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Podcast Feature in Discussions

I'm working on a training course for faculty new to using Canvas at my institution, and I'm trying to come up with examples and pedagogically-sound reasons for choosing each setting in assignments, discussions, and quizzes.

One setting I'm struggling to find examples for is the podcast feed on Discussions. What are the main practical benefits to having a podcast feed versus just posting media without the feed? It is primarily that the audio can be downloaded and listened to later? Is it best suited for certain types of courses?

I'd love examples of how folks in the community have used the podcast feed feature in their discussions!

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Community Contributor

I, too, am very interested in anyone's input about this feature... for the same reason. I am teaching faculty how to use Canvas, and I just can't quite figure out when/why an instructor would employ this podcasting? What is it about? What would the class look like that involves this feature?

I see this thread has been dormant for 10 months, without a meaningful reply. That's too bad.

It would seem Canvas might be able to chime in.

I wish I could help, but I too have never used the podcast feature.

Cliff I have 2 faculty wanting to start a podcast in their courses:

One teaches Spanish for our Foreign Language department. She and I recorded the Spanish and English versions of common phrases, and we divided these into sections like "dining out", "at the marketplace", "giving/asking directions", "at the pharmacy". These were available for students to download and practice with before leaving on a month-long study abroad in Spain. I don't have the link to her podcast available, but it is similar to Maria Fernandez' Soundcloud.

The other plans to provide readings to his students. I believe he will read aloud some Shakespeare, Chaucer and parts of The Iliad. Similar to the readings in these videos, but audio only.

In the past, I worked with a nursing instructor who recorded voiceover for her PowerPoints,  but also saved just the audio files and put them into a podcast. Her students downloaded and reviewed them while driving or doing chores, and they were hugely popular. These were not distributed in Canvas; I think at the time we were using iTunesU.

Community Participant

The two support threads that I found where:

  1. How to enable Podcast Feed: How do I enable a podcast feed for a discussion in a course? | Canvas Instructor Guide | Canvas Guid...
  2. And how to subscribe to a Podcast Feed for students: How do I subscribe to a discussion podcast as a student?

I followed these instructions and I was having trouble getting the feed in iTunes to update with new media. Through experimenting and some tech support chat I found out the following:

What works: Recording audio and video directly into Canvas through a web browser (built in record feature) will update the podcast feed.

What does not work (at least in my testing): Uploading (attaching) Videos, MP3 or WAV through the Android Canvas App. Or uploading (attaching) MP3 in a reply via computer.

Also note, that the podcast will not include any attachment in the original discussion content - only from the replies.

That's what I've figured out from a technical side, so far. I could see it having uses of allowing students to hear from other students regarding a topic - but not being able to upload an MP3 I think is a big limitation. Perhaps I'm missing something or there is a work around? (of course you could have a pre-recorded MP3 and play it back on one device while recording it directly into Canvas...but this seems a little silly!)

Love to hear more from people using the podcast feed or trying to use it...

 @cliff_cunningha ​, snufer

Thank you for the links you provided,  @jasonpauljohnst ​ - those are the ones I found as well. The How do I enable a podcast feed for a discussion in a course? link indicates that your file will not become part of the podcast feed unless you use the Record/Upload Media Comment tool in the Rich Content Editor.

In my own testing, adding an MP3 (or other file) works fine as long as you do it using the Record/Upload Media Comment tool. The resulting RSS feed gets and enclosure with a link to the MP3.

However when I follow the instructions in How do I subscribe to a discussion podcast as a student? I get utter failure.

In iTunes, I get a blank feed with no MP3. In the Podcast app on my iPhone, I paste the copied podcast URL and get an message that says "Unable to Subscribe. The provided link is not a valid Podcast."

I also tried to click the podcast link in the Canvas mobile app, and I get a page stating:

Invalid Feed

The parameters for the feed you were trying to access are invalid. The verification code does not match any currently enrolled user.

For my test, I am using a course where I am enrolled as both a student and a teacher. Could that be the issue?

