Delta iTunes U Enhances Learning in a Familiar Web 2.0 Environment

Today’s Millennium students are familiar and experienced with interactive, Web 2.0 applications and they expect their higher education institutions to provide a similar environment for their learning experiences. In order to meet their expectations, Delta College in Michigan has several digital initiatives under way. The college was recently recognized by the Center for Digital Education for the Web 2.0 applications we incorporated into our website. (See http://www.centerdigitaled.com/surveys.php?survey=cde_bow)

One initiative that will likely have the most impact long-term is our new online Delta iTunes U environment, which went live this semester. Our faculty are making vodcasts and podcasts available on the site to our students who download them to their MP3 players and iPods.

Our students love their MP3 players and already enjoy downloading music and video clips to them. By making our educational podcats and vodcasts available to students on iTunes U, we are tapping in to their affection for these devices and giving them another avenue for learning.

Some faculty members at Delta had already been creating instructional vod- and podcasts and embedding them into their own websites. But this required strong technical expertise and so only a limited number of faculty members were employing this tactic.

By tying in to the iTunes U environment, we are providing faculty with a much more user-friendly and easier interface to create and upload their pod- and vodcasts. This in turn should get more faculty using the technology. We also felt that going through the iTunes U environment would increase our student usage. Most students already have iTunes loaded on their iPods and MP3 players, and the iTunes U is a familiar environment to them.

Becoming a member of iTunes U was fairly easy and it cost nothing. Before signing the agreement, our IT department worked closely with faculty to determine the structure for our Delta iTunes U and did some programming on the back end. The software used by our faculty and staff for creating podcasts and vodcasts was freeware. Our out-of-pocket expenses have been minimal--just the cost of a few microphones and video cameras that we make available to faculty for their use.
 
During our core scheduling process, faculty members are asked if they want to use the iTunes U applications. If they choose “yes,” their courses are automatically populated onto their iTunesU site by the back-end computer systems and they become the owner of that site. Students taking that course are automatically associated with that site and given permission to access it.

Faculty members choose their own ways of recording their pod- and vodcasts. Delta College has conducted some training sessions, and now several of the trained faculty members are instructing others. Faculty always have the option of contacting IT for help, too.

Fall 2008 is our first semester live with Delta iTunes U and so far we have almost 100 vodcasts and podcasts available. Overall, I would gauge early adoption of the tool as good, and we expect broader acceptance as more faculty hear about it from their peers, and as students continue to vocalize their expectations for the application.

We are also using the environment for non-class materials. For example, our IT department conducts monthly informational sessions. We recorded our last one--on the topic of Web 2.0--and posted it on iTunes U. Delta’s iTunes U environment also has a public facing environment, which will be used to store the special speaker series that occur at Delta.

We believe that Delta iTunes U is a strong learning tool to complement course instruction and we expect it to be a lasting component of our teaching and learning strategies. Delta iTunes U--and our other Web 2.0 applications--also gives the college a competitive edge. Students expect engaging and interactive websites and applications. iTunesU gives Delta College the capability to engage with students in their environment of choice, strengthening our connection and commitment to them.

About the Author

Jason Stahl is CIO at Delta College and an IT expert with SunGard Higher Education.

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