From CUNY Academic Commons



Many faculty at the College of Staten Island (CSI) have begun to experiment with podcasting and other uses of media in their classes, both online and face-to-face. Efforts to incorporate new media in course preparations have generated substantial interest on campus and resulted in a variety of approaches to providing students access to this rich content. iTunes University offers a stream-lined framework for providing faculty with a consistent set of tools for content delivery, and students with a consistent, familiar interface, regardless of their department, course, or instructor.

Project Objectives

The College of Staten Island wishes to address four major academic or pedagogical objectives through participation in the iTunes University project:

  • Provide opportunities for students to create academic content in order to foster experiential learning.
  • Preserve and archive valuable historical or creative content which might include oral histories, expert commentary or interviews, student presentations, artistic performances, etc.
  • Address the varied learning needs and styles of our heterogeneous student population which differs on many characteristics including age, cultural background, and English language facility.
  • Facilitate communication between and among students and faculty, promote community-building and focus collaboration in a commuter college environment fraught with inadequate public transportation access, lengthy time-consuming commutes, and increasing transportation costs.

A fifth objective of our project relates to assessment. From the outset, we intend to have in place an assessment plan and data-gathering mechanisms to measure several facets of faculty and student experiences over time. These phenomena may include participant expectations, technological expertise, involvement, satisfaction, group dynamics, experiential elements, English language facility, and personal characteristics. We anticipate that we will gain considerable insight into the use and benefits of rich media production and content as part of the teaching and learning experience.

Student Learning Outcomes

To give students access to and command over:

1. The cognitive tools needed for crafting a point of view and for interpreting others’ point of view through such techniques as mind mapping and low stakes writing, as well as through verbal and nonverbal communication in spoken, written, and other forms. 2. The technological tools needed for making podcasts—specifically, audio recording and editing hardware and software. 3. A mode of delivery that will ease the flow of audio data from teacher to student, student to teacher, and student to student—specifically, the iTunes U website.

To empower students to use these tools and media effectively in order to:

1. Assemble and edit such raw materials as class subject-matter, field recordings, audio recorded documentation of musical performances and interviews, and other data. 2. Craft these materials into a podcast that renders to a listener in a compelling and meaningful form the podcaster’s point of view. 3. Access the materials whenever, wherever, and as frequently as necessary to accommodate different learning needs, language capabilities, and geographic logistics associated with commuting to CUNY campuses, particularly the College of Staten Island. 4. Share these materials as a means of social networking with group members, in classes, and longitudinally as exemplars of course content and best practice over time.

Project Overview

To accomplish the stated objectives and facilitate the aforementioned learning outcomes, the College of Staten Island proposes two projects, one within each academic division.

Division of Humanities and Social Sciences:

Oral History and Ethnography Applications

Students who conduct primary research in the form of ethnography or oral history projects using digital audio recorders will reap the many benefits that experiential learning has to offer. Furthermore, projects that take place within the local community will also involve a service learning component, in that they will enable students to document and preserve aspects of community life, such as local traditions, that may be undergoing change.

Students in Dr. William Bauer’s course Music in American Life (MUS 236/AMS 236) will conduct an oral history of the multi-faceted Staten Island music scene. In their field work, these students will record interviews with area musicians, club owners, and other individuals who hold within them vivid memories of meaningful musical experiences that they had on Staten Island and beyond. The iTunes University will serve as the repository for these interviews and as the vehicle for students to compare notes on different styles, genres, and traditions. The resulting audio archive will give students a database for crafting viable, empirically-based interpretations of various cultural practices that have existed (and often thrived) on Staten Island, many of which continue to contribute to the island’s expressive culture. Students will also develop ways to frame their data for a podcast audience through the expression of a clearly delineated point of view.

This research project will shed light on the careers and activities of local figures who have populated the music scene, whether they are known beyond Staten Island’s shores or obscure even to the borough’s residents. In so doing, it may well offer a basis for the reassessment of a figure’s impact, both locally and abroad. The project will also reveal how local communities support individuals’ growth as practitioners within any particular tradition. Looking ahead to future incarnations of this project, such field research conducted on an international scale will add to a rich database of information about the ways that, and the means by which, local traditions have contributed to the global phenomena that they sometimes spawn, as in the cases of jazz and, more recently, hip hop.

