Six Lessons From The Development Of My First Set Of Podcasts

As part of a recent project with the Higher Education Academy, I developed a set of audio podcasts looking at how students can create their own Professional Online Presence to aid in their employability.

The podcasts created are available here, and a blog detailing their production is also available.

During the time podcasting, I’ve come up with a set of six lessons which I think will help anyone looking to follow in my footsteps.

Overview of the lessons from developing podcasts for the Higher Education Academy

 

Lesson One – Podcasts should be developed as a series of short audios (10 to 20) minutes

I shied away from the idea of long audios or an open-ended series, since planning out a short sequence of podcasts is much easier. Each podcast can also serve a very clearly defined purpose, so this makes them simpler to record. Any extra ideas are better covered in an additional podcast, rather than making each one longer. Adapting a short section of a longer lecture can work well.

There are educational advantages to this too, since modern learners engage better with smaller chunks (and there is nothing to stop someone from choosing to listen to two or more podcasts together if they feel so inclined).

 

Lesson Two – Don’t just audio record lectures and assume that they will be “good enough”. Repurposing and rerecording parts of existing lecture notes works for some subjects

Much of the research I read suggested that just recording a lecture was a bad idea. My own experience of listening to recordings of live events concurs with this.

I think a podcast is much better thought of as a simplified version of a radio recording. Within education, this will often be without all the “bells and whistles” since this is often being developed for a small audience on one particular course (although trying to make things more widely useful is never a bad idea).

 

Lesson Three – Time needs to be allocated to produce podcasts to a high standard

This is one on the sticklers when using podcasts in an educational setting. Creating good online resources of any kind takes time and this is no different where podcasts are concerned. If these were just requested to be done on top of all other types of teaching, it’s very unlikely that much of use would ever be developed.

Some institutions get around this by just recording audio versions of lectures, which, as I’ve already discussed, I feel is undesirable. A separate time allowance to engage with podcasting and to learn the associated technical skills is needed.

 

Lesson Four – Focus on creating podcasts using information that works in a non-visual format

This was one of the biggest challenges with the set of materials I set to adapt, which were PowerPoint slides. By their very nature, Professional Online Presences are visual and tutorials on areas such as LinkedIn would have benefited from being able to show what the screens looked like. I got around this by keeping the material at a high level, which is probably sensible, since versions of social media sites such as LinkedIn do change rapidly and I didn’t want the podcasts to date.

Otherwise, careful consideration has to be made as to what materials are turned into podcasts. Some material does not require a display at all and so would be idea for podcasting. Highly technical presentations, by contrast, seem unlikely to be suitable source material for good podcasts (but alternatives, such as video presentations, could be considered).

 

Lesson Five – Podcasts do not have to be perfect. So long as the sound quality is good, slight wording errors and corrections are fine

I don’t think anyone expects an unscripted audio to be perfect. This is no more the case in a radio interview or anything that could be considered as an equivalent to podcasts to the masses. It is okay to make small mistakes and then just keep going, or add a small correction where needed.

This is an area that holds people back, but just like people barely notice a mistake in a conversation, it’s the same with podcasts. Even where are multiple mistakes, or you end up at a loss for words, the format of short podcasts as mentioned in Lesson One is also useful, as this means that there is only a relatively short amount of material that has to be recorded again.

 

Lesson Six – Audio recording is simple, but the technical challenge comes from making the podcasts available and getting them listed on iTunes

Although I’m a technical person, this is where I found the biggest challenge with the podcasts. Creating the audios was easy enough and once I had a proper plan to work from (essentially, an edited version of the PowerPoint slides) I was able to talk around them and record the audio. This is where it does help creating podcasts covering material that I’ve taught to multiple groups of students and to other academics.

The biggest technical challenge was getting the podcasts online, getting them working in an iTunes formatted RSS feed, and getting the feed submitted to iTunes. Even using a WordPress site and plugin, there were still parts that just wouldn’t work correctly and took a lot of hours searching for solutions. My considered opinion of this one is that every web host is set up slightly differently for podcasting. There are some paid solutions that will host podcasts and these might be better considered than trying the DIY approach like I did.

