Section 1: Introduction
 1 Introduction
These are exciting times for those in the education sector. The increasing availability of different online media channels is providing greater opportunities for institutions to reach out to their students and beyond. But what is a podcast?
A true podcast is a media file provided via a subscription service, where future ‘episodes’ are automatically downloaded to your computer by the podcaster. Once you have subscribed, they then ‘push’ the next podcast in the series to your computer. The ultimate power of the podcast is that it provides you with the opportunity to syndicate your organisation’s material from one single source.
However, the term podcast now has a broader meaning, which is used within this report, to describe any form of digital media file which can be downloaded and listened to or watched at leisure.
Technology means that individual lecturers, who may have little or no experience of media production, are now able to record and publish their own podcasts. However, this raises many issues in terms of production values, technical quality, and also the issue of branding. With all of these new delivery channels available to them, Higher and Further Education institutions need to be increasingly aware of the importance of developing their own presence in this online multi-platform world.
This report has been created to assist those embarking on implementing an institutional podcasting process. It will provide a guide to what needs to happen to get your podcast to your chosen audience.
How you use this report will depend on the degree of media production experience available to you and your institution. If you are new to this process you may find it useful to read the whole report. If you already have media production experience, you might prefer to ‘dip in’ to specific parts you feel are relevant to your particular situation.
The report is structured around the key issues you should consider when establishing your own institutional podcast production processes:
- What do you want to achieve?
- What online delivery channels are available?
- What institutional processes will be required?
- What skills will you or your team need?
- What will your production process be?
To explore some of the generic processes involved in producing podcasts the Open University on iTunes U has been used as a case study. The experiences and lessons learned, not just from the iTunes U initiative, but also from the OU’s wider podcast production experience for other delivery channels, such as YouTube, and the core sound and vision asset creation for student course materials will be shared. You will also be provided with advice on implementing a production system at your own institution in the form of some ‘do’s and don’ts’. Although the advice given in this report is based on the experiences of the Open University media teams, and in particular the systems and processes developed for iTunes U, much of the advice is generic and can be tailored to your own institution’s situation and delivery platform(s).
 1.1 Case study: the OU on iTunes U
iTunes U is an initiative of Apple’s iTunes. The iTunes U site has both a public and private aspect, here the focus is on the public aspect where users are able to download freely available educational video and audio content from an increasing number of universities. iTunes U provides the OU with the opportunity to showcase examples of new material to existing students – enabling them to plan the next part of their learning journey – and attract new students.
In the first year of operation on iTunes U, the Open University has provided 160 albums with over 1,000 video tracks and 500 audio tracks with associated transcripts. There have been 4.25 million downloads and the OU site has received 500,000 unique visitors. As well as considering the technical implications in undertaking such a huge, complex project, it was necessary to develop policies and processes to support production on this scale.
This report draws on the OU’s experiences in developing a presence on the iTunes U site.