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Academic Podcasts by Dark Wraith
Your host here at The Dark Wraith Forums herewith announces that Podcasts of his lectures in four courses are now available via Apple iTunes. Click on the logo at left to go to the iTunes store and subscribe to lectures in the following subjects: Principles of Microeconomics, Principles of Macroeconomics (day class and night class), and Legal and Regulatory Environment of Business. Each Podcast is a full lecture, ranging in duration from just over an hour (for day classes) to about two-and-a-half hours (for the night class). Subscription to the Heartland Collegiate Compendium is free.
For those of you more or less unfamiliar with Podcasting, you do not need an iPod to listen to Podcasts, and you can use Apple iTunes software
right on your Windows or Mac computer not only to subscribe to Podcasts, but also to listen to them.
To provide some background, this project was a lot like work. The first step, recording lectures, requires relatively good audio equipment as well as marginally decent acoustics in the classrooms. A few donations made it possible to get a fairly high-quality digital recording device (on eBay, of course), although one room in which I deliver lectures is proving to be the sound stage equivalent of a large, noisy cave, and I'll probably have to get a better stereo microphone to deal with that problem. The next step, editing the recordings, is an on-going, time-intensive process. The NCH audio software I was using decided at the most inopportune time to announce that my free trial period had ended, so I went to a freeware package called Audacity
, which is pretty impressive in terms of features, but it crashes like the Hindenburg on files as large as the ones I'm trying to use it to edit.
Recording and editing are the on-going work of this Podcasting project. The up-front chore was creating a valid Podcast RSS feed, which proved somewhat more challenging than I was anticipating. What made it a whole lot like real work was constructing the RSS feed to make it "iTunes-friendly"that is, to make it so Apple iTunes, the 800-pound gorilla of Podcast aggregators, could see it and consider it worth checking out for approval. That required special iTunes tags in the RSS feed, several of which had to be generated by a PHP script that could read the information in an mp3 file in an article, do some calculations, and echo the results back out to the XML file (which is sort of like a Website's shadow page that aggregators favor: this page has a special, strictly structured grammar and syntax with all the important informationarticle titles, dates of publication, author, contents, etc.from the Webpage that end users usually see).
Having finally gotten the RSS feed "validated" by W3C standards, with the iTunes supplemental tags validated by Apple, the final step in making the whole project go live was to submit the feed to Podcast aggregators, most notable among them being iTunes, itself, which not only has to ensure that the RSS feed meets its technical criteria, but also that the Podcasts, themselves, meet with Apple's approval. I am still unsure of what that latter process entails, but the Heartland Collegiate Compendium lectures got approved sometime yesterday.
As of the dateline of this article, I am still in the process of catching up to the end of last week's lectures. Right now, each one is taking a couple of hours to edit, but I'll get more efficient as time goes on and as I free myself from the repeated crashes of the audio editing software. (I am, of course, mindful that the crashes might be the result of the software dying of boredom from the audio content.)
Enough about that, and I do apologize for the boring grind above. I had to tell someone.
The lectures are in mp3 format, and a computer user can always simply click on such a file to play it, provided audio software like QuickTime
or Windows Media Player
is on the computer. The principal advantage in subscribing to a Podcast feed is that the aggregator a subscriber uses will go out to look for new episodes to a subscribed feed and fetch them automatically. Feed aggregators like iTunes will also make the task of saving the Podcasts and transferring them to portable devices like iPods, Zunes, and other mp3 players more routine. Nevertheless, again, because the lectures I am posting on my server are mp3 files, an interested visitor can just click on the link for a given lecture and listen to it at a computer.
As a sample, below is the link to one of the first lectures I delivered.
Principles of Macroeconomics, Lecture 1: Origins of the Discipline
Lecture Date: 15 January 2008.
Run time: 1:02:38
Type: mp3 audio file
Bitrate: 128 kbps
Size: 57.3 Mb
Notice that this is a huge file. On fast broadband, it will take about a minute or two for the buffer to fully load so the file can start playing. On dial-up service, you should start the download, then go out, have dinner, catch a movie, maybe take a yoga class, work for an end to world hunger, take that trip overseas you were thinking about, return to the country and organize a new political party, then go home to listen to the lecture, which should have downloaded by that time.
For those of you who watched my YouTube or Revver video lectures, the one to which I've linked above will be old material: the script is about the same from one semester to the next, although I do vary content a bit. The advantage of audio-only for my lectures is that you don't have to look at me flailing about; the disadvantage is that visual contentinformation I would write on a whiteboard, for exampleis not visible; however, I do try to say in words much of what I write on a whiteboard, anyway. Perhaps more importantly, in economics classes, although I do draw graphs, I believe that such graphs are far too often a crutch that economics educators use when oral and written explanations fail them. This has the bad result that students come to the conclusion that the answer to an economics question is a graph they can draw on an exam. A graph is not an answer to anything, nor is it, by itself, an adequate basis for a well-formed response to an economics question. A good answer might or might not have one or several graphs to visually supplement a written, expository explanation; but a graph, in and of itself, cannot be the answer I want. Because of this, I don't turn to the whiteboard and draw a graph every time I need to explain something.
Anyway, Podcasting is now available for my lectures. Follow the episodes for one or more courses, and you'll hear an entire semester's worth of material. By the end, either you'll love the subject matter of the lectures, or you'll be so sick of it you'll never want to hear another economist again as long as you live.
The Dark Wraith is unsure of which scenario is more undesirable.
I went to the logo link. And now I'm lost. Help me, Obi Wan.
Good evening, Moody Blue.
You'll have to tell me what you're seeing.
