Creating slidecasts on Slideshare – e-learning support?

The problem

The unit I work with is responsible for helping staff (and to some extent students) of CQUniversity with their learning and teaching. This is traditionally a fairly difficult task which is made more difficult at CQUniversity by a number of contextual factors. Perhaps the largest is the fact that staff and students are spread across at least 9 Australian campuses spread across almost the full length of the Australian east coast, a couple of overseas campuses and partners and throughout the world via distance education.

Face-to-face support sessions, either one on one or in groups, is somewhat difficult when our small unit is entirely based on one of the campuses. We have to look at using technology and other strategies to address this geographic distribution. We’ve been slowly developing our website using a Wiki and other Web 2.0 tools. This post talks about our early attempts at using Slidecasts – simple powerpoint presentations with a narration. In our case designed to be short and sharp and focus on a particular need.

In some vague, nascent and emergent way this work also links into and aims to continue the growth of our PLEs@CQUni project which seeks to develop insights into how CQUniversity can effectively make use of the increasing number of social media services available out on the net. We hope, that if this approach proves useful, we will develop much simpler and easier ways in which CQUniversity staff and students can make use of this sort of approach.

What we’ve done

Our initial experiments with slidecasts have been around the use of CQU’s online assignment submission system – OASIS – and have been implemented using Slideshare.

The slidecasts that are in place at the moment cover the following topics

How we did it

The process currently being used involves the following steps

  1. Prepare a powerpoint presentation with an emphasis on showing what happens.
  2. Use the “record narration” facility of either Powerpoint 2007/2008 to “deliver” the session in a room.
    This is currently done

    • Using a simple usb headset/mic in my office.
    • Without linking the audio files (this makes sure that Powerpoint creates a separate wav file for each slide – which is important for following steps).
    • On a Windows box – the times I’ve tried this on my Mac Powerpoint has cut arbritary lengths of audio off the end of each slide’s narration.
  3. Save a copy of the presentation (without audio) in Office 2004 format and upload it to Slideshare.
  4. Unzip the Office 2007 version of the presentation (with audio) and create a single MP3 file containing the whole narration.
    This is done using the following steps (on the command line on my Mac)

    • Rename the audio files for the first 9 slides
      Powerpoint names the first 9 slides audio1.wav audio2.wav etc. This throws out the order of the slides. i.e. echo audio*.wav – results in the following order of files: audio1.wav audio10.wav audio11.wav……audio2.wav audio20.wav audio21.wav. Which is not good when you want to concatenate the files together in slide order. I do this with a simple shell script

      for name in 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
      do
        mv audio${name}.wav audio0${name.wave
      done
      

      Appropriate use of sort could probably achieve the same thing, but I’m not keeping the unpacked files, so no problems here.

    • Concatenate the individual wav files into one using SoX
      Very simply using “sox audio*wav all.wav”
    • Convert the wav file into mp3
      SoX should be able to do this, but I haven’t had time to nut it out (busy, busy) so I’ve fallen back on the approach I know that works – iTunes.
  5. Upload the mp3 file to a public website
  6. Use the audio linking slidecast facility on Slideshare to link slides to the corresponding bits of the audio
    The command soxi gives information about individual sound files. I use that to identify the end of each individual slide audio which helps make using the Slidecast audio linker quicker.

    for name in *.wav
    do
      echo $name
       soxi $name | grep Duration
    done
    
  7. Long term aim

    Much of the above process can be automated. I can see a process by which someone gives a presentation with the narration feature of Powerpoint turned on. They then upload the complete (and usually very large) file to a CQUniversity web site (the size of the file and the specific requirements for CQUni would require an institutional system). The CQUni system could then extract the audio, produce the mp3, upload to a public website, upload a version of the presentation to Slideshare and connect the audio with the slides.

    Perhaps the current major limitation with this idea, at least the last time I checked, is that the Slideshare API doesn’t/didn’t appear to provide support for providing timing data for the slides so that the MP3 audio synchronisation could be automated.

    The other major problem is whether or not this approach is actually useful, usable and used by staff and students.

5 thoughts on “Creating slidecasts on Slideshare – e-learning support?

  1. Have you tried Jing ? ( http://www.jingproject.com/ )

    It is one of the easiest tools I have seen for quickly taking a video (with voiceover) of how a program works. I use it here at school for demonstrating something I think may be needed to be repeated (connecting a printer, checking online payslips, using Timetabler, etc).

    Not too much of a fan of storing them externally. I usually store them on the network share and send someone a link. Once it gets used by more than a couple of people I’ll embed it into the intranet website.

  2. SlideShare does support a slidecast although not in the manner you’ve described.

    You can upload a single mp3 file to any host you prefer (SlideShare doesn’t host the audio) and then associate it with your presentation. The slidecast creation interface allows you to synchronise sequential parts of the audio with each slide.

    You can read about it on our FAQ page here: http://www.slideshare.net/faqs/slidecast

  3. G’day Tony,

    Know of Jing. Have used it. Also done some screencasts with Captivate. That works fine if all I’m doing is showing how to use a particular application.

    As an academic Powerpoint style presentations is engrained. A slidecast allows similar functionality.

    In this instance the slide approach provides an advantage as I have to blur out student details. Not sure you can do that in a screencast, at least not easily. I will admit that I haven’t gone looking.

    As for being public. I’m currently a fan of making this stuff public, if there are no legal type constraints. I’m a great believe in open source, open access etc.

    David.

  4. G’day Ashwan,

    It appears we’ve had a failure of communication.

    I’ve used Slideshare a fair bit and the three screencasts linked above are on Slideshare. Using exactly the method outlined on the page you mention.

    The long term aim section is an attempt to quickly outline a potential way in which folk here at CQU could quickly produce and share their slidecasts via Slideshare.

    While I can deal with the current process, there aren’t many people at CQU that could be bothered wasting their time going through all that. It needs to be simpler and quicker. As automated as possible.

    David.

  5. Hi again David,

    The striking difference between Jing and the process you mentioned is that Jing is pretty much idiot proof and just works (like Skype). I can start jing, record my mouse movements and appplication reaction while on the phone to the person I’m supporting. I can email them a link in under 30 seconds of hanging up the phone if they wanted a review, or leave the recording there for the next person who wants the same question. If it’s going to go on the intranet I’ll usually go back and redo it so it looks a little more professional and cover more areas (maybe 2 ways of doing the same thing).

    That’s the power of it, the ease of access and the ease of sharing. I use it far more than I have ever used any other screen capture program because it’s just as easy (or even easier) than walking down to someone else’s office and showing them directly.

    The problem I have with the online storage is that they have not locked in exactly what the deal is with perpetual access. The program is definitely not open source (also like skype) so any data uploaded in the ‘beta’ stage is not guaranteed to be there either because the company folds or the company moves to a paid storage arrangement and you’re locked out of your data. I’d rather know my data is available and if there is something recorded that is worthwhile I can youTube it easily enough.

    That said it’s definitely not a magic bulllet for all captures. MP3 slideshare is going to be a cleaner solution in the long run, but I do believe it could adress some barriers to entry that staff may have to at least get SOMETHING done.

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