I have one more attempt to make tomorrow, but I'm feeling pretty out of luck at the moment. I'm disappointed, because we have a faculty member who is planning to read The Iliad and some selected works of Shakespeare aloud in segments and distribute the audio to students in a Canvas podcast. I have another instructor who wants to publish Foreign Language practice audio files as a podcast. Neither instructor wants to make their work public, they want to keep it available only to the students enrolled in their course, which makes Canvas the way for us to go. If it worked.

In both iTunes and my Podcast app, I was expecting to be redirected to authenticate into the course before the subscription worked. This is what happened when I subscribed to a members-only podcast through iTunes. That didn't happen, so I wonder if that's part of the problem.

Has anyone actually been able to create and subscribe to a podcast feed using Canvas discussions? I would appreciate your insight if so!

I got my podcast feed working in a test class where it was only myself as a teacher, so your setup should be fine. A couple things you may have tried/known, but didn't mention directly:

  • The course (and the discussion + module of course) must be published for the podcast feed to work - I don't think it goes public until you do this.
  • I didn't have to authenticate anything in iTunes for it to work, just put in the link as directed
  • Canvas tech support said something to the effect that old podcasts will not be pushed to the feed - so if you make some audio "replies" before you put the feed link into iTunes they may not show up (i have not tested this)
  • Try various kind of audio replies just to fully test that it's not the content (try recording right into Canvas using the computer compared to uploading, etc.)

Let us know! I'm around and I'll monitor the replies today...

Thanks so much for replying, Jason.

  • Both the course and the discussion were published. I didn't have the discussion in a module.
  • I would think you need to have at least one audio reply to have a viable feed at all. Otherwise it would just be an RSS feed without any enclosures containing media. I guess students who subscribe after the first audio reply could still get the file online in Canvas, but that kind of defeats the point of a podcast feed, so I hope that's not the case - but I'll try it today by creating a new discussion podcast feed and subscribing to it before I put in any media files.
  • I'll try recording directly into canvas and compare that to uploading an audio file via the Record/Upload Media Content tool

Working on a new attempt now. I'll let you know how it goes in an hour-ish.

OK  @jasonpauljohns1 , today it is working. And what I believe caused the problem yesterday is that I inadvertently logged into Canvas at my institution's vanity URL,, instead of our actual URL, Although the vanity URL redirects to the real one, it must have messed up the feed. Otherwise I can't explain it not working yesterday and working fine today.

Here is what I found:

  • Both recording directly into Canvas and uploading a file via the Record/Upload Media Content tool work.
  • Subscribing after a podcast reply is posted will still show the posted file in the full feed. But in the iOS podcast app, it showed as though it had already been played. So I didn't see it when looking at Unplayed episodes, only when I looked at the full Feed.
  • In iTunes it showed the episode that was published before I subscribed as Unplayed (and in the full Feed).
  • No authentication was required when using the podcast URL retrieved from Canvas.

I also identified a couple of best practices from this experiment:

  1. Always post the link to the podcast rss feed in the initial discussion post:
    When you create the podcast discussion and enable the podcast feed, you should grab that podcast RSS URL and paste it into the initial discussion post. Why? Because the podcast feed URL is not displayed in the discussion post on the Canvas mobile app. By pasting it in, you'll give your mobile users access to copy/paste the URL into their podcast app of choice if they prefer to subscribe that way.
  2. Always add a short description in the Rich Text Editor when adding a podcast reply:
    When posting your podcast reply with your audio or video file, you should always type in some text first that will help students distinguish one "episode" from the next. Why? Because in iTunes and the iOS Podcasts app, each podcast is identified only by the title of your discussion. For example, in my discussion titled "Podcast Discussion Attempt 3", all episodes are titled "Podcast Discussion Attempt 3:undefined", and the description is "no description". If I type something descriptive before adding the podcast audio, then I at least see a unique description under the non-unique title. The only other way to differentiate is by date published, but that's a lot less helpful to a student who wants to review a specific episode. And one additional reason is that in the Canvas mobile app, and Canvas via web browser, without a description all you see is the date and a "Play" (triangle) icon. So a brief description of the "episode" will be really helpful there as well.

In the spirit of giving back, I'll just share that Love Shadow by rocavaco is a really fun mp3 to use for testing podcasting. Smiley Happy

Thanks for replying back and helping to close the loop on this. I'll need to go back and try uploading via the media content tool again and see what I was doing wrong. Glad to hear that part is working for you. And love the best practices. Good stuff! Go Canvas community!

