1. Introduction

View OUCS podcasting service level description

Oxford on iTunes U

A podcast is a series of related audio or video files, placed online with a public URL and linked to via an RSS feed, which you can download to digital media players.

Podcasting offers a great opportunity 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) they can then view the material anywhere.

Oxford podcasts are found at http://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/ or via the iTunes U service at http://itunes.ox.ac.uk (requires the iTunes software).

Interested in podcasting?

The How to podcast at Oxford guide provides an overview of how to go about creating your own podcasts and how to use the University RSS system, OXITEMS to publish your podcasts to the Internet.

The service uses a speaker release form that all speakers are required to sign to publish material on the University's podcasting web portal or iTunes U site: http://www.ox.ac.uk/itunes_u/contribute.html

We always recommend the following short training session for anyone involved in podcasting at Oxford: http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/itlp/courses/detail/TIMV

If you want an introduction to what podcasting is, please watch the Why Podcast video.

Access the podcasts

You can find the Oxford podcasts at http://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/ or via the iTunes U service at http://itunes.ox.ac.uk (requires the iTunes software).

The podcasts cover a range of areas and topics, such as (click on a subject link to see an example podcast series):

2. What is podcasting?

Podcasting itself is described as the method of distributing multimedia files, such as audio or videos files, over the internet for future playback on mobile devices or computers. The term podcast, like 'radio', can mean both the content and the method of delivery. A particular advantage to podcasting is that the media is easily created by most recording equipment (an iPod with a mic, a computer, a DV camera) and is encoded into an industry standard (MP3) that is universally read by computers and portable media devices.

Podcasting also uses an XML-based technology called Really Simple Syndication (RSS). When you want to publish a new podcast, you add a description of the podcast to an XML RSS file. You can include lots of information about your podcast such as dates, ns, description etc and importantly you link to your podcast file as well. This file is published to the web as an item in a RSS feed and is the means by which users access your podcast. They can either download individual podcasts or if they subscribe to your feed, they can receive the new episodes as and when they are published.

If you want an introduction to what podcasting is, please watch the Why Podcast video.

Podcasts are different from Internet radio stations. Radio content is streamed over the Internet, while Podcast episodes are downloaded to a computer first before play-back on digital devices.

With the proliferation of podcasts on both academic and non-academic subjects the need for directory services has arisen. Many directory services can be found on the Internet including one provided by the Apple iTunes software. iTunes can search existing podcasts based on outputted RSS feeds providing you with new sources of information.

Apple have also developed the iTunes U service which enables an academic institution to provide a site that showcases their podcasts. Originally, the institutions were only American universities and colleges. However, starting in June 2008, other academic institutions around the world have been able to provide sites. The University of Oxford's site in iTunes U became available on October 7th 2008. It can be accessed from http://itunes.ox.ac.uk. The iTunes U service requires the listener/viewer to be using the iTunes software. As well as having a site in iTunes U, our podcasts can also be seen using a web browser at http://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/.

3. Oxford Podcasting Case Studies

Podcasts are being used at Oxford to support a variety of diferent activities in a wide range of departments, including the award winning PodOxford. The Medieval English lectures and PodOxford have frequently been in the top twenty-five downloads from Apple's 'Higher Education' category.

3.1. Medieval English lectures

In the English Faculty Dr Stuart Lee uses podcasts to deliver a series of lectures and readings from Old English texts with supporting material to his students. He has also produced an 'enhanced' podcast that is a step-by-step guide with slides to accompany one through the Anglo-Saxon exhibits on display in the British Museum's Early Medieval Room.

3.2. The Great War Archive

This is a major project run by the University to digitize material related to the First World War held by members of the public. The Great War Archive podcasts a range of interviews, seminars and tours from key speakers on First World War literature and the War in general. This includes the historians Richard Holmes and Max Arthur, and broadcaster Ian Hislop.

3.3. PodOxford

"Mike Nicholson, Oxford's Director of Undergraduate Admissions, chats with students and staff from around the University about courses, colleges, what to put on the application form and how best to prepare for the dreaded Oxford interview."

PodOxford is a podcast series aimed at school-leavers to encourage applications to Oxford from a wider social and educational spectrum. PodOxford is regularly mentioned when the issue of novel ways of student recruitment comes up - virtually every national UK newspaper and Radio 4's Today programme have referred to the podcast. It was shortlisted for the European Excellence Awards in PR in December 2007.