My institution has just gone live on iTunesU. It’s a good site, and I know a lot of effort has gone into creating the site and its content. For example take a look at Ian Stewart’s Math Challenges. Although I am no doubt biased, Warwick’s is one of the better iTunesU sites out there.
I’m curious to know who looks at iTunesU sites and whether they find the content there useful (as opposed to simply ‘peering over the garden fence’ to have a look at what the neighbours are doing). I’ve looked at lots of iTunesU sites and viewed lots of content but I wouldn’t say I was a consumer of iTunesU content, merely curious to see what’s there. But then again I’m probably not part of the target audience.
So what is the target audience? Is it prospective students, wanting to find out what they can expect if they choose a particular educational establishment? Or current students perhaps, trawling for useful learning resources? Then again maybe iTunesU is just a digital market place, where institutions set out samples of their wares, and where turning up and being seen is as important as what you have to show (there is some shockingly awful content on some sites). Perhaps it’s all of these things, and more.
One less good aspect of iTunesU is that it seems to enforce content silos. Although it’s early days (for us) it doesn’t seem to encourage or provide a mechanism for collaboration between content providers. The platform, and I use that term loosely at least in the edtech sense of the word, is simply a smart looking aggregator of channels of content, and limited content types it has to be said, where channels are institutions rather than topics, themes or cross-institutional content areas. I will however acknowledge that the search engine in iTunes is quite good, although you apparently can’t subscribe to an RSS feed of search results but I might have missed that.
It’s hard to deny that iTunesU has an appeal to many content providers (marketing and comms departments?) as there’s a growing list of institutional members. But as for who’s using the content, I guess after a little while we’ll find out, or at least find out who’s been looking at our stuff.