ignore the other buttons and leave the defaults where they are if you wish.

There are two very important considerations after you install Audacity:

  • You must download the "LAME encoder" to enable mp3 capability in Audacity.
  • The default settings are set for music; to make file sizes manageable, you should adjust preferences so that the mp3 export bitrate is set to "16".

Podcasting Lectures

Podcasting is most commonly used to record lectures when they are given in the standard face-to-face environment and then offer them for download later on. You may want to contact the Office of Instructional Resources for aid in setting up a lapel microphone to capture the lecture as a .wav file onto your laptop, if you don't already know how to do this. Audacity can be used later to open an existing .wav file and export it as mp3. You will then need server space and server access to upload the mp3 as a file your students can download at will. Some instructors place the mp3s on their Webcourses pages.

Alternately, you can choose to record the entire lecture from the comfort of your home computer, in which case you'd use Audacity to record the .wav file in the first place. While that means duplicating a lecture that had also been given face to face, you have more freedom to compose your thoughts, edit out the mistakes, and are not bothered by audible distractions in the lecture hall.

Capturing both audio and video for broadcast is sometimes called "videocasting" and may become increasingly popular as video-enabled iPods become more prevalent. The file format will no longer be mp3, and you will need to work with OIR more directly on finding a hardware and software solution for videocasting.

Podcasting Feedback/Comments on Student Essays

One exciting possibility for podcasting comes in the form of replacing handwritten essay comments with verbal ones. Students will inevitably hear more feedback in a five-minute podcast than they would via handwritten comments, and the speed with which we speak usually leads to additional fluency in the connections between our comments that is often missing in handwritten comments. Penmanship and handwriting skills will no longer matter, and best of all, as graders we save massive amounts of time. We can provide MORE comments than before, yet spend LESS time doing it.

After recording and exporting an mp3 file for each student, it remains only to deliver the mp3 to the student. While it is possible to upload the mp3 if you have a server space, federal laws require that students not have access to other students' records, and it quickly becomes complicated to restrict access, even within an environment like Webcourses. It is far simpler to email each student and send along the personalized mp3 as an email attachment (note: to be fully compliant with FERPA, you should use the Webcourses email tool rather than your own email program on the open Internet).

Additional Assistance

The Office of Student Involvement offers OSI Podcasts studio, a free-to-use on-campus recording facility open to UCF students, faculty, and staff to record any number of audio productions, including voice-over work, music recordings, and podcasts. Faculty and staff can find more information at https://ucf.collegiatelink.net/organization/OSIPodcasts and apply for time in the studio under the "Forms" tab.

While the Faculty Center cannot host podcasts or provide server space, we are glad to offer assistance with directions and advice in podcasting. We can be reached at 407-823-3544 or fctl@ucf.edu.

 

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