There are some issues that continue to be actively debated in the community regarding podcasting as a technology and in the way it is applied. It might be of interest to take a brief look at some of these issues.
Podcasting as a replacement for in-class lectures: Not quite. Podcasting in order to be effective as audio content needs to be created in a way that the user get the most out of the experience. However, podcasts can be a useful tool to make available pre and post course material to students. While lectures could be recorded and made available via podcasts, it is important to remember that audio podcasts do not have a visual component. A presentation that has both visual and auditory components in it will need to be re-purposed for podcasting if it is to be effective. For example, NBC makes available an audio recording of its evening news via a podcast. However, there is not an interpretation of the visual components. Adjustments like presenting figures and tables, describing images or procedures at verbatim need to be made in order to be effective. It could be suggested that the NBC approach is not a particularly good one for delivering good podcast content. In a similar vein, class lectures run the risk of being incomplete if only the audio recording is provided as a podcast.
Rights Management: iTunes has created a small stir with its rights management. DRM’d content cannot be uploaded to iTunes - there is no facility for this. Institutions may want to protect their content in much the same way as music in iTunes.
Production and Maintenance of Content: Although easy today, the process of building sophisticated learning objects for the future takes far more skill than is currently available. At one time, producing this content required an AV department. Now, anyone can do this. The problem is that students are beginning to expect high-quality, Hollywood-style production in their content. In addition, this content ages and will need to be continuously refreshed. Expectations for what the content ought to be and what it ought to look like has evolved – very quickly, and students expect far more than is systematically feasible at the present time. To get an understanding of what an institutional commitment could look like, check out MIT’s OpenCourseWare4 initiative.
End-user experience: Podcasting will do well to lose its geek ness. For example, the process of setting up and maintaining a podcast needs to become as simple as opening up and creating a spreadsheet. Podcasting will need to become spreadsheet-simple. There have been some notable developments in this quest for user-friendliness. For example, Odeo is a new startup from the same folks who brought us Blogger. Orb is another example. Much needs to be done in this space to lower the barrier for entry.
Integration with Learning Management Systems: Current Learning Management Systems integrate podcasts with some limited functionality. The most common practice when using podcasts include providing a link to the audio file. But in most cases podcasts are dependent on a subscription model that will automatically update the list of audio files available, then delivering the most recent one to the user’s computer. Despite these challenges, the opportunity exists for DRM content enabled services that will allow for the