In July 2010, I bought (using departmental funds) an Olympus VN6200PC. I was trying desperately to think of ways to make my lectures more archived. I had made slideshows, but that was only an outline. I had heard of Podcasts, but these devices were always touted as tools for large lecture classes. However, I rethought the topic and found some reasons that were pretty applicable to LaGrange College and the typical classroom there.
Typical thoughts/reasons for use at LC were
- Absent students could hear the lecture,
- students who were present in lectures could guarantee accuracy of their notes, and
- students who have difficulty hearing or need to negotiate a language barrier can go back and replay at a louder volume or can take time to re-translate components of the lecture.
I don’t want any of my students to be absent, but I do want to give my students every chance to be able to learn what it is they missed in class–whether their absence was momentary or for the full class time. Also, sometimes our notes are not so great and so being able to recap what was talked about could be important.
The VN6200PC records directly to .WMA and was a great device for the price and performance. However, anyone using a Mac probably won’t be listening to .WMA files and anyone using Linux (i.e., me) might be unable to do so legally! So, how did we convert to .MP3 files? With a nice script. Using Fedora Linux, and making sure that I had mplayer and lame (yum install mplayer and yum install lame), I was able to name/place the following script as /usr/bin/wmamp3.
#to be taken with the filename and output filename
mplayer -vo null -vc dummy -af resample=44100 -ao pcm:waveheader $1
lame --preset phone audiodump.wav -o $2
This is not my code! The code is taken from http://www.linuxquestions.org/linux/answers/Applications_GUI_Multimedia/Convert_WMA_to_MP3. So I just call wmamp3 filename.WMA classdescriptors.mp3. Then, I upload the .mp3-file to our CMS (Mentor).
Mentor (a Sakai instance) creates a Podcast feed easily. If you choose to have a Podcast as a tool, Mentor creates a folder under the “Resources” link. Any inclusion of a file in that directory is automatically included in the Podcast.
So far, with no actual tool to document usage, students tell me they use the Podcasts. I hope they do.