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Going Digital | Creating a Podcast Assignment

The Basics #

What is a podcast assignment? 

A podcast is a produced audio recording of a monologue, interview, or conversation focused on a specific topic.

Why might you want to create a podcast assignment?

  • An option for creating AI-resistant assignments
  • If replacing presentations, frees up class time for other things 
  • Gives students options to demonstrate proficiency (UDL) 
  • Help with classroom engagement & anxiety reduction​
  • Gives students experience with digital tools 
  • Step towards designating a class DI 

What kind of assignments can this replace? 

  • Essays 
  • Research Projects 
  • Journals 
  • In-Class Presentations 
  • Group Projects

Designing the Assignment #

1. Decide on goals and scale 

Goals

If you are creating a podcasting assignment, you likely are hoping the students will develop some technical proficiency. But perhaps your main goal is to give students an alternative method to demonstrate understanding of the course content. Both are valid goals, and being clear about how much priority you assign to each one will help in designing the assignment (and ultimately your grading criteria).

Scale

If you are creating this assignment to be a final project or other large assignment, you may want to break it down into smaller parts with due dates for each (much like a research paper). Some possible steps are:

  1. Topic selection 
  2. Source selection 
  3. Draft script/outline/interview questions 
  4. Final podcast

Smaller projects, such as weekly mini-podcasts replacing a journaling assignment, may need fewer steps and shorter timelines, but don’t expect high production quality! Recording and editing a podcast takes time.

2. Recommend resources

Some students may already have tools they prefer, while others will have no prior experience with these tools. Unless you have a specific reason, there’s not need to require use of a certain tool for recording or editing, but it’s a good idea to offer your students some options. Below are a few we suggest.

Recording Tools

No amount of post-production editing can beat recording high-quality audio from the start! Often a computer microphone or standard earbuds will do just fine, but encourage your students to make a test recording using the equipment they intend to use. This way they can identify whether their current equipment will be sufficient for the project before making a long recording that they have to throw out for poor quality.

If students need or want higher-quality equipment, they can use the following resources:

HCC Info Desk Equipment Checkout

The HCC offers microphones and audio recorders for free checkout at the Info Desk on the second floor.

Podcast Studio & Vocal Booth

The HCC has spaces designed for audio recording and editing. The Vocal Booth on the 1st floor is open 24 hours and has a microphone suitable for recording a single subject. The Podcasting Studio on the 4th floor is open during DKC open hours and includes four microphones for larger interviews or group panels.

Editing Tools

SoundTrap

SoundTrap is a free browser-based digital audio workstation (DAW) designed for editing podcasts and music. Users can trim, splice, rearrange, and reduce background noise on audio clips.

  • Free 
  • Browser-based 
  • User-friendly 
  • Can create transcript
Audacity

Audacity is a free downloadable digital audio workstation (DAW) designed for editing podcasts and music.

  • Free 
  • Open-source 
  • Less user-friendly but more advance features 
  • Cannot generate transcript 

3. Offer support

Make sure your students are aware that they have many options for support for digital assignments (they don’t have to always come to you!).

DKC Class Visits

Consider having the Digital Knowledge Center visit your class to introduce tools and best practices for your assignment. This can go a long way in helping your students get off on the right foot. Visits can be tailored to the needs of your class.

DKC Appointments

If students run into issues, they can book appointments with a Digital Knowledge Center consultant to help get them unstuck.

DKC Online Guides

The Digital Knowledge Center maintains online guides on many tools for digital projects, including “Getting Started” best practices for audio, video, graphic design, and website-building projects.

4. Consider Accessibility 

It is important to consider accessibility in any digital project. In the case of audio projects, there are a few easy ways to improve accessibility.

Provide a transcript

Requiring students to provide a transcript of the spoken words in their podcast improves accessibility and can help you in reviewing and grading projects.

If students create auto-generated transcripts (using Soundtrap for example), it is a good idea to ask them to clean up any errors the software has made before submitting.

