Kansas State University Podcasting Initiative

By Bryan Vandiviere, Web Presentation Technology Coordinator, Kansas State University

Kansas State University is one of America’s first land-grant colleges. Founded in 1863, the university now enrolls more than 23,000 students. K-State has a large distance education enrollment, including students at nearby Fort Riley.

For the past several years, K-State has used technology from Tegrity to record class sessions with video, audio, and multimedia. Presently, close to 200 classes across the university are captured using this technology. A recent upgrade to Tegrity Campus makes it possible for K-State to repurpose class session recordings to podcasts with a minimum amount of effort.

Students are the main driver for the podcast program. With the advent of podcasting, students were looking to take advantage of the flexibility the technology offers.

K-State has been using the Tegrity system for seven years to supplement classroom hours and improve academic performance. Approximately 200 courses each year are automatically captured in equipped classrooms or using portable systems. Once captured, the session is automatically uploaded to the campus’s self-developed course management system, Axio Learning. The faculty member can then review the session and release it to students via Axio.

How It Works

The new version of Tegrity Campus creates an XML file with the key elements of the class session. Audio and visual elements are part of the data already in place with the existing streamed class sessions in Axio. This same XML file is the basis for the podcast conversion.

With very little overhead, the XML data is converted to a podcast. The campus, as one might expect, has a significant number of students using iTunes and iPods. However, not all students do. Some students use other MP3 players, and still others are interested in burning podcasts to CDs to play in their cars while driving. For example, many students from Fort Riley are constantly on the move, and they are looking for a way to easily take their podcasts with them.

To maximize the flexibility for as many students as possible, two versions of the podcasts are created. For those students who are not using iPods, or who are simply downloading and burning the podcast to a CD, the MP3 version creates smaller files and can be played on any MP3-capable device. However, because the XML data includes visuals from the class session, an enhanced MP4b version is indexed and enhanced visually with slides and annotations from class. The MP4b version supports the display of images within iTunes and on appropriate iPod models that support the display of the enhanced content.

The podcast initiative was implemented at the beginning of the school year, and K-State students already have access to close to 1,500 lectures in the two podcast formats. Some were converted from older recordings, and some were generated automatically as faculty continued using Tegrity to capture their classes each day. By the end of this academic year, over 7,000 podcasts will be available to students.

Student access to the podcasts is handled entirely through Axio. Once the faculty member reviews and approves the release of the class session, the course and the podcast are immediately online. Students are notified of the release through an RSS feed. While a significant number of students use iTunes to discover and download newly-released podcasts, any RSS news reader can track the release of the podcasts, and the student’s player of choice then handles the playback.

How It Is Working

A big benefit of the program is the ease with which the podcast generation is completed. Because all the data is already in-place, little staff effort is required. Because of the tight integration with Axio, distribution is a seamless process. A bonus benefit is that podcasts help reduce the campus network bandwidth because students are downloading rather than streaming the class sessions.

The only downside so far is minor and easily addressed; more disk space is needed to hold the expanding collection of podcasts. Obviously, this is an issue that is easily addressed.

Students are very excited about the podcast program. From the beginning of the school year, the projected first-year size of the program has grown by close to 1,000 podcasts. K-State faculty are feeding on the student excitement about the program. While the podcast program is not the only reason, the number of Tegrity-captured courses has also grown.

K-State is dedicated to offering its students more flexible and effective ways to learn through technology. The campus podcast initiative is a big success already. The university will continue to offer its students access to these and future class recordings on demand – whether they choose to experience them online or on their MP3 players.

comments powered by Disqus

Campus Technology News

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.