INTERNATIONAL: Universities opt for i-Tunes

Universities in Australia, Britain, Ireland and New Zealand have followed US institutions and joined with Apple to make their teaching and research available free to a global audience, using the giant company's distribution system, iTunes U on the iTunes Store.

iTunes U is used by educational institutions in North America to distribute audio and video content free to students and the general public. Users can download the content to their Mac or PC, transfer the information to their iPod or MP3 player and listen to or view it anytime, anywhere.

Universities such as the Open University, University College London and Trinity College Dublin are providing their students with audio and video materials on iTunes service for download to their computers or iPod.

Last week, the Open University followed Stanford, MIT, Yale and other world-class institutions in publishing materials via Apple's iTunes U service. Leading course materials are available for free download via the OU on iTunes U. More than 300 video and audio files drawn from current courses across the university's broad curriculum are now available to download for playing on a Mac, PC, iPod or iPhone.

Professor Denise Kirkpatrick, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Learning and Teaching) at the Open University, said: "Making available selected video and audio items from among the university's highly-rated course materials via iTunes U to audiences worldwide offers a new channel for the University. We can open up free access to educational resources as well as a window for our potential students."

Science, the arts, technology and computing, humanities and the environment are among the subject areas featured. The range of courses and content has a global reach as befits an international launch: Venice, Paris and Istanbul for art history; Sierra Leone for an in-depth exploration of the issues of a country recovering from bloody civil war; the complex problem of the US-Mexican border which is a major case study for a course on globalisation; to Lake Baikal in Central Asia to understand the environmental impact of industrialisation in post-Soviet Russia; the Far East for world religions.

The iTunes move marks the beginning of an ambitious programme of development by the OU. More video and audio material will be made available to reach a target of 500 items drawn from 50 OU courses by the end of July.

Meanwhile, seven Australasian universities are also now on iTunes U in the iTunes Store - the Australian National University, Griffith University, Swinburne University of Technology, University of Melbourne, University of New South Wales and the University of Western Australia, as well as the Otago University in New Zealand.

"Having a presence on iTunes U allows existing students and new audiences to discover Swinburne's key areas of expertise and to access content wherever and whenever it's convenient for them," said Dr Lisa Germany, educational coordinator with Swinburne's Digital Learning Initiative.

"You don't have to be a student to access university knowledge. Through iTunes U, Swinburne can reach beyond the classroom, allowing not only students but the global community at large to extend their learning, explore interests and engage in education."

Germany said Swinburne's presence on iTunes U featured cutting-edge research conducted at the university, short films produced by students from Swinburne's Film and Television school, previews of stereoscopic 3D movies produced by the centre for astrophysics and supercomputing and introductory lectures in public relations writing.

"We expect the content will be of interest to a wide audience, including current and potential students, local and international researchers, alumni, industry partners and anyone with an interest in higher education," she said. "It also provides an avenue through which our best
student work can be highlighted."