For the final assignment of the semester, in teams of 4 you will be scripting, producing, and editing your own 3 episode podcast series. The theme of your team’s podcast is up to you, and we will be studying and listening to many example podcasts in class. Regardless of the topic or topics you choose to explore, your task is to create an engaging, inquiry-based podcast series with a consistent structure, style, and delivery. In addition to your 3 episode podcast series, your final project should include a 30 second to 1 minute “audio trailer” to generate interest about your podcast, and a transcript for each of your episodes. Guidelines for this project are provided below.
Collaboration is a mandatory part of this assignment because teamwork is an extremely important part of podcast production (and media production more broadly). You will be paired up with collaborators based on common topical interests. If you have someone in mind that you know you’d like to work with, however, please let me know as soon as possible.
We will be spending a lot of time reading about and discussing how to choose an interesting topic for your podcast—how to find a good story. Ultimately, though, the topic and podcast genre you and your partners choose is up to you. The only requirement is that the podcast series must be inquiry-based; that is, each episode must explore or investigate a question or angle related to a larger theme. To that end, your podcast series needs to incorporate research (including interviews and/or more traditional research methods). We will be talking more about this in class.
3 Episode Series
You will be responsible for scripting, recording, and editing 3 separate podcast episodes. These episodes should be consistent in style, form, etc., and they should be a continuation of the same overarching idea or theme (e.g. if your podcast is about fear, each episode might investigate a different thing that people are afraid of and why). We will be talking more about “serialized” writing and listening in class. The length of each episode must be between 10-15 minutes.
Working together at every stage of this project will be critical to your podcast’s success. While it is fine to split up some tasks (e.g. researching a particular topic, interviewing a person when your partners have class, etc.), your team should collaborate thoroughly in the production of each episode. In other words, everyone should participate in every stage of the process: brainstorming, scripting, researching/interviewing, composing, and editing. You will be graded as a team, so you need to make sure that each person is pulling his or her own weight.
Tip: During the podcast production process, it’s important that multiple group members have copies of all of the audio tracks and drafts. Sometimes audio editors like Audacity crash or files get corrupted (it’s happened to students in my previous classes). This is why having backups of all of your material on different group members’ computers is key.
Your team will also be responsible for creating a 30 second to 1 minute “audio trailer” to generate interest in your podcast. This trailer might include actual excerpts from the podcast, or it might be a pithy description of what your show is about, or it might be something more experimental/creative. Regardless of the approach you take, the goals of this trailer should be 1) to provide an accurate—if short—idea of what your podcast is all about; and 2) to intrigue listeners enough to make them want to check it out.
Production + Editing
Once you have collected and recorded the material for your 3 distinct podcast episodes, you and your partners will be re-shaping and editing that material in a digital audio editor. I would recommend using Audacity, but you may use another audio editor if you would like (e.g. GarageBand, Audition, Reaper, etc.). When you are ready to submit the project, each episode should be saved as a separate .mp3 or .wav file and named “Episode #—title of your episode” (e.g. “Episode 2 The Jig Is Up”).
Critical Feedback Sessions
At the end of the semester, we will dedicate several weeks to Critical Feedback Sessions, or what are called “Edits” in the world of podcasting. During these sessions, you will get to share 1 of your fully drafted podcast episodes and receive feedback from the entire group. This feedback will be aimed at helping you revise your work before it is due during finals week. This is also a good time to ask specific questions to your listening audience.
For each finished episode, you must include a transcript for accessibility. That is, you should provide a textual version of the podcast that includes descriptions of sounds and/or music. We will be looking at example transcripts in class.
In addition to the 3 podcast episodes and audio trailer, your team must write a reflective essay about the process of creating your podcast series. This essay should be collaboratively composed. I would suggest using Google Docs to complete this part of the project. Reflections should be a minimum of 1500 words.
-At the top of the page, please include the title of your podcast, a one sentence tagline for the podcast (for instance, the “Serial” podcast tagline is: “One story. Told week by week.”), the title of each individual episode, and a short description (50 words or less) of what each episode is about.
Then, you should address the following questions/prompts:
-Why did you decide to order the episodes the way that you did? How are the episodes in your series connected, or how do they flow from one to the next?
-What do you want your audience to understand or take away after listening to your podcast series as a whole? What is the point or purpose of your podcast series?
-Describe in detail the process of composing each of your podcast episodes. This should be the longest section of your reflection. Specifically, you should consider how and why you made particular compositional and rhetorical choices in the production of each of your podcasts. For example: What was the tone of your podcast and why? What was the logic behind structuring individual episodes the way you did? Why did you incorporate audio material like personal interviews and/or more traditional research—what work did this material do for you—and how did you decide where that material should go in the larger script? In what ways did you make use of music or ambient sound? What techniques or equipment did you use to record your interviews? What material did you ultimately decide to cut (or not to use at all) and why?
-What were some of the challenges/limitations that you encountered when composing your podcast series?
-How was this kind of sonic composition different from or similar to more traditional forms of textual writing?
-In a paragraph or two, please evaluate your team’s collaborative process. Describe your group dynamics. Do you feel that your team’s collaboration was successful? Why? What worked about your collaborative process? What was the most difficult thing about collaborating on a project like this? What are some things your team could have done to improve your collaborative working situation? What have you learned about collaboration?
-Each team member should discuss their individual contributions to the project (include a list of both minor and major contributions). Which of these things do you consider to be your most significant individual contribution and why?
-How would you evaluate your overall team performance on a scale from 1-10 (1 = poor, 10 = excellent)? Explain why you chose this score.
-Include a “Works Cited” page for all of the research, music, sound clips, interviews, and/or ambient sounds that were used in the production of your podcast series. Please use MLA format.
Your project—3 podcast episodes + reflection—will be graded holistically, so you will not receive individual grades for each episode. Again, because this is a thoroughly collaborative project, all team members will receive the same grade. Here is a basic rubric to give you a sense of my expectations for this project:
“A” Range: project fulfills all assignment requirements; individual podcast episodes and reflection are thoughtful, consistent, engaging, and carefully edited; each offers a compelling story/inquiry into a subject; project clearly reflects much of the knowledge that students have gained about sonic composing in this course; project has very few, if any, technical issues
“B” Range: project fulfills all assignment requirements; individual podcast episodes and reflection are strong overall but has some noticeable elements that need to be improved; project demonstrates some of the knowledge students have gained about sonic composing in this course; project has some minor technical issues
“C” Range: project fulfills all (or nearly all) assignment requirements; individual podcast episodes and reflection are adequate but still need a lot of work/revision; project demonstrates very little of the knowledge students have gained about sonic composing in this course; project has a lot of technical issues
Below “C” Range: project is incoherent or incomplete
* 3 Episode Podcast Series + Audio Trailer + Transcripts + Reflection are due via email on Thursday May 2 by 5pm.
-Please send separate .mp3 (1 for each episode and 1 for trailer)
-Again, make sure to label each audio file appropriately (e.g. “Episode 1 False Memories”).