Jeff Longland

Relax, don't worry – have a home brew!

Podcasting in Higher Education

As I start this entry, I’m sitting on a train looking at the shores of Lake Ontario as I make my exit from Toronto. I don’t make it to Toronto often nor am I particularly drawn here. You can take Jeff out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy. Or something to that effect. I’m headed home to a less urban locale.

So what brought me to the big smoke? A conference hosted by Apple and McGraw-Hill Ryerson on podcasting in higher education. I haven’t written much here about podcasting, but don’t take this as an indicator of my interest – in fact, I’m borderline fanatical about podcasting… this from someone who doesn’t own an iPod! As with most of my obsessions, I’m more excited about the technology that makes all of this possible. So here’s my big anti-climatic announcement: I’ve been experimenting with the ROME RSS utility and the WebCT PowerLinks SDK to add podcasting support to WebCT. It’s nothing pretty yet, but I’m confident it can work – albeit in a manner that may or may not be inline with how Apple would like to see podcasting in WebCT. At the moment, my concern is to simply generate the RSS feed and the means to retrieve the enclosures. I have both of these pieces working, but as I said – it’s not pretty, nor ready for release. From the instructor perspective, the podcast is uploaded to a ‘podcasts’ directory in the WebCT section – it is from this directory that the RSS feed is generated. One item with enclosure in the RSS feed for each audio file in the podcasts directory.

Getting back to the conference, I was pretty happy with the speaker line-up. In particular, it was a great opportunity to meet Brian Lamb who came in from UBC. On our way into the city, a few of my colleagues asked me if I was familiar with any of the speakers – so I gave them my two cents and a strong recommendation for Brian. At the end of the day, they came back to me and commented about his energetic / humorous / passionate performance. And? They want to learn more! Sadly, they were unaware of my interest in this area. I think this tells me that I should probably be putting more of myself into this blog and generally promoting emerging technology more. Brian made a similar suggestion to post more regularly. I admit that I need to knock it up a notch.

The other presenters that impressed me were Robert Lyons and Bob Burke from Carleton. Having years of experience recording and processing lectures for television delivery has given them an opportunity to implement vodcasting with minimal effort. Copyright issues were briefly touched upon during the Q & A and it appears that due to the current state of Canadian copyright laws, Carleton can only vodcast original content. As a few audience members commented, Bob’s vodcasts are probably just as popular as his in-class demos because of his sense of humour.

Above and beyond everything else that was discussed today, I was most impressed with the depth of knowledge and passion displayed by the aforementioned presenters. A great day for reflection on the way home.

Edit: If you want to know more about the event, here’s a blog that will fill in the detals.

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Written by jlongland

March 2, 2006 at 11:40 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. Really interesting post… We too are working on building/adding functionality to allow WebCT to generate RSS feeds. There’s a ton of information on how to allow WebCT to get and display feeds, but not alot the other way. Your post gives me hope (always nice to know there’s at least one other person working in the same direction as you). Keep up the good work and I’d love to see a post in the future with some of your results/pitfalls to avoid.

    Andrew Gruhn

    April 19, 2006 at 1:07 pm

  2. […] I previously posted (briefly) about my adventures attempting to provide podcasts from WebCT.  The larger issue this drives at is generating RSS feeds of WebCT Content.  Andrew Gruhn commented today that he’d like to get RSS feeds of WebCT content as well.  I drafted a post about this in November and have been kinda sitting on it ever since.  So here it is with a whole lotta late night revisions.  I’m working on implementing this but it’s currently more of a hobby than anything so don’t expect anything immediately.  Hopefully someone finds this useful, let me know if you come up with anything or have suggestions for improvements. So what type of content could we get out of WebCT?  In particular, out of WebCT Vista 3/4 or CE 6.  The PowerLinks SDK provides a few webservices that might be useful: […]

  3. Jeff, – pulling RSS out of WebCT would be extremely useful. One of the ways that we’re currently examining would be the ability to generate an RSS feed per course that would have a timed release. On day 1 of week 1, the learner would get three elements of content out of their course (say the syllabus, the “Instructor Expectations” section, and maybe the unit overview for Unit 1). Than on the first day of week 2, the unit overview for Unit 2 would be pushed out via RSS. That way learners within a course would have the static course materials pushed to them weekly. Last we checked, it took between 12 to 15 clicks to get into the course and access the unit overviews. Learners would still have to enter the course to participate in the course discussions and the like, but this is a concept that could actually save learners alot of time. (and while we’re at it, we could add the links to the coursemedia/podcasts/et.al. to the RSS as an enclosure – delivering audio or video straight to iTunes or the aggregator of the learner’s choice).

    I’ve got the feeling this is going to take a lot of developer time on our end, but we’re currently migrating our course content to XML (using XSLT to style it at runtime), so hopefully, this might not be as big a push as it seems.. We’re having some big discussions about it right now, and once we’ve built a proof of concept, I’ll share some of the results!

    Andrew Gruhn

    April 20, 2006 at 12:59 am


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