Podcasting Basics

This article focuses on the basics of podcasting: what it is, how educators can use it, and terms to know.

What is podcasting?

Podcasting is a form of media delivery in which audio files are published to the Internet for users to download to their personal computers or portable media players. When new files are added to the podcast, users will automatically receive these updates via a feed called an RSS or Really Simple Syndication feed.

Who podcasts?
Anyone with the right equipment can create a podcast. Podcasting has become the all-access broadcasting alternative. Not only are popular television and radio programs offering their audio and video content for free via podcasts, but individuals outside of the broadcasting profession are also self-publishing content of their own, creating their own personal broadcasts. Podcasting is a growing trend in education as well.

How can educators use podcasting?
Podcasts create a unique opportunity for educators to distribute information to students outside of the classroom. Since podcasts are downloadable to portable devices, such as the iPod, students are not confined to being in a classroom or in front of a computer screen to receive course material. For educational purposes, a podcast could be:

  • course audio files, e.g. bid calls or heart sounds
  • mini lessons with audio and visuals , eg., glossaries with sounds and images, slides with voice-over explanations
  • audio or video case studies containing interview with experts or other
  • multimedia presentations created by students

Terms to know
Below are some podcasting terms that are helpful to know:

Podcast: A media file or files (MP3 or AAC) published to the Internet using a Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feed and available for users to subscribe and download to their personal computers or portable media players

Podcaster: One who creates and publishes a podcast.

RSS feed: Really Simple Syndication feed, the XML format that enables users’ podcast subscriptions to automatically update when new episodes are added

Subscription: A podcast aggregator setting to automatically check for and receive new podcast episodes as they are released

Episode: Individual files published within a podcast, also synonymous with “track”

Podcatcher or aggregator: A program used to upload, store, and deliver podcasts, examples include iTunes and iPodder

Some content adapted with permission from University of Wisconsin-Madison