If you already have the iTunes software installed, it will launch and take you right to the Heartland Collegiate Compendium page for subscription to the Podcasts. If you don't have the iTunes software installed, when you click on the link, you should be taken over to the Apple iTunes store to download the iTunes software.
Is that what's happening, or is something completely other than that what you're seeing?
The Dark Wraith awaits.
"On dial-up service, you should start the download, then go out, have dinner, catch a movie, maybe take a yoga class, work for an end to world hunger, take that trip overseas you were thinking about, return to the country and organize a new political party, then go home to listen to the lecture, which should have downloaded by that time."
Oh Darkest of Dark Wraiths, surly thou knowest that I now have the most tightly stretched piano wire in the county. My access speed has been multiplied, and I abase myself for you.
I will try, but the subject matter is economics??
Can't I just call on Phil Grame, the Texas turtle with a PhD?
But then, maybe I need a course in spelling worse, or spelling better, I don't know.
Poor old Phil proves that any buttwipe with a piece of paper can have an opinion, but maybe not be able to sustain it.
It's after 9:00pm and the blackdog gets so sleepy.
Night, Wraith. Stay out from under my bed, please.
Yes, Wraith, I'm seeing the download page... because I do not have the iTunes software on this computer. But, I am slightly more than half way through listening to the mp3 version... and just now checked the comments. Sorry to delay in my response.
I understand your reasons for just the audio, but I miss the flailing visuals, you know.
(Interesting colorizations on the W.MediaPlayer! Makes me --almost-- feel stoned. *snicker*)
Wow. Wraith, that was great!
Good evening, Moody Blue.
Why, thank you.
Now, did you ever get the iTunes syndication to work? I'm vitally interested in knowing about that, although I have already picked up spiders from quite a few other Podcast syndicatators, including Yahoo! (whee) and others of greater or lesser audience drawing power.
As I noted, though, iTunes is the 800-pound gorilla, and it does lend strong credential to my project (making it more difficult even for my strongest detractors at my college).
The Dark Wraith still has a feeling he's going to get his rear end kicked by running ahead of the institutionally hide-bound IT folks.
Hell, Wraith, I can't even figure out how to get the iTunes download to work... a pop-up blocker alert comes up, then, after I click to close the information bar window it goes to another page that says "Thank you for downloading iTunes" ... and I haven't! Oy! Grrr?
Moody Blue and DW. They are having some download problems with Q-Time, which usually carries i-tunes with it. I had to delete Quicktime and then download ONLY q-time when the option to DL comes up. I already had an i-tunes acct. though. Strange, 'cause it said I had an audio problem, thus the deletion!? hope this helps.
DW, smooth as silk, and twice as fine, baby! This is what I was talkin' about lo those years ago! Not that I thought of Podcasts or anything, but this was definitely worth waiting for!!
"I am sporting a tremendous woody right now!"
Okay! I CAN get there from here! Ta-da!
Wow, it's in fuckin' STEREO! You're walking from right to left, then scratchin' somethin' on the board...way cool!
Sweeeet. The stereo HQ recording is noticeable.
The Dark Wraith wondered if it would be.
My system will hear when you're scratchin' your butt behind the podium. So watch yerself, Mister!
"you just watch yer butt, mister!"~Raising Arizona
The sidebar recommends visiting Debsweb and the "New Words" article, and I must wholeheartedly concur! I passed on it for a day or two, thinking they'd be the standard fare; I was wrong...they're way too close to reality for some of us sinners.
For those of you interested in reliving this experience, at some point during the next couple of hours, I'll be publishing the first night section lecture in macroeconomics. Apple iTunes and other spiders for Podcast aggregators should pick it up shortly thereafter.
Unfortunately, my plan to have it up this morning hit the wall of crashing freeware audio software. So far, the Audacity software I'm using has bitten the dust three times, and the autosave feature apparently isn't working properly, so I'm on the verge of losing all semblance of self-control. A nice, quiet monastery sounds really attractive, right now.
I'll get through this. The truth of the matter is that this Podcast is a monster: five tracks, almost two hours in length (even editing the thing down to take out the fluff). I'm guessing the file size in mp3—if I ever manage to get it saved, that is—might be in excess of 100 megs.
I'll post another comment when I'm finally finished saving and uploading the file... if anybody's interested, that is.
The Dark Wraith should have thought twice about coming out of his cave to try out new technology.
I have now published the lecture mentioned in my last comment. It should be picked up by iTunes and other aggregators within the next few hours for those interested in listening to nearly two hours of a re-run of what I did in short version in the lecture to which I linked in the article, above.
The stats for this latest lecture are as follows:
Principles of Macroeconomics, Night Section, Lecture 1
Origins of the Discipline, delivered on 15 January 2008.
Run time: 1:48:34
Type: mp3 audio file
Bitrate: 128 kbps
Size: 99.4 Mb
Yes, indeed, you can relive the thrill of the introduction to macroeconomics at your leisure and earliest convenience in the comfort of your own home.
The Dark Wraith is probably promoting these Podcasts with a little too much enthusiasm.
Good evening, Wraith.
Well, Professor Cool, after first listening to the mp3 version, I have done the four iTunes versions, too. (I didn't expect to be getting used to a new computer program along the way, though. *chuckle* Goodness.) It definitely is great to hear a full lecture all at once. I'm still not ready to say that Economics is my most favorite subject, but you are surely my most favorite teacher. I do greatly appreciate the effort and the work you put into this, and that you make your lectures so interesting, ya know.
Thank you, Wraith.
P.S. Extra points for a tattoo, huh? ;-)
"Teaching should be such that what is offered is perceived as a valuable gift and not as a hard duty." -- Albert Einstein
You even went to the trouble of wrapping them for us...how thoughtful! Many thanks, teacher!
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