I think that podcasting is one of the least understood Web technologies, perhaps due to the fact that the term “podcast” has been used very broadly to mean many things. For instance, based on my personal experience, I have noticed that to some people “podcast” is any voice-recorded audio file, regardless of the file format. To some others, it is any video or audio file in which there are one or many presenters. Others refer to it as a web-based narrated presentation whereas some others consider podcasts any video-conferencing recording.
So, as instructional designers or consultants, it is important to clarify from our clients what they mean when they request a “Podcast”. Technically and strictly speaking, “Podcast” refers to a combination of two technologies: (1) an audio file, specifically using MP3 file format, located in a Web server and (2) a “feed” file which allows anyone to “subscribe”, in other words, to be able to receive automatically any new audio file uploaded to the web server, avoiding the need to having to check periodically the website to find out if there is a new audio file uploaded and then to manually download it. The feed and subscription model distinguishes a podcast from just uploading audio files into the Internet (Ashley, 2007).
In order to help distinguishing between audio and video podcasts, several terms are used:
Podcast: Refers mainly to audio files
Vodcast: Refers to video files
Screencast: Refers to recordings of the computer's screen
Enhanced Podcasts: Refers to video files with an embedded PowerPoint presentation (or other similar application).
Reynard (2008) suggests that podcasting is conducive to be integrated into instruction because it empowers students as providing them with the sense of authorship: students use their own voice to create a podcast that will be heard by anyone accessing the Internet. Being authors of their own material have the potential to encourage and motivate students to increase their final products' quality.
Ashley, D. (2007, June). Podcasting. A Teaching with Technology White Paper. EDUCAUSE. Retrieved on June 25, 2010, from http://connect.educause.edu/files/CMU_Podcasting_Jun07.pdf
Ruth Reynard (2008, June). Podcasting in Instruction: Moving beyond the Obvious. T.H.E. Journal. http://campustechnology.com/articles/64433/