As iTunes U, a free content-management system from Apple Computer Inc. that adapts Apple’s iTunes for campus use, becomes more popular on college campuses, many schools are choosing to make their educational content available not only to students, but to the public as well.

The University of California, Berkeley, in late April announced Berkeley on iTunes U, a free service that makes video and audio recordings of course lectures available both on and off campus through Apple’s iTunes Music Store.

Berkeley on iTunes U is open to the public as well as to all UC Berkeley students, bringing the campus’s multimedia assets together.

“This reinforces the digital bridge to our students, alumni, and the world and allows us to explore new distribution channels,” said Obadiah Greenberg, product manager for webcast.berkeley, UC Berkeley’s local site that delivers course and event content as podcasts and streaming video. “It also allows UC Berkeley to broaden what we make available, including video podcasts and other digital material.”

Greenberg added: “As a public university, UC Berkeley has a tradition of openness. It really speaks to our motto–‘Fiat Lux,’ let there be light.”

UC Berkeley’s system of “coursecasting” lets students and the general public download audio and video recordings of class lectures to their computers, iPods, and other MP3 players.

“I can pull out my iPod at any time, whether I’m in the car, or on the plane, or on the treadmill, and go over the material that I didn’t quite understand, or just listen to the parts that interested me,” said UC Berkeley freshman Danielle Ownbey.

In 2001, UC Berkeley’s Educational Technology Services division began webcasting lectures and special events to students and the public, and last year it began introducing podcasting courses. Since then, more faculty members have been signing on to the program.

This semester, webcast.berkeley is offering 30 courses as podcasts, including “Foundations of American Cyberculture,” “Introduction to Chemistry,” and “Wildlife Ecology.”

Once users subscribe to a course through Berkeley on iTunes U, the latest course material is automatically delivered to the user’s podcasting device. Listeners also can browse and download individual files. UC Berkeley’s podcasting system is automated and remotely controlled.

“All the instructor has to do is show up and turn on the microphone,” Greenberg said.

“At each lecture, I feel that I am presenting European history not just to my students but to the world,” said UC Berkeley history professor Thomas Laqueur, who has received positive feedback from subscribers in countries such as Sweden, India, and China.

The University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business is making select content available to the public through Ross on iTunes U, which offers free access to events, seminars, and news.

“Making Ross on iTunes U open to the public will give prospective students, alumni, and the business community in general an easy was to experience the quality and depth of what’s happening at Ross,” said Brian Greminger, assistant director of computing services at UM’s Ross School.

Another advantage of using iTunes software, says Greminger, is that schools can subscribe to categories and channels of content, and the podcasts can be automatically downloaded to a Mac or a PC, allowing users to get just the content they are interested in without having to actively search for it.

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business also has joined in the trend; the school recently launched Fuqua on iTunes–a web-based application that enables users to download Fuqua speeches, interviews, and conference presentations to their iPods. The site can be accessed free of charge by the public.

“Fuqua on iTunes U will allow members of the Fuqua community and the public to experience the business school in a new and different way,” said Nevin Fouts, Fuqua’s associate dean for information technology and chief technology officer. “This new capability will help us push the boundaries of current thinking for the use of mobile digital content.”

The site represents a conscious effort on behalf of Duke’s administrators to provide more digital content for public consumption, said Julian Lombardi, Duke’s assistant vice president for information technology.

At the K-12 level, administrators at Florida’s Broward County Public Schools say they are in talks with Apple to use the company’s iTunes U solution to make content and services available to all stakeholders.

Broward County officials say that while the idea is still in the conceptual stage, they hope to be able to use iTunes U to make content available on all kinds of media devices, such as Sony PlayStation Portables (PSPs), and not just iPods. If the project is successful, Broward reportedly would become the first such educational customer to do this.

Every school in the district already has a videoconferencing unit that could be used to record teachers’ classes, district officials said; that content would be stored on the district’s content server, so that students could view it from home using a standard web browser, or download it to another media device. Taking the idea further, officials hope to make the district’s content available for purchase to other districts.

Links:

Apple iTunes U
http://www.apple.com/education/solutions/itunes_u/

University of California Berkeley
http://www.berkeley.edu

University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business
http://www.bus.umich.edu

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business
http://www.fuqua.duke.edu

Broward County Public Schools
http://www.browardschools.com