Wednesday, December 19, 2007

iTunes U Helping Universities Turn Courses into Podcasts

Delivering lectures via podcasts no longer is the province only of those universities on the cutting edge of technology: Through the use of software and programs that make it easy to produce and distribute podcasts, colleges and universities increasingly are making course lectures available for downloading online.

Most of today's college students are "digital natives" who have been surrounded by technology nearly their entire lives, and they expect their college or university to create a collaborative experience that integrates familiar technologies such as podcasting and on-demand video into their learning environment, supporters of the phenomenon explain. Their beliefs are supported by data: Three of four young adults download and view internet videos daily, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, while Burst Media reports that college students spend more time online than they do using any other form of media, including TV and radio.

At the University of California at Berkeley, a survey of incoming freshman this past fall revealed that students considered podcasting to be just as important as wireless internet access or campus eMail. Video podcasting storage and distribution via Apple's iTunes U and Google's YouTube have necessitated a scalable network for Berkeley's open-content initiative: webcast.berkeley.

Berkeley's associate vice chancellors, Susanna A. Castillo-Robson and Shelton Waggener, sponsored the study, called "Information Technology at UC Berkeley: The Student Experience." Eight Berkeley staff members participating in the university's Leadership Development Program conducted the survey.

Its objectives were to evaluate the technology needs and expectations of incoming students, provide recommendations for closing the gap between these expectations and what the university currently offers, and propose a method for ongoing, campus-wide evaluation of student IT needs.

When asked if they would like to be able to download a greater number of class lectures in the form of podcasts or webcasts, 72.5 percent of students said yes. Students said they could use the podcasts or webcasts in case they missed class, and they would be able to review their notes more easily while listening to the lecture.

"Since we launched the [podcasting] offering in 2006, we saw 2 million downloads of our podcasts in the first year alone from our iTunes U channel. We have had 650,000 views in the first two weeks of our YouTube channel launch. Interest in our content has exploded," said Adam Hochman, project manager for Berkeley's Education Technology Services department.

Like its iTunes Store, Apple Inc.'s iTunes U has become enormously popular since its launch in late 2005. Now, hundreds of colleges and universities use the free service to distribute their digital content to students and the world at large.

Berkeley also has started a movement to develop free podcasting software, and more than 30 other colleges and institutions have joined in the effort. Although the project is only in its initial phases, many say it indicates that the podcasting movement is thriving at colleges and universities.

Read more: eSchool News

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