TOPcast: Teaching Online Podcast

TOPcastThe Center for Distributed Learning at the University of Central Florida has launched the Teaching Online Podcast (TOPcast) hosted by Dr. Thomas Cavanagh and Dr. Kelvin Thompson, a monthly podcast for online and blended learning professionals. Tom and Kelvin are rockstars of the online and blended learning world with decades of experience growing and learning blended and online programs. In their podcast they discuss current issues in online and blended learning relevant to leaders and practitioners. Any online instructor, instructional designer, or aspiring online learning leader will find benefit from the insights shared. You might also learn something new about different coffee blends in the process 🙂

You can share with the hosts your thoughts on past episodes or ideas for new episodes via email (topcast@ucf.edu), follow on Twitter at @topcastnow, or join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #topcastnow. Subscribe (via iTunes or RSS) to never miss an episode.

How to Create a Course Podcast Using Dropbox and JustCast in 5 Easy Steps

I’ve been a long-time proponent of podcasting in education and I shared back in 2012 how to create a course podcast using Dropbox. The process I shared at that time, while free and workable, was still a bit cumbersome a presented a few minor technical hurdles that faculty needed to overcome in order when implementing. I recently learned of a new tool, JustCast, that removes the previous technical hurdles and makes podcasting using Dropbox super simple!

This 2-minute tutorial demonstrates how easy it is to create a podcast using Dropbox:

JustCast Tutorial

I decided to give JustCast a try myself. Below are the steps I took to setup a course podcast for my summer course, ETT 511: Advanced Instructional Media Design, in less than 5 minutes! Before following my steps below, you’ll need to first have a Dropbox account, which you can sign-up for free at dropbox.com.

Step 1: Sign-up for a Free Account

After I viewing the tutorial at justcast.herokuapp.com, I signed-up for a free account. In a matter of just a couple of clicks, I had approved the JustCast app in my Dropbox account. After logging in, my JustCast Shows page looked like this:

JustCast Shows

Step 2: Edit “example” Dropbox Folder Name

As part of the JustCast install process, it creates a folder called “justcast” in your “Apps” folder in your Dropbox folder. Within that “justcast” folder will be a subfolder called “example” that is meant to be the placeholder for your first podcast. I renamed that folder to the name of my course podcast, “ETT 511 – Summer 2014” so it appeared as follows:

renamed podcast folder

Step 3: Place .mp3 File in Podcast Folder

With my course podcast folder renamed to “ETT 511 – Summer 2014” I then simply dragged and dropped the .mp3 file for my first podcast episode into that folder within Dropbox on my computer, which then sync’d with my Dropbox in the cloud. Once sync’d, I could see that the audio file for my first episode was within my Dropbox/Apps/justcast/ETT 511 – Summer 2014/ folder
Podcast file
For each new episode to be added in the future, the new .mp3 file will simply need to be added to this folder.

Step 4: Edit Podcast Details

I then went ahead and edited my podcast show details in JustCast. Clicking the “Edit” button I added the following show details and attached a square graphic to be used as the thumbnail artwork for the podcast.
edit show details

After saving the edited show info, the podcast appeared in my list of shows as follows:
edited podcast show details

Step 5: Share Podcast RSS URL

The final step was to click the “RSS” button for my show to get the RSS feed for my course podcast, which is http://justcast.herokuapp.com/shows/371/audioposts.rss

podcast RSS feed

Students can copy/paste this URL into their own podcast app of choice, such as Downcast, Instacast, Apple’s Podcast app, or others to subscribe and be able to easily download & access all future course podcast episodes directly from their mobile device.

I’ve been very impressed thus far with JustCast, even though it is currently just beta. I plan to continue using it for my course podcast this summer and I’d encourage other educators looking for a simple and free podcasting solution to give it a try! The free plan currently limits to 100mb of uploading per month, with an unlimited monthly upload option for just $5/mo.

Have you tried JustCast and/or found these steps helpful? What has been your experience thus far with podcasting using Dropbox and JustCast? Leave a comment with your thoughts!

Downcast – best podcatcher app for iOS

I have been a connoisseur of podcasts for years and up to this point, still subscribe to podcasts via iTunes on my computer and then sync my mobile device to my computer to get the content onto my computer. While this workflow has continued to suit me just fine, I have increasingly been wanting to “cut the cord” and not have to daily plug my iPhone or iPad into my computer to sync new podcasts.

When Apple announced the development of a stand-alone podcatcher app for iOS 6, I had high hopes for using this app in place of my iTunes downloading/syncing workflow. However, after trying the first iteration of this app, I was really disappointed with the unrefined and clunky UI, sluggish performance and numerous errors when attempting to download new episodes, along with many missing features that I had hoped for.

I had heard many positive reviews of Downcast and decided with an upcoming trip to BbWorld where I won’t have my laptop with me, it was time for me to spend the $1.99 and give Downcast a try. I am SOOOO glad I did! Downcast is a universal app (purchase once, download for both iPhone and iPad) and does an AMAZING job at allowing me to easily subscribe to, listen to, and organize my podcast subscriptions. Also included is iCloud syncing, so all the settings and content from one device are automatically synced to the other…stop listening to an episode on one device and pick up where you left off on another! It handles both audio and video episodes, and allows for speeding up playback up to 3X. Most importantly…it just works! I unfortunately can’t say the same for Apple’s podcasts app.

download Downcast

After just 1 day, I HIGHLY recommend Downcast and if you are an iOS user podcast junkie like me, you definitely won’t be disappointed. Here’s a quick tour of Downcast that I recorded on iPad giving a few more of my first impressions.

This screencast was recorded using Display Recorder on iPad, then shared to Dropbox and finally uploaded to YouTube. While Display Recorder does have built in direct upload to YouTube, I wasn’t able to get it to work.

Have you used Downcast? What is your favorite feature? Leave me a comment and share any tips you may have for other newbie Downcast users like me.

What is a podcast?

I put together this presentation as part of a larger initiative to train NIU faculty on the use of a new podcasting building block in Blackboard.

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For the highest quality version of this tutorial, view the flash version. Also, this presentation is posted in .mov, .m4b (enhanced podcast), and on YouTube.