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Saturday, December 20, 2014

UNM behind the curve on iTunes U technology

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Officials at NMSU said they’ve been able to gain international attention while helping students learn and complete degrees by using a free program, while UNM has yet to do the same.

Director of Media Productions at NMSU Jeanne Gleason said the platform NMSU has been able to do this with is iTunes University, a program that contains course material from universities all over the country, including Yale and Brown. She said students and lifelong learners can download e-books, voice lectures and videos from the site. But UNM has yet to create its own iTunes U page to share the University’s academic material with the world.

Gleason said users can carry the material and view or listen to it on various Apple devices and personal computers using a free iTunes U app, and some of the most popular downloads include video lectures on HTML web-page development and mythology. She said NMSU received worldwide recognition for the number of downloads it has accrued since the pilot study, which began in 2006.

“I think you could safely say we’ve had millions because we were one of the first ones, and a lot of people hold that page and keep coming back to it,” she said.

Gleason said iTunes U does not have the capacity to maintain grade sheets or host tests and quizzes like NMSU’s Blackboard or UNM’s WebCT, so the system is only used as a supplementary teaching tool. But she said the system allows thousands of people to simultaneously stream from it, which is not possible with most university servers. She said the program is split into two categories: information for the general public and a private section for exclusive use by universities and professors. Deputy Chief Information Officer and Acting Director of Classroom Technologies at UNM Moira Gerety said UNM signed a contract with Apple a year and a half ago and will offer content to the general public in August.

“We have watched other universities and we said ‘We want to do this very deliberately, so that once we stand it up we know it’s as sustainable and viable … and we’re going to give it the care and feeding it deserves,’” she said.

Gerety said the University has not offered iTunes U in the past due to concerns with intellectual property rights. She said the copyrights and property rights are unclear because content from iTunes U can be downloaded and used by anyone.

Gerety said it is difficult for the University to navigate intellectual property rights because professors often include books, films and other media in classroom lectures.
“We’re in that very hard part of iTunes U right now where the legal office, the marketing office and the provost’s office are in the process of creating guidelines and release forms (for faculty),” she said.

Gerety said the use of iTunes U would help the University organize the media already on UNM servers and increase usage space.

Gerety said she is hopeful about the University’s future use of the software and believes it will allow the University to bring positive attention to the programs in which it excels.

“It’s going to be a wonderful service that will increase UNM’s reputation and visibility in the greater community and get more knowledge out to the general public,” she said. “I think it’s great.”

Gerety said content from KNME’s “New Mexico in Focus,” a news magazine show, will be part of the first content available on iTunes U. She said the site will feature lectures from distinguished public figures, lecturers and professors gathered by the University Committee for Academic Planning and other departments.