Discovering Open Resources at Home (and Beyond)

With all my yelling for openness on campus recently, I am proud to show off some of the open content emerging within our iTunes U space. There are thousands of course podcasts that are still behind the log in wall, but so much great open content is being published every single day. It is really cool to see. If you have iTunes installed and you click this link you’ll be taken to our top downloads area to see for yourself.

PSU on iTunes U: Top Downloads

PSU on iTunes U: Top Downloads

The one thing I’m not sure we are doing a good job at is exposing this to the teaching community as a resource. I’m not thinking about it as a resource for just posting content, but a resource for linking content into an existing course. A quick browse through the WPSU stuff alone brings to light hundreds of amazing assets that are very well done and could support all sorts of learning needs. If there isn’t anything to discover at PSU for you, it may be time to take a look at the content that has been appearing in the overall iTunes U space. Not only is there an excellent selection of open content items from higher education available, but the folks in Cupertino who manage this environment have done an outstanding job bringing open and available content to us from all sorts of sources — take a look, there are some high quality resources just waiting to be used, mashed, contextualized, and shared.

Back at PSU we are in the midsts of a total redesign of our entire podcasting service — from the Podcasts at Penn State site to our iTunes U environment. We are consolidating, working to make things more discoverable, and trying to find new ways to encourage the open posting of content. We are hoping to start releasing some of the new stuff around the start of the Spring 2009 semester. With that in mind, we are all ears! What should we be doing to promote this in a wider sense and raise greater awareness on and off campus?

My Simple iPhone App Wish

I’ve been very happy with my iPhone since I got it last year … I like it so much I haven’t yet felt compelled to pony up for the new one. With the 2.0 software update I am thrilled with how easily I can extend the functionality of the device — and the “fake” GPS works fine for me at the moment. I am betting there will be a killer app for the real GPS integration that will get me thinking, but for now the location based hooks in software are good enough for me.

Why can\'t I have at least a podcast option?

There is one thing I want though … I would really like an app that made it easy to acquire content from the iTunes Store that is in the iTunes U area. I know how it all works behind the scenes (for the most part) so I know it isn’t a simple task, but having the ability to integrate SMS notifications to students that new content is available in their iTunes U course spaces would really kick ass. I fully get the challenges with authentication, storing credentials, and the like but having an app that would at least let me point students directly to (even a public) course in iTunes U would be outstanding. I could easily write a half dozen case studies where this could be put to amazing use — and I am betting it would drive adoption of both the new 3G powered network device and the wifi enabled iPod Touch on campuses.

Real content on the go would be great. Total integration across the iTunes/iPod/iPhone eco-system would be an ideal situation for us all. Thoughts?

The iTunes U Ecosystem

I have spent the last week in Seattle at Educause. During the week I have had several chances to meet and talk to colleagues at other institutions and from the companies I work with. It has been a fun, rewarding, and thought provoking week — total exhaustion aside, I think it was one of my more productive trips. I’ll save my overall Educause thoughts for a different post … this one is about the emerging opportunities I see on the horizon for content delivery to mobile devices for teaching and learning.

One of the short demos I went to at the Apple Booth was given by one of my good friends at Apple … he shared some amazing stories of how different Universities are using iTunes U for content, outreach, and campus news. Some really good stuff — although ETS Talk didn’t make the cut. The second half of the presentation focused on the mobile side of the equation … how the iPod (in its various forms) create an ecosystem of sorts for managing and delivering mobile content … it got me thinking about it more.

One of the neat things you can do in Seattle with an iPod Touch or iPhone is walk into a Starbucks (you may have heard of those things … coffee shops I think) and get instantly connected to what seems like a location aware network. Once connected a new opportunity on the device emerges — a commerce opportunity. In this case the fact that my device knows I am in a certain place, the network lets me in, and I am presented with an opportunity to acquire content is a very cool thing. I am not one to frequent the old Starbucks at home, opting instead for the local shops but this is an interesting model for us to consider in the delivery of podcasted material.


Another very cool feature to mention is when I am in an open WIFI zone my iPhone gives me the opportunity to purchase content from the Apple Music Store. They even let me look at what is hot, the top 10, and other ways to browse music in multiple genres. Again, this is great but for this to be valuable to me in an academic sense I need to authenticate into my Universities’ iTunes U space. Think of the potential — as these devices hit our campuses students can gain access to learning materials in a true anytime, anywhere fashion. Imagine being a faculty member and creating a podcast two hours before class on a relevant (late-breaking) topic and publishing it to your iTunes U space. What if when you do that you could instantly send an SMS, eMail, and an update to your FaceBook entry that new content is available … students receive the update and can (with their Touch or iPhone) grab that content out of the air. Just in time mobile content delivery is only one option … there are dozens of scenarios — tours, travel updates, and so much more — especially if you can rely on some sort of location aware technologies.

