Mimicking podcasting in course management software (CMS)

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Plamen Miltenoff,
Associate ProfessorSt. Cloud State University, SCSUGary Schnellert,
Associate Professor
University of North Dakota, UND

Plamen Miltenoff is information specialist at Learning Resources & Technology Services (LR&TS) of St. Cloud State University (SCSU) in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Plamen Miltenoff has diplomas from universities in Bulgaria, Austria, and from University of Florida. He holds MLIS from the Dominican University. His professional interests include new technologies, Web development and multimedia, interactive and Web development in educaiton. Plamen Miltenoff is the liaison of the library (LR&TS) to College of Education at SCSU.
e-mail: pmiltenoff@stcloudstate.edu.
web: http://web.stcloudstate.edu/pmiltenoff/faculty/

Gary L. Schnellert is an assistant professor of educational leadership in charge of doctoral cohorts for the University of North Dakota, in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Gary L. Schnellert has degrees from various colleges and universities in Canada and the United States of America. Throughout his career Dr. Schnellert has specialized in Vocational Education and Educational Leadership. His research interests center on International Education, functions of emerging technologies in the educational settings, Industrial Technology, and educational reforms. Dr. Schnellert functions as an advisor for students wanting to become licensed in various states.
e-mail: gary.schnellert@und.nodak.edu


Следвайки голямата популярност на podcasting, двама преподаватели, педагог и библиотекар, търсят начин за правилното прилагане на podcasting в образованието. Според тях, podcastingе учебна технология, която може успешно да се приложи с дипломиращи се студенти, в този случай докторанти. Следващата иновация, която двамата преподватели намират е, използването на бързо нарастващите по популярност в САЩ Course Management Software (CMS) като носител на podcasting. Статията цели практически съвети и споделя опит с преподватели които желаят да приложат podcasting като учебно помагало.Considering the popularity of podcasting, two faculty members, an educator and a librarian, seek a pedagogically sound way to adopt podcasting as an educational mean. Podcasting, as reflected in the article, podcasting is a learning technology, which can be successfully used with graduate students, in this case, with doctoral cohort. Another innovation, proposed by both faculty members, is harnessing the rapidly increasing in popularity Course Management Software (CMS) as a platform for podcasting. The article shares practical advices and hands-on experience with faculty, who want to use podcasting as an educational tool


This article will provide the necessary information for educators to mimic podcasting with their students utilizing Course Management Software (CMS). Two professors with two different backgrounds took on a challenge to bring none traditional students from a doctoral cohort and provide them with some technology training which is widely used by students in secondary and postsecondary schools today. The two faculty members are from separate universities and doctoral students from a class in Educational Leadership in a Midwestern mid-sized university in the United States. The podcasting skills learned by the doctoral students proved to be very valuable in communicating with their traditional students as well as with their younger more tech savvy faculty. One of the professors involved in this project is a specialist in educational leadership while the other faculty is an authority in instructional technologies. The blend of the two skills provided not only an excellent learning environment, but also a skill which was successfully transferred to the nontraditional students. The majority of the non-traditional students are currently doctoral candidates, but are also actively involved in a career as Educational Leaders, mostly as principals and superintendents in the public school system.The need of the study is presented by the rapidly growing popularity of podcasting in the entertainment and journalism field. Podcasting is described as a subscription to a set of feeds to view syndicated (shared) Web site content. Instead of reading the feeds on the computer, one can listen to them on other digital devices (http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/P/podcasting.html). It is viewed by educators as a tool to “build and develop a community of individuals interested in an institution on campus” (Joly, 2006).According to the Pew report (MINITEX, 2006), 29% of U.S. adults, who own MP3 players have downloaded podcasts. This is more than 6 Million people, most of which are Millennnials (born after 1982). An exposure of pocasting methods to Generation X (those acting as schools administrators right now), Generation Y (those between Generation X and the Millenials) and the gradually retiring Baby boomers (those born after World War II) can alleviate a rapidly growing technological discrepancy between students and instructors and ultimately bring in class innovative methods for learning and teaching. For clarification purposes the generations are defined. Generation X and Y and M. Generation X: the generation born in the 1960s. Between the baby boomers (born after WWII and 196?) and Generation Y (born from 19?? to 19??). Generation Y: the generation between Generation X and the Generation M (Millennials). Millennials: The teens and twenty-something’s born after 1981. They succeed Generation X and Generation Y. The Millennials are believed to be sheltered, optimistic/confident, team-oriented, achieving, pressured, and conventional, but most importantly they are, by Marc Prensky’s definition “digitally native,” versus the Generation X and Y of “digital immigrants.”Sanford Pinsker refers to the Millennium generation, also called the Net Generation, Millennials, Echo Boomers, Google Generation, Power Users, and Generation Y (Power Users, 2006; Wikipedia, 2006). Notwithstanding the rising number of returning students (Baby Boomers and Generation X), the Millenials are mostly considered by the contemporary research. Some characterize the Millennials with “troublingly high levels of academic disengagement“ (Baurlein, 2006). Further, by the same description, “the current crop of students is the most educated and affluent ever. Their enrollment rates in college surpass those of their baby-boomer parents and Generation X, and their purchasing power is so strong that it dominates the retail and entertainment sectors” (Baurlein, 2006).It is argued that propensity for technology use is in the bottom of their intellectual vacuum.In contrast, the non-traditional students are an increasing percentage of the recent student body, yet, disproportionately less studied. Further, in contrast with the Millenials, the non-traditional students, less baby-boomers and more Gen X compensate their obvious lack of technological savvy with intellectual abilities and experience. The majority of non-traditional students seeking their terminal degree in Educational Leadership grew up exposed to very limited or nearly no electronic technology as we know it today according to B. Henderson in the Pulse Journal. While the elementary, high school, and college students as well as many of the acting teachers today had a great exposure to electronic technology, consequently the administrators are left in unfamiliar territory. Most of the students of all ages are highly geared to technology and less on traditional instructional methods. Podcasting provides the non-traditional cohort students not only a convenient method of instruction, but also a means to communicate and relate to the students from the younger generation which grew up with the electronic technology.


