iTunes U: learning and Research Channel for Students, Showcase to the World

by Paul Maharg on 03/07/2012

Martin Bean showcased this in his keynote, so no pressure for the presenter, Terese Bird of Leicester U…  iTunes U as a channel for OER is disputed, but she was looking at the educational value of it, particularly by OU, Oxford, and her university, Leicester.  She was reporting on the findings of a SCORE project SPIDER (Shared Practice with iTunesU Digital Educational Resources), modelling organizational, pedagogical and practical implications of adopting iTunes U.

Brief history of iTunes back to 2007, including the Duke iPod project.  Now huge, including schools and museums as well as HE.  All of Scottish education (except HE, wd you believe) have a page up there, apparently.  Gave an interesting comparison of strengths & weaknesses of iTunes U vs YouTube.  Eg YouTube, easy to publish, iTunes U, not so easy.  Formats: iTunes U video, audio, epub, pdf, YouTube, video only, etc.  Mobile ready?  YouTube smartphones, tablets, iTunes U all including non-smart iPods, best on Apple (of course).  Restrictions?  YouTube banned in China, iTunes U not banned.

Universities make use of iTunesU for current learning & marketing: ‘It’s the great elarning material that brings the registrations’ (Bean, 2011).  It’s used for research vignettes on the web, where universities show off their research heft; libraries show off their special collections, etc.

The download numbers are enormous eg U of Oxford, video only, over 10M downloads since June 2008.  Used for language learning, eg Welsh resources @ U of Glamorgan.  Interesting that companies are coming in now with free tasters.

What’s new is that Apple is changing direction, and focusing on materials that are particular to the iPad, and obviously Apple would love us to use iBook iAuthor etc.

The international reach is huge.  She cross-sliced tweets re iTunesU in one week, and I was interested to see that the motivation of users was very similar to that outlined in the second MIT report on OERs on their site.

So — iTunesU ain’t a VLE.  It’s best use is by the public, but it can be shared with students as well as the world.  Some put out courses that start out free, then if you want more, you pay up.  It’s clearly sustainable, given that Apple is behind it.  But (my point) how long will Apple support it in this direction and this format?

The Leicester U approach…  LU already has YouTube, and is building a web-based OER channel and iTunesU at the same time.  Academics like iTunesU, are doing multimedia, etc.  Things are changing — what’s private just now will be public in a year or so.  Quite interesting data on iTunes U.  University senior management teams really need to listen to Martin Bean and Terese Bird…

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