I decided to use ‘Enhanced Podcasts’ as my new technology for Core Activity 8.1 in the H808. I took an audio podcast that I made last year which was aimed at students with disabilities deciding which university to choose. These potential students often have many concerns about receiving the appropriate supports and there are some (convoluted) alternative admissions routes which need to be understood. We felt that as many of these students have issues with text, presenting some of the information in audio form might be beneficial. Similarly, we had feedback that hearing the voices of the staff potential students would be meeting was reassuring.
Since then I’ve given workshops on creating podcasts to various groups, so I felt pretty confident about my technical skills regarding audio. I was aware of enhanced podcasts, but these are not the widely-used mp3 format, but (at the time) lesser-known AAC or m4a format. This format is now supported by many popular devices (iPod, iPhone, Playstation 3, Wii, as well as phones from Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Blackberry) so I decided to revisit a podcast with a view to converting one into an enhanced podcast with images and hyperlinks.
I used Garageband, an Apple application available as part of the OSX operation system. This allowed me to import the existing recording and add chapter markers, images and URLs very easily. The images had to be imported first into iPhoto (an image management application, again native to the Mac). These could be accessed then from within Garageband, along with other media such as sound effects or other audio items.
Non-Mac users are not well served when it comes to creating enhanced podcasts but it can be done. Jake Ludington gives a tutorial using Windows Media Player.
I appreciate (see below) that not everyone will readily be able to listen/view the podcast attached, but iTunes is a free download, Miro works well and VLC claims to. Feedback on the technical issues would be welcome.
- Ability to augment audio with appropriate images. This could be useful to display an image of a person or item being discussed. Diagrams or screenshots could also be included, or just an image with text (e.g. a URL). Institutions may welcome the ability to include logos or other branding. Images are also very useful for visual learners, some people with disabilities or younger listeners.
- Hyperlinks can be embedded. If a listener is playing the podcast on a device with a web connection, they could be directed to sites with hyperlinks embedded in the podcast at appropriate times.
- Chapter markers. Longer podcasts can be organised into chapters and these can be given meaningful titles.
- Format more widespread. While not as pervasive as mp3, the AAC/m4a format can now be played on a very wide range of popular devices (all Apple players, Sony Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii, Nokia N-series and most Sony Ericsson phones, Blackberry, Creative Zen players etc). Free cross-platform media players such as VLC and Miro claim to be able to handle enhanced podcasts (although I (surprisingly) had problems with VLC).
- All of the benefits of audio-only podcasts.
- Software. As mentioned above, it is relatively easy to create an enhanced podcast if you have access to a Mac. The process is more convoluted if using Windows or Linux.
- Time and effort. The process of choosing appropriate images, resizing, ensuring that the correct balance between size of image and clarity of image is achieved, deciding and creating chapter markers, including hyperlinks, compressing and exporting and testing – these all have to considered and undertaking with an enhanced podcast.
- Access. While AAC/m4a is supported by a wide range of devices and applications, it could not be considered a standard in the way that mp3 could be.
- All of the limitations of podcasts (unsuitable for those with hearing impairments, limited bandwidth, slow connections, older equipment)