Getting Started with Student Podcast Assignments

Podcasts are a series of audio only programs.  Most are released on a regular basis – every day, every week or a couple of times each month – and can deal with most any topic imaginable.    Podcasting has been around the Internet for some years, but has recently gained new interest with the popularity of Serial and other new podcast series, as well as easier access to mobile technologies that let you download and listen to podcasts “on the go”.

Faculty have used podcasts to let students explore writing and creating multimedia.  Students might do original research, conduct interviews, and then prepare a script, record and edit a short ten minute program.  Podcasts work well in classes where students are progressing through original research or exploring a topic through a semester, using a podcast episode every few weeks to distill and analyze what they are learning.

Podcasting can be done in Duke classes using commonly available tools – student laptops or mobile devices, free audio software, and Duke’s blogging platform, Sites@Duke.

Preparing Students for the Assignment

Students will need to be able to record and edit the podcast on either their computer, a tablet, or a smartphone.  Typically, the free software package Audacity, supported here at Duke, is used for recording and editing.

You can contact OIT’s On-Demand Training program to set up a training session for your students to learn how to use Audacity and get tips about recording.  They can also get help from OIT in the Multimedia Project Studio or set up a one-on-one appointment with OIT’s Tech Tutors.

Students will need to fill out a release form for public distribution of their work.  In addition, students will need to get others not involved in the class that are recorded to sign a permission and release form for recording and webcasting.  (Sample forms are located in Duke’s Scholarly Communications Toolkit.)

Setting Up and Using Your Podcasting Website

Create a blog for your course using Sites@Duke – the episodes of your podcast will be posts in your blog.  You can use any of the currently available themes on Duke Sites that give you the features and overall look you want for your class website.  You must set the visibility of the blog to public (under Dashboard > Settings > Reading) so that a log in is not required to view the contents of the site.

Visitors can listen to the podcast episodes at the site, but they can also subscribe using a Podcast aggregator (or “podcatcher”), such as iTunes.  You will need to provide them with a link to put in their software.

To create the podcast RSS link, go to your blog site and look for the “Meta” widget in one of your sidebars.  Copy the url that is linked at “Entries RSS”.  It will look something like this:

Add “rss2” at the end of the url:

This is the url you give to visitors who want to subscribe to the podcast in iTunes or another podcast aggregator software package on their computer or smartphone.  You can place the link in a text widget on the sidebar or include it in a page on your site.

To add a podcast episode to the site, simply create a new post.  The title of the post will show up in the podcast aggregator as the episode title; the text in the post will show up as the episode description.

Add the mp3 of your podcast episode to the post by clicking on “Add Media” and uploading the file.  The episode will show up in a player in the post.  Just hit “publish” and your podcast episode is ready to go.

Tell Us About Your Experience

If you’re creating podcasts in your course at Duke, let us know – we would love to feature your site on the CIT blog and would welcome guest faculty bloggers to describe their experiences with podcasts and other types of class assignments.

If you would like a consultation about creating student assignments around podcasts or would like advice on other aspects of teaching at Duke, email the CIT to set up a time to talk with a consultant.

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