February 3, 2009

Why I do not like iTunesU

I attended the eTech Ohio conference yesterday where it was announced that Ohio has created an iTunes U portal for free educational content. Ohio took the somewhat unique step of populating the site with content from community organizations along with educational institutions. eTech is soliciting more content and you can read the criteria in this pdf file.

The project is so new there are not yet links to it or info on it on either the eTech or OBOR web sites. To find the portal, go the iTunes Store and search “Ohio on iTunesU.” Then choose Ohio in the Institutions module.

I have harped on this before, so I’ll take this opportunity to do it again: we are selling ourselves short with iTunesU. While the goals of this initiative are laudable, ITunesU is not the best platform for achieving it. Here is why I think so:

  • iTunesU does nothing more than an easily built home grown product could do. All you need are a portal, files and rss feeds. Why lock ourselves inside a commercial music distribution service tightly integrated with one consumer device: the iPod?
  • A home grown system could and should do more. If the goal is the distribution and cultivation of knowledge we should be able to use the online tools that are available to facilitate that: tags, bookmarks and commenting. You cannot do these things inside iTunesU.
  • Using iTunes puts a significant educational resource on the wrong side of web filters and bandwidth management. Many people who want to access this will find their access curbed or blocked by local network management policies.
  • The symbolism of this initiative is important. The Governor called for “creativity and innovation” in education during his State of the State speech. At eTech, Chancellor Fingerhut said we will build “integrated technology platforms” for education. For the above reasons, the choice of iTunesU seems more emblematic of convenience than innovation.
  • Yes there is a certain sheen that comes with an association with the iPod that gives this project some visibility. But I think that the hype for that peaked over a year ago. What will we do when the next big thing comes along?

The one thing I do like about this is that video content is to be in .mov or .mp4 formats, not .m4v which I believe only plays in iTunes or iPods.

So am I just being a curmudgeon and raining on the parade? What do you think needs to be done to answer the call for creativity and innovation? Does iTunesU do it?

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Dawn said...

I don't know enough about this to have an opinion but I've been meaning to tell you that Fuse Factory is always looking for people to lead workshops and I don't think there's anyone leading one on wikis. You ought to check in with Allison and see if she'd like to add one to the program.

Rich said...

Thanks for the tip! I'll check it out.

Anonymous said...

I would agree on every count. First and foremost, it is inconvenient, and there is no reason why e-Tech couldn't create a portal that is far mor user-friendly. I believe that it also sends the wrong mesage when educational content provided by non-profit agencies can only be accessed through a "store."