Podcasting is an essential element of any eLearning design process. It provides learners with a unique way to digest material but is often left as a final thought in the design process, has little evidence of audio quality and can - quite frankly - sound awkward as a result. In previous posts I have voiced praise towards Soundcloud as a cheap and easy way to Podcast. This view has not changed but when creating materials for a Flipped Learning course, there needs to be a more strategic approach. This is even more prominent when we consider the ever growing list of MOOCs; Professional sounding Podcasts are back.
To shrug of the pedantic amongst us, we shall start be stating that our version of a Podcast is an interactive audio recording that covers a particular educational theme. Not a screencast, video blog or other similar technologies. Just so we all know where we are.
The key questions that you need to ask yourself before even commencing with the podcast are:
- Who are my target audience?
- What format would I like to use when creating the podcast?
- What technology will I need?
- How long is the podcast?
- How do I edit and produce the materials?
This article will focus solely on the target audience and differing formats of podcasting. The other points will be addressed in future posts.
You might think this is obvious and it seems pretty self - explanatory but nothing in life surprises me and I'm pretty sure that only the pensive amongst us actually go through this process. So, who are your audience? It would be silly for me to use NASA acronyms if I'm completing a podcast for a local bowling club. Know who you are speaking to. In an academic context, too many of us go into "education" mode. By this I mean that we go with our preconceived ideas of what education is about - with all its formalities - and lose sight about who is on the other end of your recording. For those engaging with education podcasts; just consider what you were like when you were studying and that is your target audience defined!
The concept of a podcast focusses on learning and engagement. Anyone can read information with personality. This is not to say that the recording should be overly erratic but you need to feel comfortable and know who you are speaking to. Be yourself.
This will provide the biggest challenge to the planning process. Do I go with a solo chat? What are the benefits of an informal group conversation? Why should I only nod whilst completing a recorded interview? These are only some of the isolated questions that might pop into your head.
Whatever approach you decide to take; you will benefit from thinking creatively. Listen to as many podcasts as you can. Even by just listening to snippets you will be able to gauge quickly what you think works well and which approaches needs to be avoided. The introductions to some podcasts really set the stage. Personally, I prefer going with a standard start tune (about 10 - 15 seconds long) and then selecting the music that fits the content of the lesson. Jamendo is a great resource for background music and will ensure you do not break any copyright rules. These are updated quite regularly and are a much better option than some of the other options around - such as the polluting pieces of trash that are pushed by YouTube.
Now that we are starting to think about the actual recording of the podcast, let's listen to an array of examples before making our choice. There is no definitive method that should always be used and remember that you need to match the content of the podcast to the materials/scripts that you have created:
(Excuse the horrible links. Just click through and hit play)
This is slightly longer than a traditional podcast. Doing recordings this way can produce a great deal of stress if one person is tasked with this on their lonesome. One person should not really do the whole recording. Talking for 40 - 45 minutes can be both daunting and exhaustive for the person responsible for producing the material. Saying this, what I like about certain aspects of this approach are the smooth music fades and relaxed conversations that take place. Obviously preparation has taken place but you can sense that prompted questions are natural. There is no awkwardness here.
For some educational topics, podcasting can seem a chore. For certain themes there might be no need for a prolonged discussion. Alternatively, there are situations where time management is an issue - lots of topics but you can't spend 40 - 45 minutes discussing them all. The examples above show great ways to overcome certain barriers such as the ones I've mentioned. The 60 second recording (which is annoyingly 1 minute and 16 seconds) is a great way to address low level objectives where as the "Question of the week" series could easily be question of the day/month etc. Both demonstrate that creativity - with appropriate sound effects and rationale - helps when deciding your podcast approach.
This link is also a prime example for those designing educational podcasts. What we have here are specific topics - bound by core aims and objectives - that have a feeling of restriction, regarding creativity. You can hear how each conversation is directed with key questions and facilitated responses. Another useful example to add to our repertoire.
Hopefully you now have a better appreciation / confidence when preparing to record podcast materials. Please share your thoughts and/or podcast links. Whatever you decide to do - I'm sure someone else has done far better whilst some poor soul has probably broadcast 22 hours on the history of DFS arm chairs.
Until we meet again.............