.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Drexel CoAS E-Learning Subscribe with Bloglines Drexel CoAS E-Learning Podcast

Monday, September 26, 2005

Podcasting PDFs with MP3s with iTunes

Looking at the Higher Education category of iTunes, audio recordings of university lectures are starting to be made available to the public by podcast. This is definitely a step in the right direction. However, many lectures are difficult to follow without the visual component of the presentation.

Whenever possible, I have always provided links in my blogs to both PDF or PPT files that accompany the lecture, in addition to streaming screencasts. This was probably fine for students taking my class because their primary resource was the blog. However, people finding my podcast through iTunes will not find the source blog as easily. (It is given in the podcast description but that is not obvious).

To fix this problem, I have reworked my CHEM 241 class podcast to include the corresponding PDF just underneath the MP3. I did this for back episodes by copying the link to the PDF into a new post and changing the date in Blogger. Running the feed through Feedburner then created a podcast with MP3 and PDF files next to each other.

It turns out iTunes does a pretty good job of displaying PDFs. They appear as little book icons that can be left clicked to view or right clicked to save on the desktop.

It would seem that this would be a good way to distribute other files, such as PPT (Powerpoint). However, iTunes is very selective in the file types it allows and PPT does not appear to be supported at this time. Other podcatchers do not have this limitation. For example, iPodder handles PPT. This is an example of why we need to be careful about using iTunes as sole distribution mechanism.

This is what the podcast of my class now looks like in iTunes:

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Sloan Semester: not too late to contribute

As I mentioned previously, Drexel has listed some courses that students affected by Katrina can take online for free through the Sloan Semester initiative. So far about a dozen students have applied to the courses Drexel is listing.

There are also numerous requested courses that are not currently offered. Here is a list. If you see a course in that list that you can contribute contact me.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Getting Lectures on iTunes

With the recent release of iTunes allowing for easy subscription to podcasts, people have started to list lectures.  This seems simple but there are several issues that have made things confusing.  I’ll point these out here to save you time if you are thinking of doing the same thing.  Also if I am missing something please leave me a comment.

  1. iTunes Lecture category. I saw Amy Bellinger’s post on the new category of Courses and Lectures in iTunes and it looked like that was the place to put your lecture podcasts.  However that category is not listed in the drop down menu at Feedburner (more on this later), nor is it in the iTunes menu by navigating through Music Store -> Podcasts -> Browse.  The only way to get to it is the way Amy did it in her screenshot in her post, on the home page.  I have seen it on the home page but it seems to have disappeared in the past few days.  From my conversation with Michelle Francl, who did get her course listed under Courses and Lectures, she did not make a special request.  So it appears that the iTunes staff is selecting courses to highlight in this ephemeral category.  The bottom line is that this is not a reliable way to tell your students how to find your course.  What will work is to have it listed under Education->Higher Ed.

  2. Getting your feed ready for iTunes.  If you are using Feedburner to create your podcast, they have recently added the capability of formatting your feed under the SmartCast option so that it is compliant with iTunes.  If you try to submit your feed without proper formatting it will cause trouble.  What happens is that iTunes will take your feed submission and it will never get listed.  There is no feedback to tell you there is a problem.  Then if you do fix your feed iTunes will refuse it because you already submitted it!  I did this for one of my classes and I ended up emailing iTunes.  They fixed it after a few days.

  3. You have to use your credit card to submit a feed.  I found this one a little counter-intuitive and it took me a while to understand that there is no other way to do it.  If you want to submit a feed you have to join iTunes.  And that means you have to submit your credit card information.  They won’t charge anything on your card but I really hate having to give out that kind of information when I am not buying anything.

  4. Skipped episodes. Some podcasters were complaining that some episodes were being skipped because of the default settings on prior versions of iTunes.  However this problem was resolved in version 5.0, which defaults to Check Every Hour and Download All.

  5. Back episodes. If you want your students to not miss any of your lectures, make sure they click on the triangle next to the feed in iTunes and click on every back episode.  I have a 30 second screencast showing how to do this.

  6. How to subscribe to unlisted podcasts.  If you are using a little orange XML icon to indicate your podcast feed, students can just drag that icon into iTunes and it will subscribe automatically.  That is better than having to copy urls and will give you a way of enabling subscriptions while waiting for your course to appear in the iTunes directory.

Blogs and RSS in Business and Marketing

Drexel CoAS E-Learning Lecture Series will host Dan Karleen at 11:00 on Thursday October 6, 2005 in 2019 MacAlister Hall.

Visit the wiki for a list of previous talks from this lecture series with links to the recordings.

Blogs and RSS in Business and Marketing

With a few notable exceptions, corporations and institutions overall haveyet to embrace blogging for purposes of corporate development.Similarly, few are using RSS for much more than syndicating news headlinesand press releases. This brief talk explores the untapped potential ofblogs and RSS for customer relations and PR, business development, andorganizational learning and knowledge management. Examples will be drawnfrom a variety of industries including higher education (blogs as amarketing tool), software, and automotive.


Dan Karleen is a director in product development for Thomson Peterson’s, aninformation aggregator and learning solutions provider. He is the foundingeditor of Syndication for Higher Ed (http://syndicateblog.petersons.com/), aweblog exploring the application of social media and web syndication ineducation. Dan’s background includes journalism and broadcasting, databasedevelopment, and technical project management and consulting. Dan isstudying for a master's in Organizational Dynamics at the University of Pennsylvania.

Open Education Conference

The schedule for the Open Education Conference at Utah State is now available. My talk “Generating Open Courseware using Podcasting, Screencasting and Games” is on Friday Sept 29 at 11:00. I will be recording it and posting the screencast here. It also looks like many of the sessions will be at least podcast.

