by Michelle Ralston LTLS Consultant
What is it?
iTunes U was announced in May of 2007. The service was created to manage, distribute, and control access to educational audio and video content for students within a college or university as well as the broader Internet. Content includes course lectures, language lessons, lab demonstrations, sports highlights and campus tours provided by many top colleges and universities from around the world.
iTunes U has also collected material from a variety of other resources around the world. Museums, such as the Smithsonian, PBS stations, and other cultural institutions have all contributed to iTunes U. There are currently over 100,000 files available to download.
What groups create content and use it?
Content is created by a wide variety of people. Since iTunes has heavy roots in the educational field, many of the content contributors come from the affiliated universities. Instructors and professors may use iTunes U to host course related media files or to podcast recordings of their lectures. Schools and departments may maintain their own section within iTunes U for specialized content. Other educational institutions that have set up iTunes U accounts can also contribute content applicable to their institution.
An advantage iTunes U has over traditional sharing tools is that access to content can be restricted. This means that some of the content on iTunes U is only available to students of that university or to students of a particular class. Many of the universities and colleges have a public access site with information and files that everyone can access. The “Beyond Campus” section of iTunes U is available to everyone.
How can Libraries use this?
Libraries are pushing content out through iTunes U as well. Search by the term ‘library’ to found various audio and video content posted by libraries around the country.
iTunes U is all about downloadable material. If your library has digital collections, creates podcasts or video casts, or is interested in sharing digital information, iTunes U is one avenue to do just that. The New York Public Library is already using iTunes U. (You can find them in the “Beyond Campus” section.) They use iTunes U to share digital collections, promote events and programs, and share information about their library. Arizona State University Library has created a ‘Library Channel’ with audio streaming explanations of resources available from the library.
If a library wishes to push content out throuth iTunes U, sign up for a free account and then upload files (audio or video) that can be accessed by anyone using iTunes.
How does it work?
It’s very simple to use iTunes U. You first must have iTunes downloaded onto your PC or Mac. Once the software has started up, go to the iTunes store and then look on the left hand menu for iTunes U. Once there you can begin browsing highlighted collections, see the top downloads, and even go to a specific university or “beyond campus” institution. Once you have found something interesting, hit the “get” button and it will download the file into your iTunes library. Once you have finished downloading, go to your iTunes library and then watch or listen to the files. These files may also be downloaded onto your iPod or iPhone for access through those devices.
Why is it important?
iTunes U is important because people now expect constant access to information, no matter where they are. With laptops, iPods, and smart phones, people are used to gathering information on the web, getting their email, watching lectures, getting directions, anytime and anywhere. iTunes U allows people to get information and download it and use it on their time. It is always important to stay current with technology, and iTunes U is helping universities and other institutions do just that.
What are the trends?
The site launched with 16 institutions and now less than 2 years later there are over 150 universities and colleges, not to mention 46 institutions in the “Beyond Campus” section and 11 K-12 institutions. In the first 6 months of service, materials from iTunes U were downloaded more than 4 million times. Now, Apple only releases download statistics to universities that participate in iTunes U, but with the number of institutions added, the number of downloads must be growing exponentially.