Course Management Software (CMS), or eLearning software: is defined as a software package such as Blackboard/WebCT that offers modules (tools) for online management of class content, online communications, grading, quizzing, etc. The CMS used in this research is Blackboard (http://www.blackboard.com/us/index.aspx). Most of the data was compared against Desire2Learn, another type of CMS (http://www.desire2learn.com/). The student body (non-traditional doctoral students) participating in the research is entirely represented by mature returning students, Generation X and Y.Research on technology in education, podcasting in particular, is aimed toward the Millennial generation (e.g.: Oblinger, 2003; Howe & Strauss, 2000; Tucker, 2006). It is natural, considering that“more than 80 percent of college students own at least one device that can download and play recordings” (Lum, 2006). There is limited research conducted on relation between non-traditional students and application of technology in education (Kizlik, 1999; Strauss, 2005; Cockrell et al, 1998). Moreover, there is a multitude of know-how workshops (e.g., http://www.minitex.umn.edu/train-conf/webinars/podcasting-02.pdf) (webinars (e.g. http://easi.cc/clinic.htm), and Web sites on how technologically, to execute a podcast.Podcasting is generating great interest in the entertainment industry and the ripples are felt in the educational realm. Podcasting made the news in educational issues (Chronicle, 2006).
Educational administrators display interest in podcasting, similarly to educators (McCafferty, 2006; Angelo, 2006). Moreover, some suggest that podcasting will go beyond teaching and administration, and will shape the future of students’ recruitment (Dew, 2006).Course management software (CMS), is a software package that allows faculty to organize and manage seemingly course content using any Internet browser rapidly gains momentum in higher education. The communication tools of CMS offer a wide range of possibilities for faculty and students.Course management software (CMS) in this article is referred to as “software that has capabilities in three areas: 1) design interface and content assembly; 2) the facilitation of communication and collaboration; and 3) administrative course management support” (Educause). The research reflected in this article concentrates mostly on the communication and collaboration aspect of the definition.CMS plays an “increasingly critical role in fulfilling strategic academic goals in higher education (Faculty Use of Course Management Software, 2003, p.9). The importance in CMS stretches beyond a rapidly growing interest toward distance education and actually gains momentum in the hybrid (blended) classroom. This research was conducted in the environment of a hybrid classroom.Of the many and various synchronous and asynchronous tools in a CMS, such as discussion list, chat, news, pager, etc, the “discussion” tool is probably the most frequently utilized one. The familiarity of faculty and students using the discussion tool is one of the main reasons to choose for podcasting simulation.Podcasting is a means of distributing audio and video programs via the Internet that lets users subscribe to a number of files, also known as „feeds“, and then hear or view the material at the time that they choose. A feed is usually in the MP3 audio format. (Wikipedia, 2006).Podcasting, according to the definition set in the introduction of this paper is, subscription to a set of feeds to view syndicated (shared) Web site content. Instead of reading the feeds on the computer, one can listen to them on other digital devices.Pocasting on the users’ side is easy and straightforward, which contributes greatly to its rapid success. While creating pocasting is not that complicated, can be done reality easy and cheaply, the authors were looking to execute the podcasting idea through CMS taking into account the following factors:

  • CMS interface is familiar to students and instructors and will not create a new learning curve
  • CMS servers offer needed space and, since servers are part of the university system, troubleshooting is available
  • Blogs and podcasts are related.