Some major changes are afoot in education. This should be a stimulating experience.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Class Wiki

Although I said I was not intending to set up a wiki for my classes, as I was preparing for my fall CHEM 241 Organic Chemistry Class, it became increasingly clear that I needed the organizational power.

I cleaned up the existing blog a bit, removing now irrelevant posts and leaving basically the links to all the archived lectures as Flash screencasts, pdfs and mp3's. The RSS feed from the blog still functions as a podcast.

This term I prerecorded very short screencast tutorials to show students how to subscribe to the blog and wiki. This should make it easier. I see the subscription count to the blog steadily increasing as we approach the official start of classes on Sept 26. I'll report on how it goes.

Sloan Semester Update

The Sloan Semester is an initiative by the Sloan Consortium to provide free online classes to students displaced by Katrina. The courses are scheduled to run from October 10 to January 6.

We currently have 3 Drexel faculty offering 5 courses in Chemistry and English.

It is not too late to submit additional courses, as long as they are not already available from another institution. Check the course catalog here.

Contact me if you are interested or have questions about the program.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Open Content Thesis

A follow-up on my previous post, where I reported on writing an article draft in a wiki then submitting for peer review. The article is now under review at Innovate and posted here. You have register to see that link.

In a similar way, I have been following Mark Wagner's blog, where he posts a few paragraphs of his thesis draft on educational gaming as he writes them. Mark has mentioned a few times that he was surprised to find the authors of the books he is using comment on his blog.

What a sharp contrast to my experience writing my thesis. Locked up for 6 months writing and re-writing with little feedback, except from my supervisor. That was tough, knowing how very few people would ever read it and make use of it. I think Mark will get more out of the experience of writing his thesis.

But of course only people who are subscribed to RSS feeds, either through keyword search or directly to his blog, will know what he is writing and be able to interact with him. The rest will catch up much much later. I think this RSS divide will become much more apparent over time.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Free Unreal Tournament Quizzes

Thanks to the MakeGames class, also on Wikispaces, I finally found the Free Educational Version of Unreal Tournament.  It has the full UT2 Engine but without weapons.  The editor is basically the same as the commercial version but the maps can't be copied back and forth.

This gave me the opportunity to redesign the Edufrag project into a much more modular format.   Content creators and map developers can now operate independently without having to learn anything about what the other does.  Also maps can be extended easily to accomodate virtually any number of quiz questions.

Following this design I have put together an organic chemistry quiz on Lewis structures that anyone with a PC can download and play freely.  The content can also easily be adapted to the commercial versions of UT for competitive play.

Instructions to try out the quiz and more details on the specs are on the wiki.    

Friday, September 09, 2005

Password protected podcasts

UPDATE: I finally did set up a password protected podcast and vodcast

UPDATE: Margaret has removed the password protection from her podcast but you can contact her to learn more about how she did it.

The issue of password protected RSS feeds pops up during my discussions with faculty. I finally came across a site that does exactly that – Margaret Maag’s Nursing class.

She does it by password protecting the Windows folder where the mp3 files are located. It seems to work well for iTunes and iPodderX (Mac) but on iPodder (PC, version 2.1) there is no request for password. It just downloads tiny 1K files.

The other issue to contend with is that this won’t work using Feedburner to create the RSS feeds because their server has to retrieve the file properties of the mp3 in order to create an enclosure. I have run into this kind of problem trying to create podcasts of pdf files located on publisher sites that verify IP addresses for access.

Margaret also has a blog on e-learning that is worth adding to your feeds.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Duke Podcasting Symposium

It looks like Duke will be hosting a free Podcasting Symposium Sept 27-28, 2005. They will be webcasting and podcasting the talks so if you can't make it you should still be able to benefit.

Thanks to Elmer for the link.

Another case for Open Courseware

Every morning I check my SiteMeter log to see how people are finding my class blogs. For my chemistry classes, this usually results from a Google search for some chemical or chemical reaction. This morning I found a search query on MSN that beautifully encapsulates what I want my classes to answer:
"where can organic chemistry be used in the real world"

My CHEM 242 Organic Chemistry class was the first and fifth result for that search (at least for the moment).

It was also nice to see that that query was made from the country of Saint Lucia. That kind of connection would never have been made using the curently dominating hide-and-discard model of teaching.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Completely free screencast tutorials

I finally managed to put all the tools together to come up with a system to allow anyone that I collaborate with to create screencast tutorials from anywhere for free with minimal hassle. Some of the issues were technical and some were psychological.

A key point is to distinguish between screencast tutorials that must be very short (1 min max) and entire lectures that are about an hour long.

For short tutorials:
1) Download the free CamStudio.
2) Set the frame capture rate to 5/sec (record frames every 200 ms)
3) Turn the audio off.
4) Record the screencast and upload the resulting avi to Ourmedia.
5) Place a link to the tutorial in the appropriate wiki. For example: for my CHEM 241 class, instructions to faculty and educational gaming tutorials.

A one minute avi will be about 4 Meg, which will upload and download almost as fast as streaming with broadband.

One reason for turning off the audio is that it creates a smaller file. A more important reason is that there appears to be a lower psychological barrier to recording mute screencasts. I discovered this by talking with students who were trying to create tutorials and can attest to it myself.

After playing around with the Flash Convertor in CamStudio for a while, I have not been able to make it work properly. At least in version 2.1 of Camstudio, the convertor takes an enormous amount of time to process (compared to Camtasia) and the resulting Flash files have a broken progress bar. Finally, converting avi to Flash is really unecessary for such short recordings.

For hour long screencasts, I am still recommending using Camtasia, converting to Flash and uploading to a server. The avi files are about 200 Meg/hour and really need to be converted for streaming.

Locations of visitors to this page Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 2.5 License