A *really* open university
Have you heard of iTunes U? Well, if you are interested in learning in innovative ways, you should have a look. You can read about it here, but the basic concept is that universities can upload content for distribution on iTunes, generally for free. You will need to have iTunes (which is also free), but that’s all. On the front page of the iTunes Store, scroll to the bottom where you will find a link to iTunes U, and after that you are right into the content. I have gone straight into the ‘Saturday Scholars’ programme of Notre Dame University, and am finding it really interesting. And very appropriately there is something from the UK’s Open University being featured there as well.
Right now what you find here is free content, much of it fairly random, that major institutions are making available on this platform. But of course the obvious question immediately is: might this be the future, or at least a future, of higher education? Could this be a platform for online accredited education, so that while today you may just be availing of interesting information and knowledge here, tomorrow you may be using this platform to get a BA (or whatever) degree.
Of course online elearning is hardly new, but what makes this interesting is that it is being promoted by the very market-savvy Apple Inc. Big university elearning initiatives have more often than not failed. But maybe this is different. If it is, we may of course get worried quickly about the dominant status of Apple in such an endeavour, but for now we might just look at the potential.
I remain of the view that the desire of people for a campus, classroom experience will continue to drive students into physical university spaces, though no doubt using more and more new technology while there. But there will always be some for whom that is not an ideal or possible choice, and for them this may be heralding a new framework. We’ll have to wait and see.