University approved for iTunes U

Alessandro Roco

At the second annual technology fair sponsored by University Information Technologies (UNIT), it was announced that Apple Inc. recently approved the University’s application for iTunes University, a new free-hosted service for colleges and universities that provides easy access through podcasts to educational content such as class lectures and recent college news stories.

Villanova will become one of the few “pilot programs” in the nation, with others including Stanford University and the School of Dentistry at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

However, no release date has been finalized yet. Apple representative Charles Outhier said that if Apple and the University worked quickly enough to do what they need to do, such as administer support and conduct discussions on how to prepare for iTunes U, “it could be available to students as early as late May or early June.”

He projects that the application should definitely be available to students when they go back for the fall semester.

Robin Allen of UNIT said the University will be able to handle this new application, but also acknowledged that a lot of work will be needed for its upkeep.

“I really do believe we have the personnel to support it,” Allen said. “But we still have a lot of work to do, such as learning how to work with the program and organizing everything that’s going to be pushed up. But it’ll be worth it because the students will be so interested.”

Through iTunes U, users are able to download content as they would through the regular iTunes application, and transfer the content onto their iPods so that they can either listen or view the content on-the-go. Another major feature the iTunes U program offers is that student media organizations will be able to conduct podcasts to report campus news and post them on iTunes U.

Then, students can subscribe to the media program so that whenever they update their iPods with new music or class lectures, the campus news stories will automatically be uploaded to the iPod.

The program itself, according to Outhier, is beneficial to students because of its versatility, relative ease of use and capabilities.

“iTunes U is so effective because from what I’ve heard from this University, so many people here already have iPods,” Outhier said. “It’s very versatile and it even supports pdf files.”

When the application does become available to students, most users won’t find any problem with accessing information they need. That is because iTunes U will contain the same interface as iTunes so that students will be able to obtain class lectures in iTunes U in the same fashion they buy music from iTunes.

The few students who have heard of iTunes U and its capabilities are excited about the program and eagerly await its arrival at the University.

A.J. Zampella, a sophomore electrical engineering major, said that the iTunes U program would make education a lot more accessible to students and will go against conventional classroom-style learning.

“I think this program is a really good idea,” Zampella said. “It’s especially great when you can’t necessarily attend class for a reason. I know that for me, there are times when I have a big project and going to class takes time away from that. This will definitely make it easier for me to keep up in classes.”

Gabe Tribuiani, a sophomore civil engineering major, feels that the program could be great for students who aren’t always completely awake for an 8:30 class and want to have the actual lecture as a reference.

However, he does have one concern.

“We can’t learn it all from our iPod, Tribuiani said. “But I think that if the professors still keep their office hours for students so that we can still get reinforcement on a hard topic, this program could do a lot. If you think about it, though, you could literally learn stuff from a class as you listen to your iPod before going to sleep.”

One of the higher goals the iTunes U program hopes to accomplish at universities is to not only incorporate the audio part of the lecture, but through the relatively new release of the iPod video, give students the experience of being in the classroom. Students will be able to actually watch the lecture on the small screen.

Daniel McGee, a member of the senior management team of UNIT, acknowledged his own personal satisfaction at seeing how Apple is progressing with its program and its dedication to higher education.

“Apple is finally starting to go out there to students and make themselves available to the rest of higher education,” McGee said.

The introduction of the iTunes U initiative, however, is just one of the many technological jumps the University is looking to make in the next few years.

At the fair, representatives from such organizations as Microsoft Inc., Sun Microsystems and Nokia were present to showcase various improvements that the University is looking to make.

“This is to demonstrate to everyone, the students and faculty, everything that is currently going on and will go on in the technological aspect,” Steve Fugale, the chief information officer for UNIT said. “We invited over 60 different schools from K-12 and other universities to see over 40 vendors and 10 university departments so they can see where our University is going.”