E-learning podcasts and the wonders of transcripts

E-learning figurehead Elliott Masie is offering a wide range of podcasts in connection with the current Learning 2005 conference in Florida. In keeping with the reflexive tradition of the medium, this includes a podcast about podcasting…
The implementation of the podcasts is as professional as you’d expect: there’s an option to play the audio with a Flash player (courtesy of Audioblog.com, as explained in the how-to-podcast feature), and there’s a PDF transcript of all the audio.
Paradoxically, it’s the availability of the transcript that draws attention to the limitations of the medium.

For me, the transcript is easier and quicker to read, and better for reference (for example, I was able to locate the Audioblog reference above very quickly, which I couldn’t do with the audio). I appreciate North American listeners will feel differently about this, but Masie’s script comes across as more authoritative and neutral without his vocal delivery (for me it was ‘audio killed the text-based star’). As for the intro music, words fail me.
So if you have a long commute in the US where you can listen but not read, and if you’re not expecting to discover anything you might want to refer back to, I recommend the podcast. For everyone else — not driving the highways — I recommend the transcript. Now, if they would only put subheadings in the transcript, to make it easier to navigate and read, and make it available in HTML, for easier copying (which is permitted by the transcript’s Creative Commons licence, after all) — in other words, make it more like a regular web page or blog — it would be even better.
Sooner or later there has to be a shakeout of podcasts to focus more tightly on what they’re good for. The media-generated tunnel vision — “the solution for your future is to produce a podcast; now, what did you say your problem was?” — is getting seriously out of hand.
Update, 30 November 02005: Donald Clark has written a highly informative and amusing account of the Learning 2005 conference.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *