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One point of view, taking note of sundry "cool" things that affect-- or could affect-- the education business.

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Friday, January 27, 2006

iTunes U ... the New Community College?


Apple, the mighty computer underdog and digital music icon, has announced the release of new software to colleges and universities. "Coursecasting," the practice of distributing audio and/or video content of lectures, speeches, and other course-related content, has become easier than ever.

The concept, in modern parlance, isn't exactly "new." Purdue has offered the Boilercast podcasts of lectures and content for almost a year; Duke University issues iPods to incoming freshmen, and UCLA offers the Bruincast. Harvard Law School, the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, and Stanford offers almost everything required for a degree except the homework and cold leftover pizza (see the earlier post about Stanford on this blog). Of course, this is all "new" in the traditional sense; most such programs are less than two years old. But now, "coursecasting" (ain't it a swell monniker?) through iTunes makes homegrown offerings look quaint and antiquated.

Don't have an iPod? Maybe you haven't used iTunes and the iTunes Music Store (iTMS)? The program is free. You can use it even if you don't use an iPod, and you can rip your CD collection to make a digital library of all your songs. Frankly, there are other music and video management systems out there, including Windows Media Player, RealPlayer, and Napster, which have their fan base and sometimes claim to be superior tools. But nobody has tied it all together as successfully as Apple. Buy an iPod, load your CDs into iTunes, buy new music through iTMS, and it all works with very simple mouseclicks. Search for and subscribe to podcasts, literally by clicking one button that says, "subscribe." Then every time you launch iTunes, it will look (online) for a new episode and automatically pull it into your library. Hook up your iPod, and it will automatically sync up so you've got it to go.

The beauty of Apple's system is its' simple, soup-to-nuts completion of the cycle: archive, purchase, sort, assemble, and consume your media files with single mouseclicks and drag-and-drop ease. Bring this kind of simplicity and organization to higher education ... and a new day dawns. Maybe iTMS will become the next campus quadrangle. Imagine the possibilities. Schools have offered "distance learning" for years; now Apple has applied its' trademark elegance to the process, rendering access to educational content as easy as playing your music.

Cool, huh?

How will it shake out? Comment this blog, and let's see where the conversation leads.
For great news, views, and resources for educators, check out The Balance Sheet p
ublished by South-Western, a Thomson company. Trusted news for educators for several decades, several miles ahead.

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