The basic difference between a Podcast and a blog is that the podcast is audio or video while the blog is text. To clarify Blog is short for weblog. A weblog is a journal (or newsletter) that is frequently updated and intended for general public consumption. Blogs generally represent the personality of the author or the Web site In this case of mimicking podcasting, the instructors involve good practices of using a course management system and also using podcasting as a form of blogging.[1]The collaboration of both faculty members did not result in instantaneous decision to mimic podcasting using discussion tool in CMS. Other, historically earlier Web options were considered. Blogs were the natural choice, also with its popularity (ease of use) and ability for “an individual or a group [to] generate[s] text, photographs, video, audio files, and/or links, typically but not always on for which an individual or a group generates text, photographs, video, audio files, and/or links, typically but not always on a daily or otherwise regular basis” (Wikipedia). The faculty carefully considered the advantages and disadvantages of blogs, rss, and pocasting. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is described as having the ability to deliver audio or video to your desktop through a piece of software called an aggregator. Through the aggregator, one can subscribe to a podcast. So, if one subscribes to a podcast \ it is delivered to the individual’s desktop weekly as an .mp3 audio file. Which simply means one does not have to bookmark a webpage and remember to go download the podcast every week.The case study started before the proliferation of podcasting (video instead of audio) and vloging. The technologies and the potential are growing literally by minute. Considering the experience of the two faculty and the students being served, however, it was thought wise to start small and simple and gradually build up the experience and expertise.The authors of the paper considered the advantages of podcasting, such as sharing opinions and discussions, music, speeches, lectures, reviews, tours, storytelling, etc. and the determined that podcasting can be a great tool to bring adult students up to speed with technological achievements, but most importantly, let students practice real-life scenarios such as radio interviews simulating different scenarios such as advertising a school event, on the spot interview regarding an issue or controversy within the school, and responding to an unpopular decision made by the school. Moreover, the authors also considered the disadvantages of pocasting, such as time and commitment, needed to create a professional podcast and determined that for the purpose of a class exercise, students do not have to go in depth and create a professional podcast.Further, both faculty worked together to determine the easiest and most straightforward way of executing the podcast using a CMS. A PowerPoint show which conceptualized the idea of pocasting through discussion list in CMS was created (available at: http://web.stcloudstate.edu/pmiltenoff/cms_podcast/cms_podcast.pps). Further, a hardcopy handout with snapshots and step-by-step explanation was created that can walk the students through the process (available at: http://web.stcloudstate.edu/pmiltenoff/cms_podcast/handout.html). Finally, a screen video was created, that was allowing the students to see the process of creating and executing a podcast. All the information was made available on the Internet and distributed to students on CDs.Of the multitude of existing software, (free and commercial), such as Audacity, etc. the authors looked for the least complicated scenario. They were determined to have students not to download new programs, but rather use programs already available on their computers (part of the operating system). Since all computers of recent years come with an audio card and speakers, the only requirements for podcasting remained was a microphone.While the potential of podcasting and blogs in education is still under discussion, this paper concentrates on a limited use of podcasting in education. Through a case study, it aims to provide practical assistance to instructors on the use of pocasting in the classroom.The University of North Dakota (UND) were the research took place is located in Grand Forks on the North Dakota-Minnesota border. The University was founded by the Dakota Territorial Assembly in 1883, six years before statehood. UND is one of only 46 public universities in the nation with both accredited graduate schools of law and medicine. The university provides students with one of the widest selections of academic choices in the region, with over 180 programs of study.(http://www.und.edu/history/, http://www.und.edu/aboutund/ ).


