Did you know that behind the dramatic red curtain filling the proscenium arch, Centennial Hall features technology for the production of podcasts? This is a behind-the-scenes part of the transformation of Centennial Hall to accommodate classes for Fall 2009. A cluster of eight servers running Podcast Producer software receives class recordings (or other media files) from instructors all over campus, processes them, and distributes them as podcasts.
The system was put together by Multimedia Tech Specialist Gregory Anderson and the Office of Computing Resources (OSCR) Technology Team, including Apple systems specialist Bernard Begay. Funding for the service comes from the ILC budget, which provides instructional support University-wide. By providing multimedia expertise and the flexible, automated platform of Podcast Producer, OSCR takes the burden of producing multimedia content off departments and instructors and makes it convenient.
Over the Fall 2009 semester, 1,352 audio and/or video files were prepared and posted, many into more than one format. In addition, Podcast Producer converted 1,506 media files into a streamable format as a one-time project for Steward Observatory. Projects included multimedia archives for both Linguistics and the Institute for LGBT Studies; videoed exams for students of American Sign Language; and Computer Science's podcasts of every lecture in six of the department’s classes, expanding attendance in those classes to distance/online students.
To make a podcast, instructors can use a classroom with a capture system, or just a laptop or digital audio recorder. Gregory works with instructors to develop the workflow they need, which can include a standardized introduction and closing wrapper, a watermark, conversion to the appropriate file type and size, publishing to iTunesU or a streaming server, and email notification when the file is ready. Once the workflow is designed, Podcast Producer automatically processes recordings of each instructor's classes as they’re received.
Instructors using iTunesU decide whether the files are accessible to students in the class only, to members of the UA campus only, or publicly. Students can subscribe to their class, and iTunes will download each new podcast as soon as it's posted.
Jeffrey Punske used Podcast Producer for his Linguistics class and said, "Podcast Producer is fantastic resource for an instructor. It is remarkably simple to use; it is pretty much a must-use for anyone teaching an online course."