Picture this: You have a test in world history tomorrow. Unfortunately for you your notes are sub-par and you are having trouble remembering the lectures.
What do you do?
Usually you would order some Chinese food and prepare for a long night of cramming, but iTunes U allows you to avoid the scenario entirely.
iTunes U is a hosting feature in Apple’s music store that allows college professors to upload lectures onto Apple’s servers. Student can then access their class page through the iTunes music store.
While most schools are keeping their lectures private, available only to enlisted students, Stanford University is one of the first and only schools to place lectures publicly on iTunes. Stanford has more than 400 audio files online at https://itunes.stanford.edu, easily dwarfing public content from other colleges. Formats range from staff lectures to conferences. Stanford even has video files of sporting events.
According to their Web site, the public site is targeted at alumni and there is a students-only section containing “course-based materials and advising content.”
The concept is so painfully simple it is a shame it took this long to come about. The lectures come in Apple’s AAC format that can only be played on Apple’s iPod. But if you do not own an iPod, you can use the “convert to MP3” option in iTunes to allow playback on a third party MP3 player. The possibilities of downloadable lectures are endless. You could make your morning commute educational, take courses not offered at Temple, or prove to your dad how hard biology is. You could even compare the quality of lectures from different universities.
Or if you are having trouble in your political science class, plug into iTunes and download lectures from around the country to help solidify your knowledge of the election of 1972.
As of now, Temple has no content available through iTunes, but several professors are using other tools to post lectures in audio format and plans are in the works for a universal system.
“I digitally record each of my lectures and I upload it to blackboard,” said political science instructor Aryeh Botwinick noting that the Instructional Support Center helps him with technology issues.
Steven Kreinberg, associate professor of music history, said he mixed music with lecture to enrich his teaching.
“Particularly in the elements of rhythm and harmony, I could make loops and then talk over or talk before it. That was very successful,” Kreinburg said.
Kreingberg even put a little note at the end of some of the audio files detailing what the student could do for extra credit so he would know who listened. Kreinburg also said a Boyer School of Music podcast is in the works. Peter Hanley, an ISC Manager, is helping spearhead the way for a universal university system that will allow students to access lectures in one place – preferably TU Portal.
“The portal is very important, we set this up to be a convenience to the students we don’t want to violate that and make the student go somewhere else,” Hanley said. Hanley expressed displeasure with Apple’s system saying that with Stanford, “the interface is horrible. It’s difficult to find stuff. Our end goal is to make it the best possible experience for the users.”
Hanley said that, ideally iTunes U would be more for promotional reasons while the bulk of lectures would be available via a RSS subscription in TU Portal.
“Were still in the beginning stages,” Hanley said, noting that nothing was set in stone and that there were several intellectual property issues to consider.
However, if Temple wishes to continue building momentum on its “Most Connected” awards, it makes sense that it would become the first school in the region to fully embrace placing content on iTunes U. Not only will it enrich the academic experience for enrolling students, but it will aid in the general education of the public. High school seniors could download a few Temple lectures in deciding whether to apply.
“Temple is moving gingerly in that direction,” Botwinick said.
With a fully supported iTunes U combined with TU Portal, your knowledge may only be limited by your ambition and the battery life of your MP3 player.
Sean Blanda can be reached at email@example.com.