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Want to Podcast Your Class? CSULB on iTunes U is Here

Published: July 15, 2009

Welcome. Now let’s get started.

That’s the message Don Gardner and his staff want to convey to faculty who are thinking about jumping into the world of podcasting.

The associate vice president for academic technology recently oversaw the launching of CSULB as an entity on iTunes U, one of just under 200 universities and colleges worldwide with a presence on Apple’s site that provides a variety of educational podcasts.

“We have a responsibility for assisting faculty who want to make their course materials available in this way and this is a service we provide,” said Gardner, noting that CSULB is currently just one of three CSU institutions on iTunes U. “Our mission is to assist faculty in creating podcasts and to do it as easily and efficiently as possible. My job is to make it possible for my staff to do their jobs and to make sure they have the resources to serve faculty and students. They have done a wonderful job.”

Before CSULB could be listed on iTunes U, it had to provide a minimum of 100 quality podcasts to Apple, a number which it recently reached, allowing it to become part of the site.

“Once we had the training and set up the structure, I had to take the pre-existing podcasts and submit the 100 episodes to Apple,” said Walter Gajewski, instructional multimedia coordinator in Instructional Technology Support Services (ITSS). “They had some initial concerns, but we took care of those right away.”

Gardner and Gajewski give much credit to ITSS director Leslie Kennedy, who took the initiative to talk to other universities already involved with iTunes U and then talked with Apple, telling them CSULB was interested in being part of iTunes U.

“The provost (Karen L. Gould) was really behind this, as was Don Gardner,” said Gajewski, “Leslie talked Apple into hosting a regional training session on our campus and that really helped move things along to get us where we are today. In terms of quantity we may not be at the level of some schools, but in terms of quality, I think were right up there. I think Apple recognized that because its standards are pretty strict.”

Gardner, who clearly recognizes that students coming to college now live in a connected world and don’t even think twice about these kinds of things, says they expect this level of technology to be readily available to them.

“It’s growing all the time just by word of mouth,” said Gardner of using podcasts as a teaching implement. “Each year we get a new crop of faculty and, of course, they’re closer to that world of students we are talking about. Senior faculty members are picking up on it too and the students are making it known that this would be helpful. In fact, some of the seasoned faculty members are trying new things because they want to make their courses more interesting to the students and they want to take advantage of this technology that we have available.”

The best and quickest way for faculty to get started on creating podcasts of their own is to contact CSULB’s Academic Technology office.

“Even before they contact us, I would tell faculty members to go to various Web sites and podcasts and see what other professors have done, not just at CSULB, but nationwide too,” said Gajewski. “They should even look at podcasts that aren’t from an academic institution to see what’s out there.”

Following that homework assignment, interested faculty should then go to Academic Technology’s introduction that shows how to navigate through and then go to the participate link.

“Faculty are responsible for the content but we want to make sure their work is accessible to everyone, so at the minimum we need a written transcript,said Gardner. “To get started, they would contact Instructional Technology Services and then we would talk through what they want to do and a way to achieve it. Then we would help bring the resources needed to accomplish it so it can be done in a professional way.”

Nancy Gardner, a lecturer in chemistry, has had success podcasting a number of her chemistry experiments. Students actually review podcasts in chemistry lab, so as they are doing experiments they can follow along on their iPods. And by using the podcast she’s noticed one big difference — a lot less broken glassware.

“Chemistry Lab Procedures (podcasts) have enhanced learning in the general chemistry laboratory,” she said. “Students are more confident because the experiments are less intimidating and safety in the laboratory has improved dramatically.”

In some of her podcasts, the voice you hear is a chemistry student, the person shown doing the experiment is a chemistry student and the recording and editing are by ITSS student assistants. So, in some cases the podcasting from start to finish is a totally student-driven project, which is an additional learning component.

podcasting

“One of the things I struggled with was getting the same message out to a lot of students,” said Teacher Education’s Paul Boyd-Batstone, who uses podcasting to guide students through the teaching performance assessment process. “One student had to travel to England and viewed the podcast from there and then submitted a teaching performance assessment, so it’s a different world. The students in Walter Gajewski’s office really helped make it happen.”

According to Gajewski, pioneering faculty members worked with him to provide the initial 100 episodes to help launch CSULB on iTunes U, but now the university wants to get additional faculty members involved by showing them how easy it is and how ITSS can help.

“We want to make it as easy as possible and so we now have a series of tutorials,” said Gajewski. “For the students we have in introduction, or what we call an ‘instroduction,’ a combination of the words instructional/introduction. It’s a video that people can watch and it tells them how to find their own instructor’s podcast that may be providing supplemental material for their classes. So this video helps anybody to navigate through the iTunes U.”

“It’s amazingly easy to produce podcasts. The Office of Academic Technology took care of all the technical details,” said Michelle Saint-Germain, a professor in the Graduate Center for Public Policy and Administration. “I’ve gotten so much feedback on my podcasts, not only from my students, but from people all over the world. And, making a podcast immediately started me thinking on other ways to improve teaching and learning.”

For faculty who want to participate, the first tutorial shows how to create a simple podcast for PC or Mac users, while there are additional tutorials for video podcasts and how to turn pre-existing PowerPoint presentations into podcasts.

There is no time limit to a podcast, according to Gajewski, but he is quick to point out that a number of studies have concluded shorter segments are better. If you have too much material, he suggests breaking it into smaller, more viewable segments.

“When faculty members come to me they might say they have an hour-long presentation they want to put on the Web,” said Gajewski. “Then I ask them ‘how often do you personally go out on the Internet and watch an hour-long academic presentation?’ Their answer is always ‘never.’ If you think in terms of what you view and your viewing habits and think about Gen-X people who were raised on Sesame Street, then three-to-six minute segments seem to be the timeframe.”

Gajewski has one last general tip for those faculty members who may be reluctant to dip their toes into the podcasting waters.

“The first thing is, they should keep it as short as possible,” he said, “and don’t think it’s difficult to do or that you will be doing it alone. We’re going to give you all the help you need and your students will make use of it. This is a great learning tool and I think more and more faculty and students are realizing that.”