Archive for March, 2009

Is YouTube educational? Yes

Friday, March 27th, 2009

YouTube have launched a new portal called YouTube EDU that rounds up educational content from Universities and other educational organisations.

The rapid pace of change in the online world was brought home to me the other day, after I had presented on the topic of Social Media for Education and said that educational content on YouTube was hard to find – by the time I got home, YouTube EDU had appeared – but does it render my doubts about findability on YouTube obsolete?

I think not, as YouTube EDU has been put together by a volunteer group of employees, as the standard YouTube Education category suffers from the same problems of any system where users assign their own keywords – spammers, marketeers and others just fill it up with items that aren’t educational, just to be seen – so these videos had to be rounded up by hand.

As for the content – the directory indicates that the vast majority is from US based Universities – and my initial hopes for Top Secret content were dashed when I noticed that the CIA Network referred to the Culinary Institute of America rather than the Central Intelligence Agency – although they can offer cocktail advice that the other CIA cannot!

The most viewed videos pages seems to indicate that while there may be full length lecture videos from over 200 courses, the shorter form videos appear to be more YouTube friendly – the TL:DR problem finding a new expression in video form.

Subject access will still be reliant on tags on individual videos – so while a search for Economics will yield hundreds of results, you’ll still miss out on videos that have not been correctly tagged and other educational material from organisations that aren’t in the YouTube EDU directory at the moment – for example the World Bank.

While YouTube EDU is a big step in the right direction, it’s not the whole story – you may find that Academic Earth has some better features and fewer distractions – even if YouTube EDU is going to get more media coverage.

Between YouTube EDU and iTunesU (now integrated within iTunes) online audio and video can now be mobilised in standard places where mainstream users are most likely to find them, making multimedia educational resources easier to find and use than ever before.

However, what effect if any will YouTube EDU have on Universities?

  • Does this render the need for formal University approved and curated repositories obsolete?
  • Will lecturers feel more pressure to perform or entertain if they can be seen by anyone around the world?
  • How will prospective students react to seeing the University teaching process laid bare? Will it inspire them or turn them off?

A Bakers Dozen of Practical Podcasting Tips

Friday, March 20th, 2009

Audio podcasting may seem to have taken a bit of a back seat in comparison to video based resources recently, but there are still plenty of people interested in the possibilities of sound based resources.

I was recently asked to pull together my Top Ten Tips for producing an audio podcast – alas 10 soon became 12 and then I added one for luck … but they are presented below:

Beware the audio phile – audio recording can get very involved – feedback from those who spend weeks mastering a track may not be relevant – ask yourself is this good enough for someone listening on an iPod or at their PC?

Beware the audio file – investigate the quality settings on your chosen recording / editing software – in general record in as a high a quality as possible, mix it down so that final file sizes are about 1MB per minute for the audio.

One voice or two – listening to a monologue can be monotonous over an extended period of time. It is much easier on the ear to listen to a conversation, preferably with a male and female voice.

Be natural – use your normal voice while recording, as any affectation will be picked up by the sound recording and will be difficult for you to maintain over time, so get used to the sound of your recorded voice. Pause, don’t ummm.

Prepare for your podcast – either script every word or have a detailed running order for your recording and notes of what you want to say, as this enables you to concentrate on your delivery.

Read it out loud – words that make sense on a page, may not do so when read out loud. Keep sentences short. Allow for breathing. Similar sounds seem silly in the same space. Check it by reading it out loud yourself.

Sound quality – record the best quality sound you can, use a pop filter if you are recording at a desk, be careful where you place the microphone and avoid setting your recording level too high as the sound will clip or distort.

Music – fade in/outs, stingers between segments and a theme tune can make your podcast sound more professional, but will add to the editing time. Resist the temptation to use a track from your favourite album, as you don’t own the copyright.

Be aware of your environment – a high ceiling in a large open room will create an echo, similarly a small bathroom will produce sound reflections, so scout your potential locations in advance and take a test recording.

Noise is everywhere – there is a lot of ambient noise in the world around us that we get used to – computers whirring away, traffic going past etc. – this may be useful colour in some podcasts e.g. a sound-seeing tour, but not for others.

Practice with your equipment – don’t waste your own time by not knowing how to work your recorder, or by setting the level on your microphone is too high, know how your kit works.

Take two – try to get more than one take of a recording, as this gives you more choices while editing. Re-recording later will be very tricky, as you won’t match the sound levels exactly.

Test your results – the sound levels on your PC or recording kit are not the same as those elsewhere – once you have a finished a recording, listen to it on another PC or an mp3 player to see if it sounds OK.

Further Reading

Secrets of Podcasting / Bart G. Farkas ISBN: 0321369297
Podcasting Hacks / Jack D. Herrington ISBN 0596100663
Podcasting for Learning in Universities / Gilly Salmon ISBN 0335234291

Online resources

My Podcasting life … or the reverse Obama effect

Delicious links on podcasting