Friday, February 24, 2012

How iTunesU Online School Model Can Democratize University Education?


Today I have a guest post from blogger Marina Salsbury, who discusses how iTunesU is affecting education at the university level.  Guest posts are always welcome.  Please drop me a line if you are interested. 

iTunes University is an application available for Apple iPod touch, iPad, or iPhone. This application is designed to allow educators to put together distance courses that are accessible to everyone at a low cost or for free. The powerful iTunes University interface allows instructors to include videos of lectures and demonstrations, textual information, as well as audio and other multimedia content.

iTunes University puts education in the hands of the masses, because you do not need to be enrolled in a university to view the course content and follow along with the lectures. These
online school courses are offered completely free of charge, either as a public service or in an effort to give potential students a taste of what an online education at their university or institution would be like. For example, Harvard University currently offers more than 150 online courses, and they make a handful of lectures available free of charge on iTunes to give students a sense of what distance education at Harvard is like.

iTunes University may become instrumental in
driving down the cost of a university education, according to Sean Decatur, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Oberlin College. iTunes University and other digital resources provides students with interactive and textual content at a much lower cost than traditional textbooks and resources. While digital content can't reduce the cost of instruction, grading, university infrastructure and other key costs, it can reduce the cost of delivering the content, according to Decatur. This savings is directly passed along to the student.

One drawback to viewing college course content in this manner is that you will not receive course credit unless you enroll in the university program and pay for the credit hours. This means that while you may have gained the knowledge, you may not be able to demonstrate it to an employer or use the experience as proof that you have a college education. Many universities offer their online content on iTunes as the lecture part of an online course, and require that students use another interface, such as Blackboard or Web CT, to turn in assignments at regularly scheduled times. Additionally, the technology itself has limitations. You cannot gain practical experience in a laboratory setting or in a studio under the direct supervision of a qualified instructor, and for many hands-on courses, this experience is essential. 

However, iTunesU is an excellent resource for those who are considering a college education or continuing education at a particular university or in a particular subject but want to sample courses before they pay the fees at a university. Additionally, iTunes University is ideal for those who just wish to gain job skills, or enhance personal knowledge. For example, you can find free or low-cost courses on everything from woodworking to accounting or even literature. Instead of paying to audit classes, you can view them free on iTunes in many cases.

iTunes University will not change education entirely because the basis of most university programs is direct student-professor contact and guidance, either online or off. However, courses delivered on iTunesU can provide students and potential learners with a way to sample courses or learn a new skill on their own and at their own pace. For this reason, universities will continue to create course content designed to be viewed on iTunesU.