Division of Science and Technology:

Group Development and Organizational Communication

Teamwork is a hallmark of courses in business, computer science, engineering, and other disciplines. The Senior Seminar in Computer Science (CSC 490) taught by Professor Roberta Klibaner and other faculty in the department requires advanced students to prepare and deliver oral and written presentations on current topics in computer science and information systems.

A project in this division involves the creation of content on the assigned research topic, the incorporation of faculty input, and the opportunity to record outside experts in the field or industry in the podcast presentation. Faculty and peer evaluation of the final project, which is often a component of the grade in senior presentations, can be facilitated through podcast archiving. Students who have limited public-speaking experience or who are uncomfortable in front of an audience can benefit from the technology. By recording and sharing their presentations in small groups prior to the official class delivery, they can critique and improve their oral skills. Recorded material can also be made available for future class cohorts to use as examples of coursework.

Focus for Spring 2008 Timeline

The project noted above is ambitious and comprehensive. Given the interim deadline of May 30, 2008, the CSI iTunes team proposes to focus on the following activities:


o Students in MUS 236/AMS 236 will conduct fieldwork on Staten Island’s local music scene, interpret the data they have gathered in terms of its cultural implications, and then make their research available via podcasts posted on the iTunes U website.


o The College will continue to put in place the hardware and software necessary for implementing this project including the purchase of licenses for Camtasia Studio, acquisition of digital recorders, and procurement of appropriate audio devices.


o Concurrent with the classroom activities, the CSI iTunes team will draw from campus experts to refine ongoing assessment and develop instruments.

Project Milestone 2: Technical Goals – Audio Podcasting

1. Production standards will empower students to reach the pedagogical goals set by the faculty (for these goals, see CSI’s posting on 18 March).

2. Using digital voice recorders, students will gather audio data by recording interviews, sound clips, concerts, etc. The Olympus WS-210M Digital Voice Recorder will enable students to capture all of the audio material for the project. The stereophonic recordings will have a minimum sampling rate of 128 kbit/s.

3. Students will then transfer all digital files from the voice recorders to Library loaner laptops for post-production work. Configured to facilitate the technical goals, these laptops will allow students to process and edit the raw data they gathered in the field:

  • Students will convert all raw recorded files from Windows Media Audio (WMA) format to MPEG Audio Layer-3 (MP3) format in order to prepare the file for editing. The primary software tool used for this conversion will be Free WMA to MP3 Converter.
  • Students will than import these MP3 files into Audacity Digital Audio Editor. Using this software, students will cut, mix, adjust amplitude and otherwise manipulate the file in order to prepare it for upload to College of Staten Island’s iTunes U site.

4. In order to earn a passing grade for the class, students must not only produce podcasts but must also listen to the files created by their peers and comment on them using the Blackboard Discussion Board for the class.

Project Milestone 3

The College of Staten Island’s iTunes University team has made considerable progress on several fronts to implement rich media use in the classroom since its initial proposal submission in January. At that time, two course pilots were proposed, one in each academic division of the College, as settings for experimentation and innovation using rich media in instruction.

MUS 236/AMS 236 Music in American Life and CSC 490 Senior Seminar in Computer Science present different and complementary opportunities for podcasting: archiving music, producing oral histories, and service learning are elements of MUS 236, while group collaboration, peer review, and formal presentation preparation are major aspects of CSC 490.

CSI’s iTunes University pilot proposal addresses the four outcomes initially put forth by CUNY Academic Affairs as described in our prior postings. We detail some progress made to date since January below.

CUNY on iTunes University: Four Pilot Project Outcomes


Outcome: Promote the use of technologies and practical processes for producing or adapting quality and appealing audio and video content to a teaching and learning objective.

Since January 2008, the CSI iTunes University team has taken steps to purchase equipment, procure site licenses, development lectures/classroom activities, and organize training sessions which address this first outcome. To make content capture possible, digital voice recorders and site licenses for Camtasia Studio Screen Recorder and Presentation Software were purchased and made available to the pilot classes. In addition, the College procured laptops which can be checked out of the CSI Library.

Use of new equipment and software is being supported and facilitated by instructional and training initiatives. Professor William Bauer is incorporating lecture and training material on scripting a podcast, interviewing skills, recording and converting material in his MUS 236/AMS 236 course. Professor Roberta Klibaner, who is piloting the use of podcasts in her CSC 490 capstone computer science course, is instructing her students in the use of Camtasia, building upon a training session offered to faculty through CSI’s Faculty Online Academy.


Outcome: Foster an environment of supportive and results-producing collaboration where information technologists and instructional experts support faculty and student providers and consumers of rich media content.

