podcasting: going public

If you are interested in hearing examples of instructional podcasts, openculture is a great site to visit. The “Free Online Courses & Lectures from Great Universities” page may be found at http://www.oculture.com/2007/07/freeonlinecourses.html. Featured podcasts are from a variety of areas – Geography, Economics, Literature, Chemistry, Mathematics, Business and many more – and a variety of universites, such as Yale, UC Berkeley, MIT, Texas A&M, Carnegie Mellon, Ohio State, Stanford, Washington College of Law and others. openculture also has a collection of Free Online Courses & Lectures from Great Universities. There’s much more on the site – do explore!

Why share course content on a free and open website? Such sharing naturally opens the door to uneasy thoughts about ownership and distribution. My thought is: Who cares if someone not in the course listens? Sharing such content widens the reputation of both the professor and the university. It contributes to a greater knowledge base for our (global) community. Yes, it’s possible someone could remix the podcast. But, honestly, who would want to? I don’t mean that to be disrespectful; what I mean is that the people who are remixing are for the most part more interested in music and images. Also, few podcasts (especially instructional podcasts) are so widely distributed that they run that risk. But if someone did remix an astronomy lecture by adding astronomic images and some original music … that may be bothersome because of a loss of control, or it may be a delight. It depends upon your view of sharing in general.

Clearly putting a podcast out there means that you don’t know for sure what the user will do with it, and you don’t know for sure that you will be credited if it is used elsewhere or remixed. My recommendation, if you are concerned about those issues but want to contribute lectures or other audio (or video) to open podcasting, is to “stamp” your podcast in some way. Open it with an introduction of yourself and your material, for example, and give it a Creative Commons license. This can be done once and appended to every podcast. At least you are making your intentions clear.

If the concern is that people will not take the course if they can get the information for free … well, they can’t get the credit for free. If they really want the full course and the credit for it, they’ll need to enroll and pay tuition.

There are probably other barriers that don’t occur to me at the moment. It boils down to this: If you can’t envision making your lectures and/or materials availble for distribution and possibly redistribution, then podcasting is probably not for you. But if you are thinking of trying it, here are two more resources you’ll need: 1) Basic instructions (this one is from Blue 2.0 for Staff) and 2) a reminder of copyright as it pertains to your materials and others’.

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