What’s the best way to digest old, unwatched, video courses?

course-to-podcast

A few months ago, my Double Your Freelancing Clients course colleague Philip Morgan shared a podcast feed he created for the courses audio recordings.

By collecting the audio recordings into an RSS feed using a third party sharing site called Dropmark, Philip showed me a major, first step in not having to sit at the computer for a long period of time to digest this (or any) course.

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Unlike most other marketers, I didn’t get too into listening to podcasts until very recently.

I found iOS’s Podcasts app unimpressive, and I also hated how much hard drive space that app, as well as iTunes, needed for episodes of series I wasn’t ever going to listen to.

Because of the crappy native Apple podcast experience, it took me a while to appreciate how useful Philip’s podcast solution was.

I finally saw his solution’s power when last month, I a) discovered Marco Arment’s excellent Overcast iOS app, and I b) remembered I had thousands of dollars of unwatched video courses on my own computer.

Like Philip, I was going to create digestible, portable, audio-only, feeds for my courses.

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Since then, I’ve taken to using Dropmark + Overcast daily. Over the last three weeks, I’ve listened to hundreds of course lessons, some of which had been sitting idle in my computer for years.

If you’re like me, you might have a lot of courses you purchased, but never have had the time or patience to finish. If so, this solution might help you, too.

To that end, I’d like to share with you my current course => podcast workflow and the rationale behind each step.

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Step #1: Convert the video to audio using Permute

I remember when some one of my friends saved up to buy a Tony Robbin’s course on 12 cassette tapes. Before that, I remember my parents’ smoking cessation tape lying in the living room.

These days, most courses don’t come on cassette tapes. In fact, most new courses don’t come with any audio.

Due to the reduced costs of video recording and hosting, almost all modern courses are video-only. Video is a great tool for learning, but video file sizes can be enormous—which means increased storage needs and longer download times.

In the future, storage limits and download speeds may become moot, but in 2016, audio still wins for significantly smaller file size. That means cheaper hosting, quicker download times, as thus, better portability.

The final app we’ll use to digest the courses (Overcast) is an audio-only tool anyway, so unless your course creator was kind enough to include downloadable audio files, you’re probably going to need to convert your video files to a compressed audio file type like .mp3 or the newer .m4a.

Note: If your course creator doesn’t give you a way to download audio or video, you might have to get creative. There are third-party apps, like Downie, that are built to extract embedded video files from web pages and save them to your hard drive. YMMV, though.

Okay, back to audio conversion:

For a while, I was using the old standby Toast, by Roxio.

I had been using Toast, or its Windows brethren, Easy CD Creator, for as long as I’ve owned a computer.

On that note, Toast feels (and is priced) like it belongs in 1992. And I’d rather use a more fun, cheaper, and more modern app if possible.

Luckily, there are loads of other audio conversion tools.

Handbrake used to be my go-to app for conversion and DVD ripping.

Some time ago, Handbrake stopped working. I hear it’s fixed now, but I never found the interface that great, and because the app is open-source, I remember some of the proprietary codecs had to be downloaded separately. That might be a little daunting for a novice user.

The Apple App Store was once filled with dozens of generic conversion apps that used the same interface to convert video files. I wouldn’t recommend any of those apps. Besides being in violation of App Store policies and subsequently removed, the apps just weren’t very good.

I’ve recently started using a simple, slick conversion app called Permute. It’s from the same developer that created the above-mentioned Downie.

There’s not much to Permute. That’s what I like about it, though.

You simply drag your video files or folders to the app’s window, select your conversion outputs, and hit “start”. You can simplify the program even more by turning some of the conversion options off. Out of the 20+ options, I only left three checked: .mp3 and .m4a (for audio) and .mp4 (for video).

Step #2: Upload the audio to Dropmark

After you’ve converted your video lessons, you’re going to need somewhere to store the audio files. That’s where Philip Morgan’s Dropmark solution comes in perfectly.

When I first looked at the Dropmark service, I didn’t get its appeal. I didn’t see why I should pay a montly fee to a third-party website to host my audio files when I could easily host those files for free on the web host, for which I’m already paying.

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Dropmark’s beauty is in its simplicity, though.

For $5/month, I can create infinite Dropmark collections, and simply drag and drop audio files straight to my web browser (or separate OS X toolbar-based app). There is nothing more to the upload process process.

Finally, turning each collection into a podcast feed is as easy as a) making sure the collection is at least viewable with a link and b) copying the RSS link from the collection’s “Advanced” settings tab.

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To host a podcast, one way or the other I’d have to fuss with software, so that software might as well be easy and cheap.

I did try using my own separate WordPress website to host podcasts once, but it ultimately failed because the host blacklisted the .mp3 file type from being served. Of course, I only found this out after spending hours setting up the site and various podcast plugins.

I may again try moving over to my own hosting, or another cheaper service someday.

But right now, for $60/year, unparalleled ease of use (and the built-in ability to export all my collections when the time comes to migrate), I’m happy with Dropmark. It just works.

Step #3: Subscribe to the podcast feed from within Outcast

Once I’ve uploaded and organized the course (I usually add lesson numbers to the audio filenames, and then order the Dropmark collection by name), I’m ready to import the RSS feed into a podcast application.

Like I mentioned before, I did not like the default Podcast iOS app.

And even if iTunes wasn’t a bloated piece of crap, the app still would be tied to my computer, and the goal here is to have these course lessons with me at all times, so I’m actually able to get through them.

Luckily, there’s just the solution: The fabulous Outcast podcast application.

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What’s so special about Outcast? For me, its two best features are right there in the effects menu:

  1. Smart Speed
  2. Voice Boost

Lots of apps can speed up audio playback. What Outcast does, that, as far as I know, no other apps do, is it can a) adjust the speed dynamically to remove playback gaps (like the ones when a speaker pauses to think). This is Smart Speed.

It also b) dynamically adjusts the playback volume and tone, so that when the audio is sped up, the speakers’ tone doesn’t sound dramatically higher. This is Voice Boost.

This way, you can listen to your course lessons (or podcast episodes) in less than half the time—while still understanding every word that’s being said. Besides that, the app is just solid. And it’s even free.

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Now, to subscribe to the course feed, you simply navigate to the “add feed” button in Outcast, and type in the RSS address you captured from Dropmark.

Alternatively, you could also copy the feed from your desktop (there is no Dropmark mobile app—yet), email it to yourself, and then copy/paste the feed into the app. A little more work, but if you hate typing weird urls, this is the way to go.

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Fortunately, there isn’t a step #4 (except maybe “repeat”).

Like I mentioned, I’ve imported hundreds of course lessons into Outcast over the last few weeks, and I’m actually getting through them—something I’ve struggled to do with 90% of the courses I’ve ever purchased.

This week, I’m listening to courses about:

  • Influence
  • Chess
  • Course Marketing (of course)

I’ve become one of those people who brings air buds with me everywhere I go, and I don’t even feel guilty about it… Because I’m learning stuff 😉

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