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iPods + iTunes + Faculty = iTunes U at Fairfield University

Sunday, January 1, 2006

Abstract

Fairfield University has helped faculty incorporate audio and video technology into their curricula to make their content available to students in a digital format. Teaming up with Apple Computer to use iTunes University has simplified the digitizing process for faculty and enabled completely portable content for the students.

With the recent exponential growth of iPods and podcasting among the college-age population, technology-savvy professors have sought to exploit this phenomenon in their classrooms. Since a large percentage of current undergraduates have already embraced the iPod and podcasting (i.e., they own iPods and use iTunes software outside of classes), it seems logical to try to leverage this trend in the academic arena. The question is, how? With all the different hardware and software available that utilizes the iPod and produces podcasts, what is the best way to create digital content from a curriculum so that it can be easily delivered to students and made portable? The answer: iTunes U as implemented at Fairfield University.

Historical Background Just a few years ago, Fairfield's classrooms were not fitted with technology to accommodate digital needs. Professors relied on DVDs or VHS tapes, CDs, or overheads during their classes. As a result, students could not take the content beyond the walls of the classroom. Savvy professors used streaming video to provide content, but this required a student to be on a computer with a broadband network connection. Beginning in 2004, the university initiated a multiyear project to redesign selected classrooms to incorporate new teaching technologies and accommodate the needs of the more technically oriented professors.

The equipment added included video projectors, surround-sound systems, StarBoards, and Star Panels, as well as new DVD and VHS players. The changes were heavily promoted on campus and, along with excellent word-of-mouth advertising, persuaded an entire new group of professors to integrate technology into their coursework.

But professors didn't stop there. Their introduction to new methods of teaching and an increased level of support from IT staff led many instructors to look for ways to promote their content outside the classroom. One method that a number of instructors began experimenting with was podcasting.

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