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iTunes U: Part 1— Course lectures on your iPod

“Anyone who thinks there is a difference between education and entertainment doesn't know the first thing about either.”
—Marshall McLuhan, attr.

When iTunes is mentioned in casual conversation, it is traditionally in the context of entertainment— music, podcasts and movies. Since 2007 however, iTunes has hosted educational audio and video content under the iTunes U section. Participating universities can upload course lectures, laboratory demos and campus tours to iTunes U and can grant different access-levels to each type of visitor; for example, while all visitors would be able to access the campus tours, only students registered for a particular class would be able to access the lectures, using either their iPods or their desktop computers running iTunes.

Dimitri Androutsos is the first faculty member in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Ryerson to have provided his ELE 404: Electronic Circuits I lectures on iTunes U. But this number will soon increase when the ELE 635: Communication Systems course lectures taught by Dr. Androutsos' graduate student, Raymond Phan, are uploaded to iTunes U, followed by James Smith's lectures for the BME 100: Introduction to Biomedical Engineering course.

“Participating universities can upload course lectures, laboratory demos and campus tours to iTunes U.”


Login screen for Ryerson University iTunes U.

A list of available ELE 404 lectures displayed in iTunes.

ELE 404 lecture playing in iTunes.


There is another aspect to Dr. Androutsos' work with iTunes U— it is also part of his research. In a joint project with Alireza Sadeghian, from the the School of Computer Science (which also has lectures on iTunes U), they are researching an efficient, seamless lecture-to-podcast framework and investigating hardware and network requirements for making podcasts. This research is funded by the CONCERT Initiative, an Ontario research grant consortium.

Dr. Androutsos notes that it is too early in the term to draw any conclusions about the effectiveness of using iTunes U to teach. Some of the answers he is interested in include: whether students will continue attending the lectures in person, even when the same lectures are available online; whether students will take fewer notes in class and pay closer attention to the lecture, because of the detail contained in the podcasts. The answers to these questions will have to wait for a follow-up article.

Since iTunes U is considered a pilot project by Ryerson University, the podcasts are only available via Blackboard, to students registered for their respective courses. The University does not yet have a public presence on iTunes U.


For those who may be interested in podcasting their lectures on iTunes U, the second part of this article describes how Dr. Androutsos' creates his podcasts.