A new direction for higher education?

If you want to learn something at a higher education level but don’t have the time, inclination or money to apply to a university, then you could do worse than head for iTunes and enter ‘iTunes U’ (you’ll find it at the lower left corner of the windows inside the iTunes store). Here you can download and study amazing subjects, generally for free. For example, one course I have just enjoyed is Art and Art History offered by Oakland University in Michigan. Next I am thinking about doing a course in DNA offered by Britain’s Open University.

In fact, the Open University has been a particular success story on iTunes U. Its portfolio there has now recorded more than 20 million downloads. Some of these are not necessarily advanced intellectual programmes – the most popular is, apparently, beginner’s French – but nevertheless the OU’s success shows that higher education is now reaching a target population by all sorts of unexpected ways. For many of those in universities the assumption still is that most of our customers want to do whatever they need to do in order to get a formal qualification. But we must be open to the reality that many just want to learn, and we must welcome this.

This, too, is another way in which the nature, purpose and methodology of higher education is changing, and changing fast. We need to ensure that we are part of this movement.

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6 Comments on “A new direction for higher education?”

  1. kevin denny Says:

    The Research Channel, a TV station in the US also has lots of goodies & which are downloadable for free: http://www.researchchannel.org/prog/ .
    While its something we may not want to be left out of it, there is a problem of scale. Making a good quality educational TV program is expensive: you can’t just point a camera at a professor. The US market is so vast that its a lot easier for them to produce watchable material.

  2. iainmacl Says:

    It’s also interesting to consider that this is effectively a modern version of public lectures, outreach, what used to be called adult education or leisure classes – sadly areas which have suffered cutbacks in many institutions outwith Ireland over the years. We had a good response in a similar vein to our recent TEDxGalway event and you can watch some interesting presentations there – sadly for Kevin they are just a camera at a lecturer because we’re skint!

    Have a look at the speakers’ section and give some of them a go.


  3. Kevin O'Brien Says:

    The Teaching Company (TTC) have something similar. I have some of their ancient history lectures – pretty impressed.


  4. If you like the itunes u, you’d probably really enjoy the open courses offered by MIT, YALE, etc. I’m a fan. I found one blog that has 250 free online courses listed from itunes U and open course. Hope this is helpful: http://www.openculture.com/freeonlinecourses

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