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Wondering how the pros make their podcasts sound so good? Here’s some tricks to start with.
Hello there! My name is Judy Tran and I am the Learning Technologies Coach for the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning . I’d like to tell you a bit about myself and my work here at the University of Calgary.
Who am I?
I am a third-year undergraduate student in the Faculty of Kinesiology. I got looped into this exciting job because of my interest in teaching. It is my hope to eventually graduate (after who knows how many years) and become a teacher, so when I saw the opportunity to work as a Learning Technologies Coach for the Taylor Institute, I immediately thought this was the perfect position for me. So what exactly does this job entail and why would I be so eager to be involved with the Taylor Institute? This question brings us to the next section of:
What do I do?
Each faculty on campus has or is in the process of hiring their own Coach, and part of the job description is to help faculty members with integrating technology into their classes. This can include providing guidance on using a tool to enhance the way their class is taught, like using Padlet.com as an annotation tool. The Taylor Institute is a fantastic environment to consider ideas of technology integration – the Learning Studios are really innovative spaces that are equipped with technology and designed for flexibility.
My role as a Coach within the building is to understand how to use the technology we have, and how to help instructors and workshop facilitators use the technology to their advantage to support and encourage learning. One project of mine that is my pride and joy was making a course trailer this past summer for a Kinesiology class I had taken the winter prior. I also act as a first line of contact for instructors over the course of a semester in the event that they need technological support. Many of my tasks are filtered through to me from my colleagues in the EDU, so if you are interested in having an extra pair of hands on board, don’t hesitate to mention my name.
I hope this provides a little more clarity on the role of Learning Technology Coaches. As mentioned before, there is a Coach for each faculty so take the time to find out who yours is. We’re here as a foundation of support and we’ve been involved in lots of cool projects so I encourage you to take advantage of this readily available resource!
This post is about how my fellow LT coach at the Faculty of Arts – Hany Ibrahim and I organized and presented a workshop on D2L Basics. I will take you through the different stages of preparation and then the workshop itself.
What to cover?
First, after answering numerous professors’ questions on how to build a course on D2L, we realized we had to give a session on the very basic stuff, to instruct a bunch of people at the same time, rather than each one of them individually. We decided to cover the topics that regularly came up as questions during our one-on-one sessions and ended up with 5 large areas: Adding content into D2L, Communications with the Class, Creating a Gradebook, Creating a Dropbox, How to Release and Export Final Grades.
How to present?
Next, we had two ideas on how to present the material: as a PowerPoint Presentation or just to show directly how to do these things on D2L using our Sandboxes. After a long consideration, we decided to combine the two as our goal was to make something hands-on and visual. We also printed out hand-outs with instructions from elearn.ucalgary.ca
How to organize?
We set the date of the workshop and collaborated closely with our Associate Dean – Dr. Dawn Johnston, who helped us book a room, send out a series of advertising emails around the Faculty of Arts and even organize some catering (coffee and muffins).
How did it go?
It was great! The Workshop ran quite smoothly and received positive feedback.
What could be improved?
What we realized was that PowerPoint Slides are only good for presenting the overall structure of the Workshop, not for showing the sequence of steps a D2L User needs to take. Everything should just be shown on D2L, and the professors can simply rely on hand-outs from elearn.ucalgary.ca for detailed instructions that they can take home with them.
Another issue was the time. The room was booked immediately after our workshop, and we only had 1 hour, which was barely sufficient for the amount of information we were going to present. Consequently, we didn’t have much time for the profs’ questions. However, they had a chance to ask questions during our presentation as we went along.
Now we are planning another workshop for more advanced D2L users to cover some features professors may be unaware of. We would also like to incorporate the professors’ feedback and questions into it to come up to the expectations of as many people as possible.
Generally, when building a stereo rig the prevailing ideology is to build from the source out. So, in an analogue world you’d get the best turntable and stylus first and then worry about better speakers. The rationale being If the needle can’t read the record well the quality of the speakers are irrelevant since they are a downstream component. The signal is amplified from the source out. For recording it’s pretty much the same idea. No matter how fancy the software nothing will overcome a bad microphone or room dynamics. Some things just cannot be fixed in post production.
There are plenty of microphones available that work well for basic podcasting. This article outlines many good choices. Based on the usages I have seen so far in the various courses though I personally recommend the Blue Microphones Yeti USB Microphone – Silver Edition (there are different colours if you care).
There are several reasons I recommend this microphone:
Acoustics is almost as important as the microphone. For podcasting you really want to try to reduce room noise (the sound of a buzzing fridge in the background) and echoes. This link I’ve included lays out some really easy steps to take to improve acoustics. For example, recording in a carpeted room makes a big difference. Even small things like having a large rug and curtains in the room make a larger impact than you would expect. You can also build a really cheap foam barrier which the link above discusses to reduce echo.
Personally, I use Garageband because it is easy to use and free. Honestly, the core abilities you will need in the software are equalization, noise gate, compressor, trimming, and mixing. Podcasting does not require an advanced software suite and it probably makes more sense to discuss these settings in practice rather than here. Often you don’t need to use a compressor or a noise gate but they make for a more professional product.
Also, very important but more seldom discussed is accessing a podcast. I am not sure the culture of posting materials regarding how professors feel about sharing their content to a “wider” internet audience vs keeping it locked behind D2L. However, a proper podcast should really be posted to a RSS feed that can then be read by podcast aggregators like iTunes, Google Music, or whatever. I’ve gone through the process of getting a podcast listed on iTunes and it is exceptionally easy. There are many ways to structure it but you could have feeds for every class so a student opens the feed and all of the podcasts are ready to go in chronological order and easily accessible and playable on any device of their choosing. This discussion is probably a more lengthy one but I would be happy to discuss it more in person.
An aside about the pitfalls of podcasting. Don’t be a podcast tyrant.
When recording in a new room it is inevitable some mistake will happen that requires the re-recording of a podcast. The risk can be minimized with test recording but eventually something will happen. I lost a 2 hour recordings once because of a fridge buzz. Problems like this are almost impossible to fix in post production. It is simply better to re-record the podcast. Basically, what I am getting at here is don’t publish a podcast that has a glaring audio issue. No one will listen to it. Audio issues are magnified substantially when listening in headphones, which I would suggest is how most students are listening to podcasts. Furthermore, it’s simply bad etiquette to force someone to listen to something that is unlistenable. Lastly, the most important piece of advice I have is don’t write a script write a skeleton. Have a structure of where you want to go in a podcast but don’t write a complete script. If you are reading from paper verbatim it will be monotone and the timing will always be unsettling to the listener. When recording visualize you are having a one sided conversation with an invisible guest. This will make the podcast infinitely more engaging to the listener. You want to get better at having a conversation with a microphone not how to write a better script. The essence of a podcasting, like radio, is conversational.
Google Doc on how to remote record a participant: