Week 7 has two main requirements: your reflection and the Podcasting project.

1 Online Learning Reflection

For this reflection you’ll be thinking about your other online courses.

  1. Read the materials in this week’s module in D2L.
  2. Reflect upon your previous experiences with online learning environments:
    1. What has your experience with online education been?
    2. What, in you estimation, makes for an effective online learning environment? How about a poor one?
    3. How about what makes for a good or poor online learning experience?
    4. What do you wish online instructors would do more or less of?
  3. At least 4 paragraphs/500 words (more than the normal requirement as per the reflection rubric).

Remember to put the content of your Slack post in the Reflection: OLEs dropbox.

1.1 Evaluation

This rubric1 is used in reference to reflections you’ll be posting in Slack based on the readings and class discussions. Note that the different areas are graded slightly differently (with length being clearly segmented, mechanics being all-or-nothing, and the rest being fluid). Some assignments might have specific requirements that supercede these, so pay close attention.

Criteria Score (points vary from 0-2)
Length 500 words or more
Meaning Post provides explanation, explication, and examples to develop ideas.
Focus Stays on topic (or strays when appropriate), develops a clear statement or asks a clear question, written with audience in mind.
Support Provides at least two external resources to back up statements or contrast ideas. Does not mention references without citing/linking. Proper APA citations
Mechanics No grammatical or spelling errors. Proper sentence structure. Easy to read. (2 pts., all or nothing)

2 Podcasting Project

2.1 Introduction

It is important for you as a professional to hold a working knowledge of creative multimedia production to aid in and support the design and development of educational or instructional materials, as well as be able to think creatively and critically about learning (online learning, in particular) and the technologies that support it. Adobe Audition, being one of the industry-standard audio editing products, fits the bill to accomplish both these tasks and, combined with its seamless integration into the Creative Cloud suite, works as an incredibly powerful resource in your multimedia creation toolbox.

Adobe Audition, part of the Creative Cloud suite of design software, is the industry standard for creating production-quality audio. In this project you will be creating a short podcast episode that includes narration, background music, and audio mixing. This may sound intimidating and Audition—like other Adobe CC products—is not necessarily the most beginner-friendly software, but if you walk through the steps to completion one at a time you’ll be surprised just what you can create.

The range of products that can be created using Adobe Audition is wide and isn’t just limited to podcasts. Audition products include actual radio shows, jingles or theme tunes, even real-time voice editing for use in online streaming.


2.2 Steps to Completion

This is a big project that takes a lot of prep work. Make sure you walk through this entire document carefully.

2.2.1 Getting started with Audition

First: download and install the Adobe Creative Cloud. This gives you free access to everything, from Photoshop to Audition to Portfolio to Lightroom(!). Enjoy.

Read and watch the following explainers and tutorials: all the videos in Audition’s Beginner’s Guide collection (~30 minutes)

You aren’t required to download and use the sample materials when completing the Getting Started videos but you would greatly benefit from doing so. Again, Audition can be overwhelming for those without much experience in the Adobe suite so take it slow and try to get comfortable with the interface before moving on to attempting professional-sounding audio.

Along with these videos, a colleague, Dr. Johnson, has prepared a video (below) on how to edit a podcast using the criteria you have for your audio file. You can also listen to the finished podcast.

2.2.2 Brainstorm and Gather Materials

Your goal for this project is to create a short podcast episode. You can listen to one of the episodes of my podcast to get an idea of what flavor this assignment is looking for. This could be a stand-alone audio essay, an interview with a friend or colleague, or you could imagine it as just one episode in a series that you host.

If the sound of your own voice makes you cringe you’ll just have to grit your teeth and bear it for this assignment. Check out these materials to help with your audio production:

There’s no shortage of materials online to make this assignment easier on you: how-tos and tutorials abound on Youtube, especially. For the sake of this assignment stick to recording your own voice and using music and effects preferably from the links above, otherwise ensuring that they are either public domain or creative commons zero licenses. You can read about the distinction on the Creative Commons FAQ. You do not want to use any files that require compensation or attribution.

2.2.3 Start your recording

There is one gateway requirement and three content requirements for this assignment that the instructor will be actively looking for and assessing. Having said that you might find you want to do much more and that is perfectly acceptable (even encouraged). The skills/techniques required in your submitted podcast are:

Gateway: submitted final mixed MP3 file is 12-15 minutes long (script this EARLY and write more than you think you’ll need; ~10 minutes is roughly four single-spaced pages of narrative) and consists of mostly you (and/or your other participants) speaking; it’s a podcast, not a showcase of audio effects.

Content:

  • Properly processed vocal track
  • Appropriately leveled and faded background music
  • Minimum 2 sound effects judiciously used

More on this later in the document. Now, to expand a bit more on what each of these is and the steps to use them:

2.2.3.1 Properly processed vocals

The topic and meat of this assignment is learning technologies and online learning environments! What does that mean? Well, that’s pretty open to interpretation. Here are some suggestions:

  • Interview friends about their experiences with online learning at the college level (or lower if applicable). If they want to complain (and some will), suggest they avoid mentioning any names.
  • Do a collection of reviews of different online learning environments that you either have experience with or want to research.
  • Talk about the tools and skills that help make you a successful online student. What technologies are must-haves for you? What skills?
  • Reflect on your own online learning experiences. Be varied and provide suggestions for ways things can improve rather than simply listing all the things from various classes you feel didn’t work.
  • Talk with a faculty member you believe does a great job with online teaching and/or technology usage.

Remember, it’s the quality of the audio production and the effort you’re putting in we’re concerned with, not necessarily your skills as an interviewer. No one’s expecting you to suddenly become Terry Gross. After you’ve found what you think is suitable content, you need to actually begin recording yourself. Helpful in doing this are:

A few tips that will make your recording (and editing) go a lot smoother:

  • If you can, take a laptop into a closet and record there. The clothes will help prevent echo and reverb, making your voice sound much smoother.
  • Keep your headphones on one ear during your recording so you can monitor both a) how your voice is sounding and b) any ambient noise that shows up.
    • Pro-tip: if you notice a dog barking, a plane flying by, traffic outside, etc., don’t pause the recording. Just snap your fingers right next to the microphone when you’re stopping, then wait a bit until the sound is gone, snap your fingers again and keep talking. This makes it much easier to find these spots when looking at the waveform. Same goes for when you mess up and need to re-record a bit.
  • Record about 10 seconds of silence prior to beginning your script. You can use this as the noise print for noise reduction and it helps with fine-tuning the timing in Audition.
  • If you have a microphone that isn’t a headset (ie, a USB mic), talk past it, not into it if you lack a pop filter. That is, have the mic off to one side of your mouth. This helps prevent plosives.
  • Play around beforehand with different combinations of mic gain and your computer’s mic recording volume. Depending on the microphone you have you might find (like me) that turning your mic’s gain all the way down will give you better results than turning it up and turning your computer’s mic volume down. If your mic doesn’t have its own gain leveler, you can ignore this.

2.2.3.2 Background music

Having some background music accomplishes a number of things in a podcast, chief amongst them keeping it sounding interesting and covering up little issues in the vocal recording. You’ll want to snag something that sounds appropriate to your content without being distracting. Here are some resources:

  • Podington Bear’s collection at the Free Music Archive (you’re free to use other music, this is just a good starting point)
  • How to loop a track so the background music plays throughout your recording
  • Even better, remix the background track so it perfectly loops seamless sections until you want it to end.
  • You may be tempted to try to sync dynamic moments in the background music to your speech. Avoid this temptation. It’s more work than it’s worth.

2.2.3.3 Sound effects and foley

In case you don’t know, the sound effects used in film and most audio (like radio plays) are not recorded in situ but are added later (in video production, the person that does this is known as the foley artist). Here’s a really interesting video on just what you’re actually hearing when you hear sound effects. For this assignment you won’t be recreating the audio to match a visual component, obviously, but it helps to think of the judicious and subtle use of sound effects. Additionally, you’re not expected to (actually, I’m begging you not to) turn your audio into a morning shock-jock radio show that’s peppered with unnecessary sound effects. Instead, think of maybe adding some ambience to your recording, like the sound of a café or a storm if it fits the content.

2.2.4 Mixing it all down

So you’ve got your audio recorded, you’ve identified your background music, and you’ve got a couple sound effects you want to throw in. Now to do some audio clean-up, editing, and turn it into a single MP3 file.

  • Go through parts 2 and 3 listed in this tutorial on your main content audio track
  • Be sure your music levels are adjusted properly so as not to overpower the spoken track(s) and fade in/out just right
  • Make sure your sound effects are also leveled properly so they don’t overpower other tracks

Here are the steps Dr. Straight goes through (generally speaking) when editing episodes of The New Professor:

  1. Using recorded silence before speaking during recording: capture noise print, noise reduction (process)
  2. Normalize to 98.8%
  3. 20-band EQ to bring up low and high ends
  4. Dynamics Processing with little right-facing curve at top
  5. Normalize again to 98.8%
  6. Loudness matching to -16 LUFS

To export as MP3:

  • Follow the steps here under Export multitrack mixdown files.
  • Make sure your file is saved as a 192kbps MP3 and has properly written ID3 tags (here’s a brief 30 second video on editing ID3 tags in Audition; double check them in the file properties in your OS afterwards)
  • Use the naming convention: Lastname-ETCV411-podcast.mp3

2.2.5 Submission

As usual, there are both gateway and content requirements for this project:

Gateway: submitted final mixed MP3 file with included ID3 tags (you can do this directly in Audition) is 12-15 minutes long (that’s a requirement on the low end and a target on the upper end – if you end up with 45 minutes of great content, that’s fantastic)

Content

  1. Properly processed vocal track
  2. Appropriately leveled and faded background music
  3. Minimum 2 sound effects judiciously used

Your final mixdown (exported as MP3) should be shared in the #etcv411-modules channel. You also need to submit a zip file with a few different things to the D2L dropbox. These are:

  • A screenshot of the Audition multitrack session in Audition (here’s an example of one of mine)
  • The exported MP3 you shared to the Slack channel
  • Copies of all the assets you downloaded to use in the recording (the background music file and sound effect files, interview recordings, etc)
  • A PDF (created as a Word file then converted) that includes:
    • A brief description of what steps you took to accomplish the three “content skills” listed in the rubric below and a brief reflection of how the process went)
    • Source URLs for any outside elements/assets/materials (a link to the references made in the content, for example)

2.3 Evaluation

Gateway requirements: submitted on time and meets all requirements listed above in Submission. If these two gateway requirements are not met the assignment will not be graded and considered late until they are. It is your responsibility to ensure these requirements are met before submitting your work.

Note: you may receive 0 points in any category below for simply not addressing it.

2.3.1 Rubric

There are two rubrics for this assignment: one for Technical Skills and one for Content.

2.3.1.1 Technical Skills

Dimension Does Not Meet (0 pts) Adequate (3 pts) Exemplary (6 pts)
Vocals2 Vocals are poorly processed or not processed at all. Edits are very obvious or non-existent. Multiple speaking errors. Volume needs serious adjusting. Vocals are over- or under-processed. Some obvious edits. One speech error present. Volume needs adjusted slightly. Vocals are clear and processed appropriately. Edits are seamless. Speech errors are removed. Volume is good.
Background music Background music volume either overpowers vocals or is too quiet to be meaningful. Flavor of music inappropriate for content. Music volume could be a tad louder/quieter but isn’t too distracting. Music seems mostly appropriate for the content. Background music volume is loud enough to enjoy but doesn’t overpower vocals. Flavor of music agrees with content.
Sound effects Effects/foley feel tacked on or inappropriate. Too loud or quiet. Corny. Unmixed. Sound effects may be a bit too loud or too quiet. Could argue they are forced or slightly inappropriate. Sound effects are appropriately used and not “corny” (unless the content calls for it). Volume is good.

2.3.1.2 Content

Dimension Does Not Meet (0 pts) Adequate (3 pts) Exemplary (6 pts)
Professionalism Incomplete or unfinished audio. One or more assets or materials used are not licensed for such work. Feels like a “first draft.” While complete, the audio may not be ready for publication. Any assets and materials are licensed for such work. Completed audio is ready to use in a professional capacity. Any assets and materials used are licensed for such use.
Originality Appears to be a mirror of existing audio productions or demonstrates a cursory attempt at originality. “Phoned in.” Content may be original but seems to try to copy existing products a bit too much. (Tries to be Fresh Air, for example.) Evidence of thoughtfulness in final product. Completed audio sounds and feels totally original.

You can download this page as a PDF.


  1. Adapted from Charles Youngs’ Rubric to a Blog.

  2. Speaking errors only count when reading from a script/essay and do not apply if the content is a “live” interview.

Copyright © 2019 Ryan Straight. All rights reserved.