iTunes U – Learning for Free

ouIf, like me, you can’t/couldn’t wait to escape school and its myriad of cliques, rules, bullying, pettiness and one-upmanship then chances are college and University are going to be the furthest from your mind.

Well – that was my point-of-view anyhow and as soon as school was over I was out and started working.

That doesn’t mean that I no longer wanted to learn.

I’ve only just stumbled upon iTunes U and think it is excellent!

The Open University (OU) has counted around two million downloads (I’ve d/loaded their ‘Handle: A Classical Icon’ videos and ‘Thought and Experience’ audio lectures) already. 85% of them from overseas.

iTunes U is a higher education source of free podcasts and videos (well, I’ve not had to pay for any yet).

The cool thing is that the list of Universities ranges from Oxford, Open, Yale and Miami Dade to the Hasso-Plattner-Institut fur Softwaresystemtechnik and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

This means that you could be actually studying at Cambridge whilst listening to the lectures at Yale, Harvard and MIT!

A recent report looking into international use of web 2.0 technologies, produced for Lifelong Learning UK chairman David Melville’s committee of inquiry into the changing learner experience, found that all the countries it examined were beginning to exploit the potential in these technologies.

Levels of technical infrastructure obviously makes it easier for some countries than others; if you take band-width of broadband services as an example: Africa’s network isn’t going to be as hot as Japan’s or the USA.

Malcolm Read, executive secretary of the universities’ Joint Information Systems Committee, says one big change is students’ increased openness and willingness to share. “What students do now if faced with a problem is essentially talk to a couple of strangers on the internet saying, ‘This is my problem, can you help?’ And then they will talk to another couple of strangers about what they have found out and what they are doing,” he says. “This is a fundamentally different approach.”

This approach has knock-on effect for universities’ teaching, research and administrative roles.

When today’s students become tomorrow’s researchers, the research process is likely to become much more open says Mr Read. Research findings will become more quickly accessible to students and other researchers across the world through websites, blogs and online discussion.

The tricky bit might be exploiting an idea commercially as Mr Read puts it “It’s hard to patent an idea if you have discussed it with the whole world first”.

In teaching terms a need for universities to provide open source material, such as lectures, teaching notes and even seminars will become greater and the use of wikis, peer-to-peer and collaborative learning will also become more important.

That is the prediction of Judith Hardy, who has been managing the Lead project at Edinburgh University looking at learner experience across the disciplines, although she stresses that students still value face-to-face interactions. “People look for a balance that suits them, which may lead to more varying degrees of face-to-face and online contact,” she says.

I can definitely recommend checking out iTunes U – you never know; you might learn something 😉

Check out the Open University on iTunes U: