Technology with attitude

Apple builds a grad school in iTunes

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Apple is increasing involvement in the education area with a special iTunes project that will put MBA-level lectures from famous universities and professors into the iTunes store at no cost to users.

Universities such as Cambridge, Fuqua School of Business, and Yale School of Management and hundreds of others are recording lectures from their business graduate program professors and storing them on iTunes for everyone to listen to. This adds to a trend in which educational material is made available to the public through sites like iTunes and YouTube. More schools are coming on line with these programs every day, according to a CNN story. Although credit cannot be offered for “taking” classes in this manner, the knowledge is still imparted by the content, you don’t have to spend any time in the classroom, and it does not cost a thing.

In an excellent example, French business school HEC Paris is due to launch its full iTunes U content over the next few months, but that will not be their first foray into this venue. They have been operating a significant podcast program for about three years. The new program was begun as an experiment in partnership with Apple. As a part of it, all new MBAs at HEC are provided with an iPod Touch. Just about half of the MBA lectures are filmed using an automatic camera system and the footage is made available for students to download and view on their iPhones.

HEC is recording both the lectures of professors and the presentations of students and making them available on iTunes. They are also recording special items, such as common questions and answers, that can be downloaded and watched via iTunes. The program is very popular with students and faculty alike. Vanessa Klein, HEC’s project manager for iTunes U said, “It’s a good marketing tool, not as publicity but to really show people what we are providing. You can watch a lecture, learn a lot and think ‘I wish I could be there.’ The idea is to show what you could learn if you were at this place.”

As an extension of the power that can be generated by the Web plus education, these new programs make a strong statement in favor of unconventional learning. If the intent of learning is to acquire useful knowledge, rather than to just get a degree, these classes are an excellent tool for lifelong learners. It appears that programs like the one cooked up by HEC and Apple could be used as a model for other similar ideas associated with online learning, improving the easy distribution of knowledge.

This article originally appeared in Tech.Blorge.com on October 18, 2009.