iTunes U hits the U

The University of Minnesota is poised to expand its public presence during the first full semester that instructors and students can submit content to the UniversityâÄôs iTunes U site. By partnering with Apple, the University can post free content, either for the public or to an access-restricted site for the University community, using iTunes software. Apple officially launched the service, known as iTunes U , in May 2007 . It began as a pilot project with several academic institutions, including Stanford University , which has used the service since 2005. After pilot testing last summer and fall, the University announced its partnership this November and invited faculty to request course podcast pages. As of now, there are nearly 900 files in the public site and about 20 courses with associated content posted on the private site. Amanda Rondeau , director of emerging academic technologies, said theyâÄôre looking to add more, including student-created content. There are no strict submission guidelines, she said, but studentsâÄô colleges must approve content, and it should be high quality, engaging and showcase the UniversityâÄôs âÄúbetter half.âÄù Submissions go to Rondeau, but decisions about potentially questionable submissions would be made by a content advisory committee, appointed by deans of the UniversityâÄôs colleges. Rondeau said they havenâÄôt turned anything down yet. Students in writing studies Professor Laura GurakâÄôs fall course have already posted podcasts, which feature University professorsâÄô research on things like juvenile delinquency and the possibility of a âÄúdiversity, ethics and peaceâÄù major at the University. Post-secondary teaching and learning associate professor David Arendale responded to iPods âÄô omnipresence on campus in 2007 by creating a podcast to help students review material for his global history and culture course. He said iTunes U will build a bigger podcast audience and help users by putting all University podcasts in one place. Arendale said his podcast is unique because students introduce each episode and program accompanying music. Students in his course also create their own podcasts that feature interviews with community members. He said between a half and two-thirds of the class tune in, and with the podcasts he has seen a slight grade improvement. Environmental science, policy and management first-year Makayne Tulgren said she would welcome course-related podcasts, of either lectures or information that supplements them. One of TulgrenâÄôs professors posted all lectures last semester, and said although she attended fewer classes because of it, she still kept up with the course. The UniversityâÄôs Medical School is no stranger to making lectures available to students âÄî theyâÄôve been doing it for about 10 years, director of academic technology Mark Kondrak said. He expects to start distributing lectures via iTunes shortly, and then students will be able to automatically download lectures. As with the current online lectures, only students enrolled in the courses will be able to access lectures. Though other faculty may not be inclined to take to the airwaves, Arendale, a former college disc jockey, said he hopes more people do. He said faculty members donâÄôt need to put podcasts together on their own âÄî they should enlist students to help. âÄúI basically make an informal corporation in the class,âÄù he said, where students contribute different things, from on-air voice to production. YouTube and social networking sites, Arendale said, offer faculty other means of reaching students. âÄúI donâÄôt know what it all means,âÄù he said, âÄúbut I do know this: If we as faculty donâÄôt get in there and experiment, then weâÄôre going to miss out on some of the good things.âÄù