The presentations I saw did challenge some of my assumptions about iTunesU, never having been a heavy user of the service in the past, and I was pleased to see that it had much more potential than simply a service for hosting recorded lectures. Here are some of the uses that I found inspirational (please note most of the links go to the relevant web pages rather than directly into iTunes U):
- Recorded interactive whiteboard sessions. The KhanAcademy produces these for maths support, and they are all freely available to users around the world
- Publishing of rare/inaccessible archive material, e.g. Duke's digitisation of rare TV advertising footage from the 60s, which was previously stored on 16mm film and so very difficult to access.
- Extracurricular student use, such as uploading and peer review of produced videos/tracks by student bands (Duke again)
- News-style materials produced around important events, such as the Open University's pieces on Darwin's anniversary and the launch of the Large Hadron Collider (iTunesU link)
- Digitised documents, e.g. LMU digitising all their theses, in ePub format (which, if I have understood it right, allows simple pdfs but also embedding of animation/video)
- New ways of presentation/improving the 'findability' of content. Tagging and categorising lets you present resources in topical ways (e.g. Nottingham have a page specifically for new students coming into the University, the Open University site currently has a list of resources for World Food Day), and resources from across all institutions are gathered together by subject.
There were two main things that I took away from this event. The first was the inevitable focus on content ('content is king' was repeated like a mantra at several points during the day). Much as I am a fan of the OER philosophy and the permeability of HE boundaries, publishing content as a meaningful standalone product outside the context of teaching has implications for staff development, resource design, and the repurposing of existing materials. And perhaps inevitably, there were few conversations about interaction and active engagement.
At the event, I got a sense of the 'everybody's doing it so we mustn't get left behind'. And while I do think that it has its advantages - the application process would be a great vehicle for starting important conversations about the resources, training and support required to produce quality learning resources for the web, and there is no denying the impact in sheer weight of download numbers - I still think that the tools we choose should have a pedagogic value for our students, rather than simply a marketing one. Or perhaps that makes me already a dinosaur in the post-Browne age?
I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on this...
Headphone image source
Apple image source
This work by Julie Usher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.