Minimize background noise

Recording in a quiet environment and avoiding background music improves accessibility and increases the likelihood of accurate automatic transcript generation.

5. Determine Grading Criteria

Many of the grading criteria you might use for a “traditional” project still hold true for a podcasting assignment. One major difference is that podcasts tend to be less formal and more conversational in their language. You can ask for more formal language for your assignment, but be aware that you may be pushing against the podcasting culture that your students may be familiar with.

As with any assignment, a rubric is a great way to define the grading criteria for yourself and your students. Decide what are the most important learning objectives for your assignment, and assign points accordingly in your rubric.

For example, if technical proficiency with podcasting technology is a major part of your objectives, include these as major elements and award more points for successfully accomplishing those objectives. Alternatively, if demonstrating understanding of the material is the main goal, award more points for successfully communicating the content and fewer points for the technical elements.

Below are some guiding questions and a sample rubric for an assignment focusing on content more than technical proficiency.

Content Issues (Major)

  • Does the student address the prompt and fulfill the assignment effectively? 
  • Does the student think creatively? 
  • Does the student clearly state their argument, or thesis? 
  • Is the thesis developed over the course of the assignment?
  • Does the student provide evidence? 
  • Are sources high-quality and support the thesis? 
  • Does the podcast show evidence of organization and revision, or does it seem like a first draft/stream of conscience recording? 

Technical Issues (Minor) 

  • Can you hear the speaker clearly and distinctly?
  • Does the podcast transition cleanly between cuts?
  • Are there extraneous background sounds (mouse clicks, paper shuffling, etc.) that could have been edited out?

Example Rubric 

  • Thesis and argument: _/40 
  • Organization: _/30 
  • Introduction and conclusion: _/10
  • Technical issues and accessibility: _/10 
  • Sources and citations: _/10 

6. Determine Submission Method

There is no “wrong” way to receive assignment submissions, so choose the one that works best for your learning objectives. Below are a few options.

Canvas Assignment

Canvas is a great submission option if you just want to receive the files directly. You can set the assignment submission type to “File Upload,” and students can upload their audio file and supporting documentation all at once.

screenshot of an example Canvas podcast assignment

Blog Post

Alternatively, if you are interested in having your students think about their work as having life outside of your class, embedding podcasts in a blog post is a great option. This gives students the experience of creating a unified page for the podcast and its supporting materials, similar to many professional podcasts.

Example Professional Podcast Episode Post: 99 Percent Invisible

Example Student Podcast Post

Digital Intensive SLOs #

Each Digital Intensive proposal is considered by the DI committee on a case-by-case basis, so there is no “guaranteed” method to acquire the designation. But below are few examples that may help a podcasting assignment address the DI Student Learning Objectives.

  1. Students will successfully locate and critically evaluate information using the Internet, library databases, and/or other digital tools. 
    • Require students to share sources for the claims made in their podcasts
    • Use the SIFT Method or other criteria to evaluate source credibility
  1. Students will use digital tools to safely, ethically, and effectively produce and exchange information and ideas. 
    • Converting a written assignment to a podcasting assignment goes a long to addressing this SLO
    • Require a transcript alongside the podcast submission to support accessibility
  2. Students will creatively adapt to emerging and evolving technology. 
    • Instead of requiring a specific tool to create their podcast, ask students to evaluate several and select the one that best fits their needs
    • Instead of submitting an audio file in Canvas, ask students to evaluate different sharing platforms (Spotify, iTunes, SoundCloud, etc.) and decide for themselves which one to use

These are just a few options – there are countless ways to accomplish the DI objectives. And remember that a single assignment does not need to address every SLO! A podcasting assignment could address some, while other assignments could address others.

Additional Resources #

Liberated Learners – Podcasting

A great resource to share with your students! This walks through the podcasting process from start to finish.

DKC Audio Editing Guides

The Digital Knowledge Center maintains getting-started guides, tool recommendations, and repositories of free media resources for various digital project types.

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