iTunesU and Podcasting

Laurie Roberts, Liaison Librarian at QMU, explained the use of podcasting at QMU and introduced iTunesU (iTunes University) – watch introductory video for an overview.

You can download a copy of Laurie’s presentation, which includes relevant links as well as her notes.

As part of Laurie’s job role, she has the task to investigate use of Web 2.0 technologies and how they can be used to support the library services. Laurie therefore “plays” with web 2.0 technologies, explores potential use for library, and attends courses to discover new tools and share good practice. Currently, QMU are using a library blog, Flickr account (to share photos of the library and any events they hold), Facebook page, YouTube videos, Twitter, and Meebo (for virtual enquiries) to communicate with their users and support the library service.

The focus of this particular presentation was podcasting and iTunesU, so Laurie began with an introduction to podcasting and some recommendations such as purchasing a decent headphone/microphone and using software such as Audacity to edit any mistakes.

At QMU, physiotherapy lecturers use video podcasts to teach anatomy – students can watch these at their own pace either on a PC or on their own mp3 players, iPods etc. The students appeared to engage more in this style learning and were able to prepare themselves for practical sessions by watching the podcasts and reading the recommended resources. There are around 50 videos on the examination and assessment for physiotherapists, and Laurie found that other academic schools were also using video podcasts to support learning.

Laurie decided to investigate the possibility of adding this material to a central store so that this material could be used by different students (e.g. nursing students may find the physiotherapist podcasts useful). After attending a seminar at the Apple Training Suite in London about iTunesU, Laurie decided it may be a useful service for QMU to use, and contacted academic departments to see if they would be interested in adding videos/podcasts for students to use. The emphasis is that “content is king” and it must be an institutional effort incorporating lecturers, IT, legal, marketing etc.

In order to set up an iTunesU account, there are quite a few hoops to jump through and the process takes quite a while. iTunes like you to have 300 items before going live, and ensure that you keep it up-to-date so that the page isn’t stagnant. You can have a public page (i.e. open to anyone), a private page (apparently works with Shibboleth or other authentication methods), or a combination of the two. QMU have 16 subject categories and are now organising the 400 items they currently have before launching the site. The front page can also be customised so designers are working on building an institutional page.

QMU are hoping to record some lectures to add these to iTunesU, possibly by using Echo 360 ( which I hadn’t heard of before but have since watched a great video from University of Birmingham). They are also hoping to record some student and staff views about the University to add to the iTunesU page, marketed as “Life at QMU”. I asked about library material and at the moment there are no plans to add library videos/podcasts, although they may consider it in future. They currently have library videos produced using Microsoft Photo Story 3, which could probably be re-used or adapted and added to iTunesU.

University of Warwick was recommended as a good example of an iTunesU page; Cambridge and Oxford also have a presence on there (as do Open University and Coventry University I have just found).

QMU have iTunes software on 10 of their PCs in the LRC, which are wiped each night to clear the iTunes libraries. I wonder how other institutions offer iTunes to students without having the issues of different music libraries, is there is a way to enable viewing of iTunesU material without having to edit the iTunes library? I guess syncing is an issue, would be good if you could just do it one way to add a video/podcast to a device but not alter anything else on there.

I’m really glad I managed to attend this session, it covered a lot of information about iTunesU which I didn’t realise but also some advice from lessons they have learnt at QMU which I will take back to my place of work. A presence on iTunesU is a big commitment; it needs to be an institutional decision and requires co-ordination of many departments. In terms of mobile learning though I think it could really help developments in education.

Interestingly, I updated my iPod Touch software to OS 3.0 when I got back from the conference, and noticed the iTunesU is now available directly from the iPhone/iPod Touch. I was really pleased to see this as I think the iPhone/iPod Touch can be a great tool in education; hopefully developments such as this will really help mobile learning gain popularity.