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Getting Started Today With mLearning: Video Podcasting

by Dave Mozealous

October 24, 2011

Feature

by Dave Mozealous

October 24, 2011

“Video Podcasting is something that you can start doing today to get involved in mobile development using your existing eLearning videos. No need to wait for any technologies that are years off, or spend more money investing in expensive delivery platforms. Get started on developing your first video Podcast today.”

Video Podcasting is an easy way for you to target mobile learning platforms today using your existing eLearning videos. Using your current software, you can take content that you already have and start delivering it to most of the current mobile platforms, including iPhone, iPad, Android phones and tablets, and most other popular smart phone platforms.

Editor’s Note: Parts of this article may not format well on smartphones and smaller mobile devices. We recommend viewing on larger screens.

In this article, I’ll explain what a Podcast is, the elements in a typical Podcast, and the growth in popularity of this format. Next, I’ll provide advice on mobile video basics, including video format and video dimensions. After that, I’ll walk you through the three simple steps of creating a video Podcast: converting the video, creating the XML feed, and distributing the Podcast through iTunes. There are links to actual examples, including video Podcasts (screencasts) of … how to create a video Podcast. When you’ve finished this article, you will have everything you need to know in order to start publishing your own video Podcasts!

What is a Podcast?

A Podcast is a series of audio or videos files that are downloaded or streamed. You can listen to or view Podcasts on a device like a mobile phone, iPod, or desktop computer. A video Podcast is a Podcast comprised of video files.

A Podcast at its basic level is an XML document that explains all the data about the Podcast, such as the Podcast title, the Podcast author, a description, and then the various links to the audio or video files. (Figure 1)

 

Figure 1. What’s in a Podcast?

Software applications such as iTunes — both desktop and iPhone versions — can then easily read the Podcast XML feed, so that you can download the various Podcast episodes and view or listen to them using that application.

A platform for delivery leads to an increase in mobile viewing

Since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, video viewing on mobile devices has really exploded. The iPhone represented the first mainstream device that allowed for watching online mobile video, and, since its release, the number of people that have watched a Podcast has almost doubled. (Figure 2)

 

Figure 2. The number of people who have watched a Podcast is steadily increasing. Edison Research 2010

 

Other stats about mobile video and video Podcasting

Why is video Podcasting great for mobile learning?

There are two reasons to like video Podcasting for mLearning:

Ubiquity of support: Podcasts and Video Podcasts represent a great opportunity for mobile learning, because most mobile devices either support video Podcasts directly (iPhone/iPad) or only require an easy application installation (Android).

Publish once, support multiple platforms: Another benefit of delivering video Podcasts is that many of the major mobile devices support the same video format, so you only need to develop the Podcast in one format to deliver it on many different devices.

Mobile video basics

Not all mobile platforms like all types of video. When trying to create a video Podcast that will work on the most devices, we need to consider a couple of things.

The two important things to consider are:

  1. Video format (MP4, WMV, etc)
  2. Video dimensions

Choosing the right video format for your video Podcast

One of the important considerations when creating your Podcast is to choose the right video format. You want to choose a video format that will work on the majority of mobile devices, or at least choose a video format that will play on mobile devices used in your organization.

So, which video formats do mobile operating systems support? (Table 1)

Table 1. Video formats and mobile operating systems that support them
Format iOS Android Windows Phone 7 Blackberry
MP4

X

X

X

X

WMV

 

 

X

X

MOV

X

 

 

X

3GP

 

X

X

X

WebM

 

X

 

 

 

Since all the major mobile operating systems support MP4 video, it is a natural choice for a video format selection.

You say your videos aren’t in MP4 format yet? No worries, we will show you how to convert your existing videos to MP4. First, let’s look at video dimensions.

Choosing the right video dimensions

After video format, the next thing to consider when creating your first video Podcast is video dimensions. Video dimension is the width and height of your videos. Not all mobile devices can play back any size video dimensions, so let’s look at what dimensions they do support. (Table 2)

 

Table 2. Video dimensions and mobile devices

 

iPhone iPad Android Windows Phone 7 Blackberry
Dimensions

640x480*

1280x720

Depends on Device

Depends on Device

480x360 Depends on Device

* iPhone 4/4s support video dimension of 1280x720.

 

What is important to note here is that the support for video is dependent on the actual device, not on the operating system. The original iPhone supported 640x480 video, and it is usually safe to assume that most smart phones that came after it support at least 640x480, but if you know your entire company has standardized on the newest Motorola Droid, it is worth checking with the device manufacturer to find out what video dimensions they support.

So what happens if you try to view a video that has dimensions that are too big on your device? Try this 1280x800 video here to see what happens. (Editor’s Note: The video is a random topic, and only demonstrates what happens when you open a video with dimensions too large for your device. It is not necessary to watch the whole video, the content of which has nothing to do with the content of this article. In addition, you should open the video on a mobile device in order to understand the author’s point.)

So now let’s start creating our video Podcast

Now that you know the format, and dimensions of the videos, you can start converting your videos to our chosen format (640x480 MP4 video).

Step 1: Convert a video to our target format and dimensions

A good tool for converting your videos to 640x480 video is a tool called Handbrake, which is available FREE at http://handbrake.fr/. Besides being free, it is also open source, and works on both Mac and PC platforms.

You can use Handbrake to convert almost any video format into any dimension MP4 file. So here is how to get started:

  1. Download and install Handbrake.
  2. Launch Handbrake.
  3. Select Source, then browse to and select your video.
  4. Select the iPhone & iPod Touch preset on the right.
  5. Change the Destination file extension to .MP4.
  6. Select Picture Settings.
  7. Change the width to 640 (this will make your video as big as possible).
  8. Click Start.
  9. Your video will now begin encoding and will be converted to a video that can play nicely on most mobile devices.
  10. Upload your videos to a Website where they can be downloaded with the Podcast.

Here is a short little screencast that will also show you how to use Handbrake to convert your videos.

 

 

Convert as many videos as you want to include in your video Podcast. You can always add to the Podcast later if you only have a single video to start.

Step 2: Create the Video Podcast Feed

The next step in the process of creating your video Podcast is actually creating the video Podcast feed itself. This XML document explains what is in the video Podcast.

To get started on creating your video Podcast feed follow these steps:

  1. Download this sample video Podcast feed XML document to start. You can download it by right clicking in the document and selecting Save As.
  2. Open it up in your favorite text editor.
  3. Look at the XML document, but don’t become overwhelmed – I’ll explain it below.

The top of the XML document contains a “channel” node. (Figure 3) This explains what the entire Podcast is about. You can think of the “channel” node as describing what a television channel would be about. The channel is made up of a title, a link (like to your home page), a language, a copyright statement, a subtitle, author, summary, description, the name and e-mail of the owner of the video Podcast, and then a link to an image for the Podcast.

 

Figure 3. The Channel node area in the XML document for a Podcast


Channel

The “channel” node is also comprised of various “items.” You can think of the items as the various different episodes of your Podcast. Just like a television channel might have various different shows, your Podcast will consist of various different periodic items, or episodes. The “items” consist of a title for the episode, author, subtitle, summary, an enclosure (which is the link to the actual video or audio file), a “guid” (which is a unique identifier for the episode, and usually the same as the link to the video file), a date, a duration in minutes of the episode, and then various keywords for the episode. (Figure 4)

 

Figure 4. The items in an XML document for a Podcast contain standard information for every episode.


Item

  1. Now start editing the different parts of the XML document with information that is relevant for your video Podcast.
  2. Add for each of the individual episodes you want to add.
  3. The enclosure tag should point to the URL where your video files are accessible.
  4. Save the file.
  5. Upload the video Podcast XML feed that you created to your Website, and remember the link.

Check out this screencast below that goes a bit deeper into an explanation of how to edit the video Podcast.

 

Step 3: Distribute your video Podcast

Now that you have converted your videos, and created your Podcast feed, it is time to distribute and deliver your video Podcast.

The best way to distribute your Podcast so that users can easily subscribe to it is to submit it to iTunes. People discover 31% of Podcasts via iTunes and with the easy subscribe functionality built into iTunes it is easy for you to find and retain the video Podcasts watchers subscribed to through iTunes.

Here is how to submit your Podcast to iTunes:

  1. Grab the link to your video Podcast XML document uploaded in previous step.
  2. Launch iTunes on your computer.
  3. Select iTunes Store.
  4. Select Podcasts from the top bar in the iTunes store.
  5. Select Submit on Podcast on the right side of the iTunes store.
  6. Enter the Podcast Feed URL and hit Continue.
  7. Log in to the iTunes store if you are prompted to.
  8. Select a Subcategory for your Podcast.
  9. Hit Submit.

Here is a short screencast that shows you these steps:


 

It can take up to several days before your Podcast appears in the iTunes Store, but at this point it is all just submitted to iTunes. Shortly, users will be able to search for, find, and subscribe to your Podcast.

Although people find more Podcasts through iTunes than any other single source, it is not the only place to find Podcasts. Try other ways to promote your video Podcast as well, such as through your various social networks like Twitter or Facebook, and even link to them on your blog.

Video Podcasting is a great solution for now

Video Podcasting is something that you can start doing today to get involved in mobile development using your existing eLearning videos. No need to wait for any technologies that are years off, or spend more money investing in expensive delivery platforms. Get started on developing your first video Podcast today.

More info

You can subscribe to a video Podcast that outlines this topic via iTunes here.


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Thanks for providing the specific, actionable suggestions!
Thanks Dave. Very informative and useful.
-Terrence Wing
Nice article Dave! Good information.
Hi Dave,

How does podcasting differ from using a private channel on You Tube? Does the XML feed give a distinct advantage?
Don't forget to include subtitles or captions on your video. This will make it accessible to people with hearing loss, and people in noisy environments (train stations, airports etc).
@here2learn,

Well, the advantage of a podcast feed over a YouTube channel is that users can subscribe to the podcast feed and have the episodes automatically downloaded to iTunes (or mobile device) so they can be viewed offline at their convenience. Which isn't something you would get with a YouTube channel. There are other advantages too, like not relying on YouTube...with a podcast you control host everything (that could be a positive or a negative).

-Dave
Dave, great article, BUT how does one charge for these video podcasts? Do they always have to be free? Please advise, as our video programs are sold and we would want the podcast version to be sold as well?
@frecklesty,

I know that several people add username/password verification for their podcasts streams, so that you can only get the stream if you have a username/password. If you want to discuss more with me feel free to ping me at dave at mozealous.
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