[This is a guest post by Chuck Tryon, an assistant professor of English at Fayetteville State University, where he teaches first-year writing, business writing, and media studies courses. He is the author of Reinventing Cinema: Movies in the Age of Media Convergence and the forthcoming On-Demand Culture: Digital Delivery and the Future of Movies. He also blogs at The Chutry Experiment and tweets under the handle @chutry.--@JBJ]
This fall, I will be teaching an online course for the first time. Engaging in online instruction after years of classroom teaching presented a number of challenges. In particular, I hoped to make what seemed like an impersonal, alienating experience more appealing. To that end, I decided to incorporate weekly podcast lectures that students could follow while reading and completing the course assignments. The use of podcasts in educational settings is far from new—George Williams discussed strategies for uploading podcasts over a year ago—but the solution he suggested initially did not show up on my frantic, last-minute (and late-night) Google searches.
What I did find, after several panicked phone calls to my wife, ended up fitting my workflow rather well. After attempting—and failing, repeatedly—to upload a podcast using my university’s course-management system, I stumbled across a Slideshare tutorial posted by Patty Savage, which neatly lays out the simple steps for recording and uploading podcasts.
The first steps involve uploading the free podcast recorder, Audacity and the free LAME MP3 encoder, which helps to make the audio file accessible to most computers and audio players. Recording the podcasts was relatively simple, and I was able to create a clean audio file using the microphone on my Mac. Although I initially struggled with integrating the recorder and the MP3 converter, once I managed to get that to work, the conversion usually took about one minute for a 7-minute audio file.
But making the podcast is one thing. Finding a space to host the podcasts where they will be accessible to students is another issue. Savage’s solution, which I’ve followed, is to host podcasts on the Internet Archive, where you can sign up for an account and begin uploading files within minutes onto their community audio archive. One valuable feature of using the Internet Archive is that files seem to upload very quickly. My 7-minute lectures were uploaded in minutes—just a few seconds after I’d finished filling out the title, description, and tags for identifying the video—and they play in both Flash and HTML5 formats.
There are a number of other benefits to hosting your podcast on the Internet Archive. First, the file can be embedded on other websites and blogging platforms, including Blogger, so that they can be shared easily, without asking students to follow additional links. Second, because the files are hosted on the Internet Archive, they can either be donated to the public domain or shared using a Creative Commons license, which means that your podcasts can be used by others who might share an interest in the topic. The tagging feature also proved helpful for me in terms of organizing course materials so that I could find the podcasts I needed very easily by tagging them with my name. It’s also worth noting that the Internet Archive allows you to upload test podcasts that will be deleted automatically after 30 days, a feature that proved incredibly helpful after I had struggled for several hours to create and upload my first couple of podcasts.
Discovering this solution proved to be a happy accident but as I experiment with delivering course materials online, I’d appreciate learning about other solutions you have developed for recording and posting audio files in the comments below.