The high level of cooperation among faculty and staff at CSI in collaborative technology endeavors is alive and well as the iTunes University pilot progresses. Faculty-student-staff exchanges are encouraged and facilitated in many forms as a result of this project.


Through the iTunes University pilot, interaction is occurring among students in new or augmented ways. Our undergraduates are

  • composing scripts and planning content for podcasts,
    * working collaboratively to record information,
    * learning how to constructively critique peers and accept well meaning comments and criticism,
  • experiencing enriched peer-to-peer learning in Blackboard which is enriched by the iTunes University pilot component, and
  • sharing audio in a way that amplifies impact on the class experience.


Students are interacting and contributing to faculty pedagogy by:

  • collecting research data in an ongoing and sustainable project about musicians on Staten Island,
    * developing new archives of assignments for faculty evaluative and grading purposes, and
    * generating content from faculty experts for inclusion in podcasts about technology innovations.


Faculty-student collaboration is facilitated through new vehicles including

  • training sessions designed to teach students how to use Camtasia and Audacity incorporated into lectures
  • student participation in research on music and oral histories, and faculty critique of rich media in student projects.

Class as a Whole

Class experiences are evolving through the pilot as

  • mutual learning occurs when group projects come to fruition and are seen by others;
  • the rich media activities embedded in Blackboard facilitate the exchange of ideas in a hybrid course set-up;
  • asynchronous exchanges allow for more flexibility and distance learning in a complex commuter environment (tolls, commuting expenses, and logistics were mentioned in our original proposal); and
  • students and faculty can experiment, take risks, and make mistakes as they learn within a somewhat “protected” environment prior to offering content-in-progress for all the world to see.

Class-to-External Community

Our pilot classes are interacting with people beyond the enrolled group as

  • fieldwork assignments involve scripting interviews with musicians and technology experts outside of the College,
  • podcast content is shared with other classes and eventually with the general public, and
  • sharing occurs longitudinally as project exemplars exist for future classes.

Staff and Faculty CSI’s very capable and responsive technical staff is expanding and enhancing its interaction to support rich media content in pedagogy by

  • outlining, developing, and standardizing training programs for Camtasia and Audacity to facilitate podcast production;
  • working one-on-one with faculty to provide technical instruction;
  • attending team meetings with faculty and administration to move the pilot forward and meet milestones; and
  • participating at central CUNY iTunes University meetings and training sessions which serve as a venue for meeting peers across the system.

Creative, Usable Enhancements

Outcome: Demonstrate the ability to incorporate faculty- and student-driven enhancements into a learning process influenced by the creative use of audio and video content.

During the Spring 2008 semester, CSI students, faculty, and staff have collaborated to adopt new technology, procured the necessary equipment and software to create rich media content, meshed new with existing skills, and learned from one another in the process. Professor Bauer’s music students are honing their planning, writing, editing, and research capabilities to create audio recordings of music and historical content. To do so, they are mastering Audacity. Professor Klibaner’s seniors studying computer science are coordinating their research and presentation skills while putting it all together using Camtasia.

In addition to the academic and technology skills being developed by students and faculty alike, there are many outcomes, some intangible, which are resulting from this process. Professor Bauer’s students are archiving ephemeral music and historical material. They recognize and appreciate the importance of their role in preservation and exhibit a sense of reciprocity and “service” – a giving back to the community. Students in Professor Klibaner’s computer science class, by recording, reviewing, and critiquing their final presentations to hone their communication skills, are helping to meet criteria for ABET, Inc. the accrediting agency for programs in applied science, computing, engineering, and technology.

As we continue to adopt rich media into instruction on many levels, these types of learning enhancements and benefits will result. A fifth project outcome that we have added to the four proposed by CUNY is that of assessment. Our campus is taking steps to develop course-specific and overall assessment rubrics as outgrowths of this project.

Pedagogical Best Practices

Outcome: Encourage the development of best practices and demonstrate how these can be shared and incorporated into well designed, outcome-focused rich media content and associated learning activities.

Strides have already been made at the College of Staten Island since our initial posting and first milestone update. Our iTunes University pilot team meets to discuss this project and other technology-related endeavors; our group is cohesive, supportive, and synergistic in its approach and function.

A case in point is the adoption and diffusion of the Camtasia technology. Camtasia was the answer to a distance learning problem faced by Dr. Susan Imberman, the Director of CSI’s Center for Teaching and Learning. She familiarized herself with the software, demonstrated its use in a faculty training session, and made it available for the iTunes pilot.

