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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    An Apple for the teacher

    Over the past few years, the iPod has exploded into a powerful icon of all things cool. Portable, versatile and tragically hip, the device and its ubiquity have transformed the way people relate to music. Just look around for proof – at peak hours, a walk across campus can feel like fording a river of distinctive white earbuds.

    Now the UA is hoping that Apple’s little black bricks can transform higher education as well.

    This week, in partnership with the iTunes music store, UA rolled out a new technology called iTunesU – a free service allowing students to download video podcasts of university lectures, supplemented by applications allowing professors to create and upload recordings of their own classes.

    The service is a potential lifesaver for students. In theory, the attendance-averse will now have a second chance to catch those pesky early morning lectures, and the academically inclined can tap into a network of fascinating courses and speakers from campuses across the country. A few quick clicks can take users to full courses from colleges like Stanford, Berkeley and MIT. UA-specific content is still sparse, but if the system is widely adopted, it could be a big deal.

    Any new tool that gives students greater choice and access to more knowledge is a good one. Information should be free, and the university deserves credit for embracing new technologies that students have already overwhelmingly adopted. Plus, the archived videos are available to the general public, allowing many who might otherwise not attend the UA view world-class lectures without having to enroll, pay tuition or even tear themselves away from the Internet.

    The concept of free, open access to information is the real revolutionary idea here. Unfortunately, iTunesU itself could use some debugging.

    Apple’s iTunes software is notorious for refusing to play nicely with devices that aren’t prefixed with a lower-case “”i.”” Partnering with iTunesU locks iPod users into the Apple axis and locks out everyone else. Those without iPods could quickly be left behind. Or, they could buy brand new iPods of their own, a response that Steve Jobs is no doubt anticipating.

    More importantly, though, technology like iTunesU is the sort of thing the UA should have developed years ago. The fact that the university needs to partner with an outside company like Apple and use their proprietary software is proof that the UA is behind the tech curve, not ahead of it. UA students interact with a slew of online learning systems (e-reserves, Polis, D2L), each of which offersseparate, yet often redundant features. Video lectures, along with class notes, grading systems, and online documents, should be integrated into one versatile resource to serve student needs.

    The iTunesU service is a shrewd business move for Apple and offers a legitimately useful new tool to students. Until the UA develops similar, effective software tools of its own, it’ll have to be part of campus iLife.

    OPINIONS BOARD: Editorials are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Jerry Simmons, Allison Hornick, Justyn Dillingham, Sarah Keeler, Connor Mendenhall and Allison Dumka.

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