Mp3 uploads from the web are now working, not sure what changed but I tried with the same files today and it's pushing the content. I may have selected attach vs. using the Media tool.

Still can't get it to work through the Android app. The difficulty is that if you attach an MP3, it won't pass through - but if you click upload video or audio, then choose media it won't let you select mp3s (it does not give a way to navigate to an audio folder, but even if you copy an mp3 into the downloads folder, it won't let you select it.)

If anyone has any Android Canvas app insights, it seems like it could be a great way for students to interact, even while they are traveling or whatever they could listen to the podcast and then record responses.

I don't have an Android device to play with but if a colleague will test this out with me, I'll try it too.

I can record an audio reply from the iOS Canvas app, and it shows up in the discussion in the iOS Canvas app. But it doesn't show up in my iTunes or Podcasts feed when I refresh them. It's only been 10 minutes, so I'll let you know if it eventually shows up in the podcast rss feed.

For files already saved to my device, all I can do is upload something saved in the Photos app. I can't navigate to any audio or video apps, like Voice Memo or Videos. Bummer.

It really would be great if you could allow students to participate using audio or video from their mobile devices. I think they'd find that engaging.

That's about what happens in Android as well. Sounds like maybe a tech support issue. Yes, I agree - if it worked seamlessly I think this could be a way of engaging students on another level.

If any other Android app users out there want to test other configurations, I'm in Android 6.0.1 / Canvas App version 5.4.2 on a Samsung S7

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Instructure Alumni

 @garciah ​,  @cliff_cunningha ​,  @jasonpauljohnst ​,  @cheryl_colan ​, and anyone else who has been following this thread: I've been reading this discussion with great interest. I've been using Canvas for over five years now, yet the idea of leveraging the podcast feature has never even occurred to me. I'd be willing to bet that the Community would be very interested in seeing a CanvasLIVE​ event that briefly discusses how to create a podcast feed from the Discussions tool, followed by your own thoughts on how you and your students are using it.

If you're interested in putting this together--and I really hope you are, because I would listen to a presentation like this all day long (perhaps in a podcast!)--please have a look at How do I set up a CanvasLIVE event? . Tag me if you need help. Smiley Happy

I would be into helping with something like this. I have not set up a CanvasLIVE event before, so first time through I would probably prefer to follow along with someone else who has set one up before. I think we should do a little more investigation into the app limitations/issues before planning one.

Sounds great,  @jasonpauljohnst . Ideally the conversation can develop and mature here, and progress to an event when it's ready.

Community Contributor

It's been a while, but did any update on a podcasting Canvas Live event?

This particular event has thus far not come to pass,  @Kevin_W . However, the process for creating a CanvasLIVE event has gotten even simpler since this conversation took place. Any Community member who would like to present on this can just go over to CanvasLIVE and offer the event!

Community Contributor

I'm not reading this thread very closely so apologies if someone has already listed this, but I could see the podcast feature be used by students who struggle to use a keyboard too.

Community Participant

I had this thought as I was searching through GRE vocabulary podcasts yesterday:  This could also be used for learning vocab or a glossary of terms for a class - either by the teacher adding the words, meanings and example sentences or by having students do the same. The students could then review the words while walking, commuting, as a sleep aid... Smiley Happy

New Member

I don't know if this adds much to the discussion, but I have mostly interacted with professors who use podcasts as a quick and easy way for remote, online students to download and listen to and/or watch lectures. Since many students probably don't have an unlimited data plan, having a bulk or episodic download format is a nice way to consume class material on the go (on the bus, train, treadmill, etc.).

New Member

I had the same question, some 5 years later. Did an open Google search and found this: I had no idea Canvas had a instructional design site to go along with the guides. This would be a useful feature to pop up in the Help menu!

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Apologies for replying to a two-year-old comment but I just wanted to clarify for anyone who sees this.
The site you've linked is not in the Canvas Help menu because it is not run by Instructure. If you go to the Home page for that site and see the logo on that page, it appears to be run by Utah Valley University.
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i am a student

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