Quick Note on Creating a Podcast Lecture

I’ve been asked by a couple of folks about any tips I can offer about creating a podcast style course lecture. I’ve argued that relatively low-tech solutions like podcasting are a good way to convert traditional or hybrid lecture courses online because most of our students have the means of downloading a podcast and listening to it. In a pinch a podcast can be delivered over email and requires only the most basic technologies to create.

I’d like to emphasize that I’m not a great podcaster. At the same time, I’ve played with this medium enough to know think my experiences might have value.

Here is what worked for me:

1. If at all possible, get a external USB-powered microphone for your laptop. This will vastly improve sound quality which makes the podcasts easier on students’ ears. I use a Blue Snowball microphone.

2. Find a quiet place with a little ambient noise as possible. Colleagues who regularly record for radio, for example, often use hotel closets and damp out echos and external sound by covering their heads and microphone with blankets and towels. This isn’t necessary (or even really possible) in most cases, but recording in a small room with a minimum of noise will make sound quality better. Also try to avoid rooms with lots of reflective surfaces like windows.

3. Use the right software. I’ve used Adobe Audition (which is part of the creative cloud suite of programs), but there’s a bit of a learning curve. Mac users can use Garage Band which is just fine for podcasts and comes with your computer. PC users (and Mac users) can use Audacity which is free and open source. These programs allow you to remove background noise and, perhaps more importantly, record in chunks. It also allows you to export your recording as an MP3 which will play on virtually any device.

For an even easier trick, my colleague Nikki Berg-Burin records on her phone using the voice memo application on her iPhone , which saves and then uploads it to Dropbox for transfer to our LMS (Blackboard). This is a great and simple way to do shorter mini lectures and the like.

4. Record in chunks. If you have longer lectures that you want to record, I’ve found it immeasurably helpful to record them in 5-7 minute chunks and then either stitch them together into a longer recording or organize them into an album. I found it much easier to maintain my stream of thought for 5 minutes than for 10 or 15.

5. Record short “quick hit” podcasts. While my lecture podcasts can go on (and on and on so my students have told me) for up to an hour (most are <45 minutes, though), I also found it useful to include “quick hit podcasts” that in ❤ minutes tell the students how to organize their engagement with material. I usually note where the reading are, what podcast to listen to first, and what kind assessment or writing the week or section will require.

6. Edit Metadata for podcasts. Since many students will download podcasts onto their devices, it’s super helpful to have good metadata which allows these devices to organize your recordings in a rational and easy to find way. I’ve found it really helpful to organize my recordings into an “album” with tracks organized in the order that they’re to be listened to. This doesn’t take very long and is super helpful. Here’s a list.

7. Provide text. In the best situations, I’d urge my colleagues to provide transcriptions of your lectures for students who struggle with audio lectures. This is not the best of situation, so I would suggest faculty provide lecture notes (if they use them) to help students follow along with what you’re saying.

8. Distribution. I expect, although I don’t know, that our LMS will be under some significant strain as everyone moves their courses online (and our LMS is cloud based and I’m sure that since we share capacity with other institutions, this will put even more strain on our system). As a result, you might consider distributing podcast via email (using, say, a Dropbox link since the files tend to be pretty big).

I’m sure there are tips and tricks that I haven’t thought about that will help you get your lectures online quickly, but hopefully this is a start. There’s a bit of a learning curve to producing a nice podcast (and I never explored the far reaches of this curve as my podcasting career undoubtedly shows), but once you get the basics down, they’re not very hard do in a decent way. 

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