A group of non-traditional students were admitted into a doctoral program in Educational Leadership. Most classes for the cohort were delivered off campus to meet the students’ needs. The distance between the students and even a central location provided some challenges not commonly found on a campus setting. Cohort is defined by Random House College Dictionary as “a group or company.” Students admitted to a doctoral program are placed in a cohort were they will go through the program as a group of students.Using a variety of schedules and various forms of instruction (face-to-face, hybrid, distance education) the degree program began in earnest. A significant part of the instruction was conducted face-to-face. Considering the fact that most of the students needed to travel from afar, techniques from distance education were also reviewed.The experience with podcast generated a relevant practice. The administrators saw the value of the podcast for media blurbs to advertise their school events and activities. It also provided the students with valuable practice in communications and how to deal with the audio media. The students could analyze their “presentation,” how it was communicated, how it might be interpreted, and provide constructive criticism to their peers. Replying to the other student’s original podcasts, also in an audio fashion provided the students with an opportunity to be able to respond in their newly developed skill and again analyze their response and level of comfort in deal with the technology. The development of the podcasts allowed students to not only prepare an audio statement, but respond to an audio statement without necessarily having the time to prepare. Just as they may need to do as administrators when dealing with the media in an emergency situation in a school setting.Last but not least, the podcast was generating archiving material, which students could use in the future. Similarly to other Internet-based media, podcasting offers a great 24/7 opportunity for anywhere access (Bocking, 2006). Many of the Educational Leadership students have communicated their gratitude for having experienced the podcasting, and shedding a new light on instructional strategies. They have now found a new method of communication and a new way to relate to the Millennials with whom they work with daily.

The Podcasting Process

The class assignment began with the mimicking of podcasting on the Course Management Software. With the use of a PC, and preferably a headset ($20.00 item) the cohort student will first record the message on the computer. With Microsoft Windows the software is an accessory which is provided. A template of a tape recorder is displayed and with the microphone on the headset the student may record the message. The message is recorded in one minute intervals and when the student is satisfied with the recording they may save it on the desktop. After the recording the student enters Blackboard and when s/he is in the discussion board they may open a new thread or go into an existing thread. At this point the student clicks on the icon indicating that s/he wishes to add a new item and when they are in the thread they add the podcast as an attachment. Other students and the instructor may then listen to their podcast and also add their opinions as a podcast item.Students then listened to their own podcast after having loaded it on Blackboard or a similar CMS. Other students will also listen to the podcast and then comment on the original podcast utilizing constructive criticism. Reply podcasts were also scrutinized and analyzed by other students and at times the instructor to determine if the message is clear, concise, and relevant.In developing the podcasts the students soon realize that the quality of sound is greatly influenced depending on how they speak, how they breathe as they are speaking into a microphone, the microphone location as not to capture the noise of the individual breathing, and the background noise that may be captured in the recording. Therefore while the students developed a podcast they learn some valuable lessons, such as, speaking into a microphone is not like speaking in a classroom or in public. The em’s and ahh’s don’t sound appealing and they don’t provide a meaningful message. Speaking slowly and clearly can increase the understandability and impact of the message. There is no body language therefore you must use the intonation of your voice, and being able to think on your feet and respond intelligently is a valuable skill to maintain.

Conclusions and discussion

Why mimicking podcast? Among the abundance of podcasting applications there is no standardization. The widely advertised and used iPod / iTunes option is just one of many and there is no proven record yet, that it is the [most] suitable for education. Searching for the “right” podcasting aggregator can turn into a time-consuming and frustrating experience. If it is “free” than most probably, is imperfect. Educational institutions are moving slowly into creating their institutionalized podcasting systems and training faculty and students in using the technology and faculty in applying the technology didactically in the educational process.For a small class size and limited projects, mimicking podcasting in CMS proves to be the “golden” middle between audio blogging and podcasting. The familiarity of the CMS among students and faculty presses to learn one less interface and is a certain advantage. The small class size and the limited numbers of podcast makes bearable giving are the RSS, one of the best features of blogging and podcasting.Faculty involvement with podcasting and its application in education can become addictive, as shown in the news (Read, 2006; Rainey, 2006). It is one more reminder that technology can not substitute good teaching practices and podcasting needs to be carefully measured against the needs and likes of students. Podcasting in this case followed the good practice of presentation plus interaction that lead to good pedagogy (Mandernach, 2006). The didactical future of podcasting is still uncertain. There will be obviously attempts to shift the physical classroom to the virtual realm of podcasting (Bocking, 2006); yet good pedagogy most probably will determine what is right and what is wrong when using podcasts (Mandernach, 2006). While this project is an isolated experiment of two faculty members and a number of students, undoubtedly the future of podcasting will depend on systematic institutional-based approach (Philpot, 2006).


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[1] For more information on the idea, please see recent posting on the Distance Education Listserv by Steve McCarty: http://lists.psu.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0608&L=deos-l&T=0&P=1202

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