College of DuPage professor Jeff Curto talks to PhotoVideoEDU about how he uses ProfCast software to easily create podcasts of his history of photography class that enhance his students' experience in the course and allow him to reach a broader audience.
The Educator: Jeff Curto, Professor at College of DuPage and publisher of History of Photography Podcasts and Jeff Curto's Camera Position. Click here to read our Featured Educator profile of Jeff Curto.
The Tool: ProfCast, a presentation-creation program for educators.
The Goal: To publish online presentations of course lectures that include sound, text, and images.
Options: ProfCast is available in Mac and Windows versions.
Costs: ProfCast costs $59.95, and there is a 15-day free trial period. The software is available to eligible educators, students, and academic institutions for $29.95. Discounts are available with multiple license purchases. A microphone is also required. Curto says: "To do a reasonably high-quality job, if you have a $30 Best Buy USB microphone and ProfCast, you'll be set to go."
Time Commitment: Curto spends a few minutes setting up his audio-recording equipment before class. He also devotes another half an hour to editing each ProfCast presentation, which is not essential to using the software. Curto estimates it would take about 15 minutes for a person with basic computer and Internet skills to learn how to use ProfCast.
Pros and Cons:
- Allows students to review class without having to take notes.
- Allows educators to bring their courses and presentations to a large, worldwide audience.
- Software is very easy to use.
Curto uses ProfCast to record his History of Photography classes and publish them online as enhanced m4a podcast presentations that include both sound and titled slideshows. We asked him about his experience with the software.
PhotoVideoEDU: What does ProfCast accomplish for you and your students?
Jeff Curto: It allows me to record everything that goes on in the classroom, from what I say to what students say—questions, answers, comments, discussion—along with all the visuals that I'm showing, and then allows me to package that in a way that lets students go back to it at a later time to find things they may have missed. It's great for students who have missed a class, for students who want to review material, and for reviewing little sections of material without having to review everything. I think what it makes possible is for students to spend more of their time really attending to what's happening in the classroom and less of their time trying to furiously write down every fact and detail. Students learn better because they have access to the material on a repeating basis.
It has also put me on the map as a teacher of photography in a way I never thought it would. When you have somewhere between six and ten thousand people a week listening to your class, you become this oddly celebritized teacher guy. That has made possible a whole lot of interesting things, like being invited to speak at PhotoPlus. I'm really just a standard-issue Midwestern community college photo faculty member, but I'm known internationally now by a large number of people. I've taught the history of photography in lecture format to more people than all other history of photography teachers combined. That's true. I can verify that it's true because I can verify the number of downloads I have of all of these class sessions. It's cool, because my students, who are sitting in their Midwestern community college History of Photography classroom, see that there are people out there who are really genuinely interested in this content, beyond the idea that it's a required course in a photography program.
PhotoVideoEDU: What is the process of using ProfCast like?
Jeff Curto: You launch the fairly small application called ProfCast and you tell it the location of a PowerPoint or Apple Keynote slideshow. You also tell it where to source audio files. It could be the microphone on your laptop computer, or better yet what I use, which is a combination of two microphones—one for the students in the class and one for me that's a wireless lavalier—which are wired to a mixer that plugs into my laptop. When you're ready to start class or start your slideshow presentation, in ProfCast you click a big red record button and it starts playing your slideshow and recording. Every time you click the forward button, it records that action of switching to the next picture. It isn't any different at all from playing a PowerPoint or any type of presentation from your computer.
When you're done, you exit the presentation the same way you normally would, and then ProfCast pops up a little dialog box that says, "What would you like to do with this file that you've created?" When you tell it you'd like to make a podcast, it goes through 4 minutes or so of machinations to take the audio that it's recorded and time out all the keystrokes, suck the PowerPoint or Keynote presentation in as JPEG images, and set them up so that they're in the sequence that they're supposed to be in and the images change when they're supposed to change. Then that podcast can be immediately uploaded to your podcast server, or to another computer or the same computer if you want to do some postproduction, like editing out pauses. Because I'm kind of a perfectionist, I take the file that ProfCast generates and bring it into Garageband on the Mac and add additional audio. I do a little introduction explaining what the class is going to be about and who I am, and introduce the College of DuPage. I also add a little bit of introductory music.
PhotoVideoEDU: Why do you prefer ProfCast to other options?
Jeff Curto: There are many screen capture applications that will capture the screen interface as someone does something. But the big difference here is that ProfCast doesn't just record the audio and the images. It records the audio and the images and the information that's in the images. It actually takes metadata right out of the slide itself. So if there is, say, a title, it becomes the title for the chapter in the enhanced broadcast. And that means that the whole thing becomes much more navigable as an object that can be used and gone back to over and over.