 

I hope that this set of lessons does provide some talking points and things to consider if you are thinking about podcasting. I think it’s very worthwhile, but just start off with a short series of podcasts like I did – and don’t worry too much if things go wrong. The second series of podcasts will be much better!

What Makes Up A Professional Presence For Academics?

There’s always a question about what makes up a good professional presence for academics.

There are so many different sites which could be registered with and used, and this can look overwhelming to someone new to representing themselves online.

These are the slides I delivered for a recent Higher Education Academy workshop where I broke down the main different components which should be considered. The are hosted on SlideShare account for Thomas Lancaster.

One area I found particularly useful to go through was the different ways in which you can promote academic research using social media, so a number of sites related to that are included.

Developing Your Digital Presence For Academics

Here’s a slideshow for material presented by Alex Spiers at a seminar at Liverpool John Moores University recently.

It’s all about how academics and researchers can develop their own digital presence.

The area is of particular interest to me as I’m running a workshop on Professional Presences For Academics at Birmingham City University in May.

Alex’s take is very different to how I would present this and the focus is on different areas, but the talk definitely covers one of the main challenges for academics, which is to be visible, and to think about research as being something more than dry papers and conference talks.

How To Create A High Value Web Site In A Day

As part of my continued research and teaching into student employability, I’ve been investigating the best ways to help students to present what they can do online.

One very underlooked technique by students is to create a web site on an area of interest to them (and which will benefit them in a professional sense).

That’s what I’ve demonstrated with the creation of my new web site related to contract cheating (shared with my research colleague, Robert Clarke).

Contract Cheating New Web Site

In this case, the web site serves multiple purposes. As well as being a demonstration to students and other academics that setting up a web site is possible, it also provides a central source for research into contract cheating, which is something that is missing at present.

Setting up a web site like this is something that has been within my plans for a couple of years now, but just didn’t ever quite make it high enough up the priority list to process. In the end, I was surprised how quick and easy this was to create in a way that is also simple to maintain.

The actual site design took around four hours, and is based around the WordPress CMS. I already had the idea for the site. Much of the set up involved adding appropriate plugins and coming up with the right pages and headings to make this quick to maintain. I want this site to be one that I can update with new media stories and research papers, but without needing to spend more than ten minute per post. I also wanted to make sure that this didn’t look like a blog (even though it is based mainly on blogging software).

The other four hours has been spent adding content. I’ve mainly used a curation system for this, finding useful sources elsewhere, acknowledging them, and using this as a base for a discussion article. I’ve also added some of my own ideas, which largely overlap with the discussions that I’ll have when presenting on contract cheating.

I’d estimate around eight hours (or one day’s work) to get all this going, but this could certainly be completed quicker if it was done in one session.

There is still lots more content to add, but crucially, coverage of recent material is there. If nothing else, I can see this being useful on a personal level, as it’s surprising how often I find useful recent news stories and discussions about contract cheating, but these quickly disappear into subscription databases, or fall so far down the Google rankings that they’re impossible to find again. That’s just the nature of the Internet.

Other things still to do include social media integration (this is easy with WordPress plugins) and to add some video to the site.

Most importantly, this is a process that can be replicated by students. I’ve been pleased to see some of my Professional Practice 2 students setting up their own blogs, particularly related to technology and gaming, which are useful to demonstrate a wider interest in the Computing field. WordPress makes it simple to maintain a site, and anything related to the professional world, extended studies or technology is a good item to add to a portfolio. One recommendation I would make is to always set this up on your own domain, rather than being reliant on (and constrained by) a third party.

Still lots to do around other activities, but hopefully contractcheating.com will prove to be useful, as well as a simple example of extended professional practice.

How To Search For Yourself Online Using Google

I’ve created a simple video demo showing how to search for yourself online using the techniques in the Online Professional Presences post.

It is worthwhile carrying out a search like this at least once a month to make sure that there is no information showing that you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see.

You can also make sure that the sites that you want to push employers towards show up in the search results. Otherwise, you need to do more work on your professional online presence, for instance by adding content to those sites and pages and publicising them around social media.

Page 1 of 212»