With the rapidly escalating pace of technological innovation, it is becoming increasingly important that educational institutions keep up-to-date with ways of connecting students to information wherever they are, whenever they need it, at any time of the day. One of the ways that many universities are now using to provide information which is easily accessible via computers, iphones, ipods and ipads is iTunesU, an area of the Apple iTunes Store that was launched in May 2007, and which is devoted to free educational resources.
iTunes users now have access to over 350,000 audio and video files from educational institutions around the world. Universities and colleges are making information available on events such as lectures, sporting highlights, lab demonstrations, language lessons, and virtual campus tours, in a variety of formats such as slideshows, PDFs, films, exhibit tours and audiobooks. In the ‘Beyond Campus’ section of iTunes U, students can also access a wealth of content from places such as MoMA, the New York Public Library and Public Radio International.
An article in the International Business Times in August this year stated that over 300 million downloads have now been recorded from 800 universities which make their content publicly available at iTunesU. Harvard, MIT, Cambridge, Oxford, Stanford, Yale, UC Berkeley, University of Melbourne and Université de Montréal are just some of the universities using this method of staying in touch with users.
The Top 10 categories of content available are: business, engineering, fine arts, health and medicine, history, humanities, language, literature, mathematics, science, social science, society, teaching and education.
A study by Heller and Underwood in 2008 looked at whether or not iTunesU helped students’ learning, and they concluded that as long as students take notes on the podcasts, the advantage is that they can use the podcasts to listen a number of times to a lecture, thus picking up concepts they may have missed if they just attend a face-to-face lecture.
In 2008 Apple also released iTunesU – K-12, a space where schools can publish information for their students, searchable and accessible via the iTunes app on their phones. Catholic Network Australia, the Western Australian Department of Education and Learning, Perth PLC and Scotch College in Melbourne have all taken advantage of this format for keeping in touch with their students and wider communities.