Follow-up presentations from our iTunes team, particularly results from Professor Bauer’s field work on Staten Island musicians and others on the scene, as well as Professor Klibaner’s computer science group projects, are being placed on CSI’s Center for Teaching and Learning schedule. We anticipate that faculty will discover opportunities for enhancing their own courses once they see what their colleagues have done to augment instruction.

Milestone 4: iTunes University at CSI: Technical Challenges & Triumphs

Authentication and Network Access

The most significant technical issue was using Blackboard as the gateway to iTunes University. This could be solved by providing additional training to the students in how best to work with iTunes and Blackboard. Another issue was the length of time it took to upload the files to iTunes. Since most broadband and DSL services provide more bandwidth for downloading than uploading, the large files produced for podcasting take a significant time to upload. Again, raising student awareness of this would mitigate the issue.

It took a couple of weeks to get things going with the Vanderbilt Building Block. Ultimately, the start-up time for this project was remarkable small, but the building block still leaves much to be desired. The lack of an automated means of creating iTunes course sites presents a scalability issue. Additionally, it would be nice to be able to suppress the iTunes request button for pilot projects like this, and to have the ability to edit the email that is sent to faculty when their iTunes pages are ready.

The inclusion of rich media via iTunes U in face-to-face teaching demands strong network support on campuses, as well as a reliable means of testing presentations before they are attempted in the classroom, where difficulties can cause frustration, embarrassment, and waste valuable class time.

Many users expressed frustration at the frequent need to log back in to the CUNY portal when creating their media. As the portal session times out after a few minutes, users who are using, editing, or remixing content posted to iTunes U in a different application are required to re-authenticate before they can re-upload their content.


The devices acquired to collect the audio programs were very easy to operate and present very little challenge to the students and faculty. The only additional complication from using the Olympus voice recorders was the file format being Microsoft specific which required the files to be converted to MP3 for editing and upload. Again, the students easily mastered this process.

This project’s focus on rich media has presented faculty with additional uses for hardware available in Smart Classrooms and other technology-enhanced areas of the campus:

  • Classes taught in the Performing Arts Center Atrium using a plasma screen and laptop used rich media to good effect. Professor Bauer prepared a Camtasia video that programmed the page turns in a pdf of the orchestral score of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring and coordinated these page turns with a playback of Leonard Bernstein’s 1961 recording of the work with the NY Philharmonic Orchestra. He additionally used Audacity to compare the waveforms of several different performances.
  • Professor Bauer also showed YouTube videos of student conductors rehearsing the piece with their orchestras. The students accessed podcasts produced by National Public Radio to prepare for the class.
  • The use of recording and playback hardware in the classroom also enabled students to produce audio projects in class and instantly share with the group or anyone who was not present.


The tools needed to create podcasts are freely available as either open source or freeware. With that in mind, the majority of support is available through Internet forums and newsgroups. The students easily mastered all the tools and encountered issues more related to their home PC rather than the software itself.

There are many file conversion options, each with their own challenges and advantages. Free WMA to MP3 Converter is free but user-unfriendly; SWITCH operates on a trial basis, and once the 30-day period expires, one must pay for the pleasure of converting your files with it. We solved the problem by having students convert files directly when saving them in iTunes. I posted a notice with the steps the students needed to take in order to change their preferences.

Shared tabs and drop boxes in the iTunes U course site have made uploading and file management available to student users; this provides students with the opportunity to engage in course content as contributors as well.

Additionally, the course page template features in iTunes U have made it quite easy for the administrators to roll out CSI-branded iTunes pages, which will eventually contain interactive training content for new users and serve to make student experience with the software consistent across courses

Training and Other Technical Concerns

Student participants received detailed instructions on how the use the software and hardware tools for the recording and transmitting their podcasts. This might be done more effectively in a dedicated session either with the entire group or as a set of one-on-ones, or even via rich media tutorials. This would serve to better orient the students and faculty to the entire process from recording the material to editing and to uploading. Although the tools selected are simple to use, there are instances where additional support would provide more comfort for the students. Freeing the faculty member from having to provide this type of instruction allows the professor to focus on pedagogy.

Because of the platform choice of the college, the process was not as smooth as we would have liked it to be. If direct uploading tools could be built into the PC version of iTunes, this would ease the process.

Powerpoint from CSI Teaching and Learning with iTunes U Presentation: csi_ppt.pdf