Podcasting involves the creation and distribution of multimedia files, such as audio files (most commonly, MP3s) or videos, over the internet for playback on mobile devices and personal computers. The term podcast, like 'radio', can mean both the content and the method of delivery. Podcasts are already being used by savvy universities for marketing and recruitment. Some universities use podcasts to providing expert commentaries on topical issues from researchers or staff who are renowned authorities on their subject. They can be used to share the latest outcome of a research project. The advantage of podcasting is the relative ease at which it is possible to create recordings and distribute them via the internet.
Teaching a course with podcasting provides an additional way to share lecture content and promote student engagement. Podcasts can be made by simply recording a seminar/lecture or by creating them de novo as an additional learning resource. Educational video and audio is undergoing a step change, posing new requirements on institutional workflows that have high overlap between institutions. Particularly the availability of affordable recording techniques as well as new distribution channels has changed the way in which audio and video visual material is used in UK higher education. As downloadable audio and video, podcasts empower an educator with the ability to deliver course materials and lectures outside a conventional classroom environment. Students, or interested parties (depending on whether the material is publicly available) can access the material from outside the campus, view it at any time, and by downloading it to a portable media device (such as an iPod) can view the material anywhere.
Academic commentary, interviews, or public lecture series could also be published as a podcast and made available publicly or to a restricted audience (using the institutions single-sign-on system). Podcasting technology is useful for regular commentary because RSS listing (syndicated 'feeds' of podcasts) allows users to subscribe to the podcast feed: in doing so they are alerted to the latest podcast in the series. Linking to a podcast directory allows you to find new material quickly. The most popular directory service is the one provided by the Apple iTunes software, which is a free download from Apple. iTunes can search existing podcasts based on outputted RSS feeds, and fully integrate academic podcast series into Apple’s own service, iTunes U (www.apple.com/itunesu), which academic institutions must sign-up to prior to use.
A particular advantage to podcasting is that the media is easily created by nearly all recording equipment (an iPod with a mic, a computer, a DV camera etc) and is encoded into an industry standard (MP3) that is universally read by computers and portable media devices.
Widening one's perspective, podcasts can be published by students and made available in exactly the same manner as their academic counterparts. Student podcasts could document the learning experience, the development of their knowledge, experimental/research methods or simple commentary of any nature. Apple’s iTunes U has a built-in feature that allows students to upload podcasts which can be viewed either by the tutor or by fellow students (suitable for peer review).
 1 We want *YOU* to contribute
This booklet is not a polished guide. It is not perfect nor is it complete. We have taken a snapshot of the information in the Steeple project's wiki and made it available as an example of what podcasting involves. The printed document contains only a fraction of what we have online at the Steeple project wiki. The wiki is a live and expanding guide to the issues surrounding academic and institutional podcasting. We encourage you to visit the Steeple website and contribute your expertise, thoughts, concerns and questions.
This booklet and its online wiki companion are released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license. You are free to photocopy and distribute any portion of it as long as it is for non-commercial use. You are free to re-use and re-mix, as long as you share the result under the same (or a compatible) license.
 2 About Steeple
Steeple is a JISC funded UK Higher Education community project, led by the University of Oxford, the Open University, and Cambridge University. The vision for the Steeple project is to create a viable community around scalable, enterprise-level solutions suitable for the UK Higher Education sector in the areas of automated video/audio capture, video/audio processing, and video/audio delivery (podcasting).
The Steeple project will look at the processes supporting effective use of audio and video podcasts using emergent technologies that can streamline complex audio-visual encoding activities through enterprise level services. This centralised institutional work will relieve the burden placed on departmental support structures and lead to long term savings from the reduced time and effort in creating audio visual materials for teaching, research and outreach. The project will run from October 2008 to March 2010. We are hoping to work with all UK Higher Education Institutions (HEI) that have an interest in OpenCast, and hope that Steeple will lead to strong participation of UK-HEI in OpenCast.