So what’s the future of all of this? Where’s iTunes U going?
That’s a very good question. And who knows? I’d like to think that iTunes U is here to stay, but as universities are more and more squeezed by tight budgets etc. I think there’s a pressure to make money from iTunes U or similar initiatives. I did ask all of our interviewees that same question, and here’s what they had to say:
iTunes U is of course run by Apple which is a corporation and they need to look after their corporate interests and the way that Apple seems to be steering iTunes U is to maximise the use of Apple hand-held devices like iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone. I think they’re probably very clever in doing that, although they are not saying that that’s the only way you can consume material from iTunes U, you can still consume it on any computer, Windows as well, but for them to give some kind of advantage to the iOS devices is the way I think Apple is gonna go with iTunes U.
I’m sure that Apple will keep innovating and I’m absolutely convinced that the Open University will stay with them, as they innovate and it’s my job to make sure that as new and other channels emerge to give people access to high quality higher education no matter where they live in the world, the Open University does all we possibly can to bring ourselves into those spaces that people enjoy using.
I don’t think I could speak for the future of iTunes U but I can say something about how Oxford will probably use iTunes U in the future. We are enjoying the fact that we are now able to make, not just audio and video materials available, but you can associate those with documents and e-books. I think we will probably make more of that, to have accompanying materials next to our podcasts. We may start to use the iTunes U course App and the text book builder technology, so I would watch this space to see what Oxford will do next in iTunes U.
Apple will continue to innovate, become more mobile, might become more live, might be even more socially interactive around these materials, they might add more education tracking… So I’m sure they will do all those things and we will continue to keep up with them, so actually you might see more free content from the OU over the next few years, because actually the value of what this organisation does is in the quality of its teaching and learning – the services, the support and the accreditation.
Well it sounds like iTunes U is here to stay so long as the universities keep providing for it. What are your final words in all of this?
I guess the main thing is that iTunes U has brought a richness of freely available material that simply wasn’t available to the general public before. It’s like an enormous public library that can deliver resources straight to your device and into your ears, only you don’t have to return the materials afterwards. People don’t have to register or pay fees, they don’t have time pressures to complete studies by a deadline… And they can pick and choose whatever they like, from languages to science, philosophy or maths... You can take what you want, listen, keep it or and discard it if you’re not interested. You can skip bits, you can pause, fast forward or rewind. Basically, you can do what you want.
The main thing is that podcasting in general, and iTunes U in particular, allows people to learn whatever they are interested in at their own pace, where they like, when they like. It’s personalised learning in a way that had never been achieved before. And it’s bringing learning to all kinds of people from all over the world. As an educator I think that’s a great thing to happen, and something that everyone involved should be really proud of.
Thank you very much Fernando for telling us all about iTunes U and your research.
Thank you. I’d also like to thank Martin Bean and Andrew Law from The Open University, Melissa Highton from Oxford University, Terese Bird from the University of Leicester and the three iTunes U users who agreed to take part in the interviews too: Laura Chenery, Jennifer Beard and Robert Jay.
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