It all seems to rely on the fact that your device knows your identity and can make that connection. Well, guess what? When you buy an iPod or iPhone the first thing you have to do is sync it with iTunes … when this happens, why not use the local iTunes U space to create a connection? Let the iTunes U space on your campus take part in the activation process … when you log in with our school identity all sorts of great things can happen — auto-synced University bookmarks, account information, University wide calendar events, and more. One of those things is a pairing of the device with your iTunes U access. Seems easy enough to me and it paints a really powerful end-to-end picture of the way iTunes U could sit in the middle of so much more than content management.

ETS Talk on the Directory

Every Friday Allan Gyorke, Chris Millet, Brad Kozlek, and I get together to just talk. We record these conversations and call them ETS Talk … our little weekly podcast is really just an opportunity to take an hour every week to think out loud. We’ve recorded 27 of these which is actually sort of amazing given the schedules we all keep. It is honestly a highlight of my week.

How sweet was it to learn tonight that ETS Talk is featured on the new iTunes U directory from within the iTunes Store. Not sure we are worthy given the company we are keeping in the featured section … hmm, let’s see, yeah we’re next to Coach K’s Leadership Conference, an entry from the MIT Open Courseware initiative, and a few other notables. So, if you want to listen to four guys (with the occassional guest) talk about our perspectives on teaching and learning with technology and other stuff, jump on over and take a listen!


iTunes U and Discoverability

I’ve been personally involved in the iTunes U space for quite some time … first as a member of the Apple Digital Campus group and then as a pilot University. For the longest time I have maintained that iTunes U is a good thing on a whole bunch of levels. iTunes itself is a very well designed cross platform media manager and player. It just works … the integration with the iTunes Store takes the platform to a whole other level and that little iPod thing completes the eco-system. Most of what iTunes U gives us is very solid as well — protected content areas that only faculty and enrolled students can access, subscriptions, public content areas, and really anything else that the iTunes Store can give you. It is a very nice environment that students and faculty find easy and intuitive to use and navigate.

My two biggest issues to date have been the inability to engage students in any sort of conversation (other than having them create a podcast rebuttal and upload it) and the inability to really navigate and find podcasts easily from the outside — I’ll call that last piece, discoverability. If you are in a given University’s iTunes U space, life is fairly easy, but what if you are a student sitting on the outside and have no idea how to get to your files? You can’t fire up a browser and google for it … you have to know the right URL to get iTunes to launch and go to the iTunes U site at your school. It has been a problem. To compound the issue, it has been nearly impossible to find a way to easily take advantage of all the killer public content available across all the various iTunes U sites. Want some content from Penn State? Better know the URL … ditto for Stanford, University of Michigan, and so on.

Today (or yesterday …) that has changed. Apple rolled out an iTunes U directory from within the public iTunes Store. Jump over to Apple’s Education site, click the link to launch the iTunes Store and take a peek at the little sites directory in the upper left … notice that last item? Yep, it is a public landing page for a select group of iTunes U spaces. Finally I can easily show people what various spaces look like, access content from top schools, and feel like we are part of the iTunes Universe. I think this will help in a bunch of ways. One big one is the ability for Higher Education to get prominent placement in the World’s top online music and podcast directory. Not too shabby, thanks Apple!


Penn State on iTunes U and Podcasting Talk

I gave a talk at the ITS Forum yesterday with a colleague here at Penn State related to Podcasting and Penn State on iTunes U yesterday. Jimmy V focused on the hard core technology behind making the iTunes U system work in our environment, while I did a more general talk focusing on why we would do podcasting at the Institutional level, an update on the state of podcasting in general, and a full on demo of our iTunes U space. Reaction was fairly positive … at any rate here is a QuickTime file of the slides without audio or any real content, but there they are … there is a podcast and a videocast of the session being produced — I’ll link that when it is available.

Quick iTunes U Thought

As we approach the end of the first semester of iTunes U use here at Penn State I have all sorts of thoughts about the service, how to make it better, what we really like, and so on … I only have a minute this morning, so I thought I’d share one quick thought.  How about allowing users of iTunes to create a new type of smart menu item in the left hand “source” menu?  What I want is the ability to create a link into our iTunes U space without going through a web browser first.  Much of our content is public content and does not require a login, so a one click access to the space would be killer.

I hate to say it, but the environment just doesn’t feel right with the browser only based access.  Doing the browser thing is slow and is a real drag … giving us this capability could save me a ton of time when going in.  If that were possible, I could create shortcuts to the podcasts I show off all the time here on campus.  It would also allow me to title it Penn State instead of iTunes Store … you have no idea how many bad looks I get when people see how connected the iTunes Store is to iTunes U … allowing us to create and name a custom link into the space would help me in a lot of ways.  That’s it … quick.


iTunes U Tuesdays – Live from ETS

Chris Millet is managing the Podcast at Penn State project for us and is doing a great job!  Last week he decided that he would create a new podcast show that would highlight new and interesting content going on in the Penn State on iTunes U space.  So with that in mind he took a little time and cranked out the first of the weekly series.  Now into its second week it seems Chris is getting the model down.  If you are interested, go on and click the link.  You will be taken into the open part of Penn State on iTunes U.  Let me know what you think.