It’s a new year and for some of our teachers @Zeelandschools they are choosing to use iTunesU to host their classroom content. Zeeland Public Schools launched their public iTunesU site this past September offering a few classes, not just to their students, but to the entire world as well. This is one of the fascinating aspects of Apples iTunesU space- anyone around the world with access to iTunes can access content from any institution using iTunesU to host it’s content. In fact it is interesting to note that over half of our institutions content is being downloaded from outside the United States.
There are many great features about keeping content in iTunesU. Teachers enjoy the vast amount of file space they are allotted for videos, links, and digital textbooks. Building a course is as simple as uploading your content, linking external sites, and dragging objects to create a correct order of appearance. Content, such as apps and digital textbooks in the iBook store are all linked together making student workflow easy and seamless. One great feature to note is the ability for students to take notes while watching videos. These notes are automatically bookmarked to the video timeline for easy referencing later.
Perhaps the most important issue that using iTunesU addresses is the one of limited internet access outside the school building. A 1:1 program can go a long ways towards leveling the playing field, however, once students step outside the school WiFi access the field can again become unfair and the device limited. Similar to apps like Dropbox and Google Drive, iTunesU allows students to download content for offline viewing.
While the platform is easy to use for both teacher and student it does have a few limitations. As of now, iTunesU is just a one way channel – delivering content to the student. Besides the ability to email an instructor there are no interactive discussion boards, quizzing features, or widgets. However, it is owned by Apple and you can bet there is a team of highly trained innovative educators who are working to make it better.
As a teacher it excites me to think I could be helping someone in a far off country learn math or science. In addition, it encourages me to connect my students to similar(and different) classes with the same content (or different) and different instructors…why wouldn’t I want to expose them to different teaching styles? This could be a great way for struggling students to get the support they need. Likewise, this can be a great way for advanced students to move ahead and be challenged.