March 24, 2011
social learning

iTunesU Could Be So Much More (Part 1 of 2)

Truth be told, I never was a big fan of Apple products.

Oh sure, through courtship and then marriage I inherited a Mac Classic II as well as a Power PC, but for whatever reason, I never found myself 100% enthralled with its UI, feel, etc.

Maybe it was Clarisworks.

Most likely it was the Microsoft machine.

But, over the past several years, my personal opinion of Apple has changed with the introduction of iPods, iPhones and iPads into our household. (we’re not quite there yet with a MacBook, but it looks to be inevitable)

Through this evolution, I’ve begun to acquire an appreciation for the psyche of Apple users. Plenty has been written about the cult following of their brand and products, but I’m not interested in the brand per se. I’m interested in the adaptation of various Apple devices as social learning tools. More succinctly, I believe Apple has a chance to create one of the most definitive social learning platforms on the planet.

iTunesU suggests that we can “Learn Anything, Anytime, Anywhere”. It describes itself as:

a powerful distribution system for everything from lectures to language lessons, films to labs, audiobooks to tours — is an innovative way to get educational content into the hands of students.

Did you notice the term ‘distribution system’?

iTunesU, therefore, is no different than the classic university model itself. There is a ‘sage on the stage’ serving up content, and there are ‘students’ absorbing as much as they can in a one-way distribution system.

I see iTunesU becoming much more than a ‘distribution system’. I see it as becoming a true social learning portal, capable of tearing down the walls and silos of traditional education models and serving students from Kindergarten to Doctoral candidates in ways that cannot currently be fathomed.

iTunesU isn’t solely about content. It shouldn’t only be utilized as a distribution system. It should be redesigned to incorporate ‘collective intelligence learning paths’. That is, the ability for the ‘crowd’ to help steer people in the right direction in their quest for learning … be it formal, informal or social learning. iTunesU can become not only a repository for content, it can become a place whereby discussions are had, comments are placed, rankings are issued, social collaboration is prevalent … all the while happening from any Apple “i” device as well as non-Apple devices through the iTunesU portal itself. (the latter point demonstrates leadership and a commitment to enhancing the education in society, regardless of platform)

In a perfect world iTunesU could:

  • help align students from different geographies to learn with one another through formal, informal and social means.
  • help improve the learning experience of children and young adults by instituting a systemic change to the learning process simply be enhancing the UI to be two-way in delivery versus one-way
  • mitigate all forms of siloed content delivery, regardless of discipline and regardless of level of schooling.
  • break down current barriers of multiple learning systems throughout the world.
  • become a more credible alternative to the “Facebook as a Learning Portal” push if devised wisely.
  • actually confer degrees (if University of Phoenix and Ashwood can do it, why can’t iTunesU?)
  • deprecate the LMS for many organizations, if it were to also be thought of as a new form of Learning 2.0 portal

I’ll mock up what I think the new iTunesU could look like shortly, and in another post.

Thanks to Christian Thomas (and hopefully others) at Apple for reading. Happy to chat live to discuss more thoroughly.

PS. I’m a fan now.

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