What Is ITunesU?
iTunesU, or iTunes University, allows students, academics and lifelong learners to download free lectures and lessons taught by professors at various universities in the United States and around the world. Some of the universities that offer educational content on iTunesU include MIT, Yale, Oxford and Cambridge. Distinguished institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and Public Radio International also offer free content.
A World of Knowledge Within Reach of a Mouse Click
Currently, iTunesU offers educational content from approximately 800 universities and colleges. A sampling of topics you'll find on iTunesU includes critical thinking for beginners, capitalism, the Civil War, the King James Bible and quantum mechanics. The best part? All of this remarkable content is available free of charge. All you need is to access iTunes on your Mac or portable device, or download the free program to a PC, and away you go.
Many of the lectures on iTunesU are available as podcasts. However, this is only the beginning of the types of content that can be accessed on iTunesU. For example, in addition to traditional podcasts, instructional material is available as films, slideshows, PDFs, audiobooks and exhibit tours.
iTunesU and Educational Institutions
iTunesU isn't just designed for popular consumption. It also allows educators, universities and other institutions to distribute educational material and control who has access to it. For instance, some lessons are only accessible to enrolled students at a particular university and require passwords for access, while other courses are 'open' and can be accessed by anyone.
Universities and other educational providers also have the ability to build their own sites within the iTunesU infrastructure. There is no cost for building a site, and institutions can brand their sites as well. The process of building a site is relatively simple and once it is completed, faculty members can begin to upload podcasts, videos, slideshows and other educational material.
As an added benefit, schools and educational entities are able to boost their profiles without impacting their budgets, keep in touch with alumni and interested learners, and foster growth of a community that extends beyond the campus environment.
Can iTunesU Make You Smarter?
Of course nothing in this world can make you smarter without some effort on your part, but a study on the effectiveness of the instructional material found on iTunesU versus traditional classroom lectures sheds some light on the process of learning.
Dani McKinney, a psychologist at the State University of New York in Fredonia, conducted a study in which 64 students were divided into two groups. One group received a lecture on visual perception in the form of a podcast via iTunesU that also included a slideshow, and the other group attended a classroom lecture on the same topic and was given a handout of the slide material. Both groups were told that they would be tested in a week's time, and that they should keep any notes that were taken.
McKinney found that the group that downloaded the podcast averaged a grade of 71 (C), while the students that attended the lecture had an average grade of 62 (D). The conclusion McKinney and her fellow researchers came to was that students who downloaded the podcast were more likely to listen to it more than once and repeatedly go over sections that they had some difficulty in understanding.
This contributed to better note taking and a more sound understanding of the material, as opposed to attending a classroom lecture once and not quite grasping some difficult concepts. While this is indeed interesting, educators need not be worried. iTunesU is highly unlikely to replace professors, but it can be used as a tool to help students get the most out of their learning experiences, and maybe play an important role in the future of education.
iTunes isn't the only popular new technology being harnessed by education. Learn how colleges and universities are using Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.