Gerard Condon's Blog

Journal of a software developer.

iTunes U and Online Learning

Apple have just released the iTunes U app. I think this has gotten a little lost compared to the attention on the new iBooks Author and its EULA. The iTunes U app looks to be an excellent app which puts some structure on the courses that were available through iTunes. Now you can watch the videos on your iPhone and iPad, and also download the slides to them. You can also use AirPlay to stream the videos to an Apple TV and the app will sync the progress of the course between devices.

The course I am currently looking at is the Stanford iOS Programming course. I’ve only seen the first few lectures but they are of excellent quality. There are about thirty of these new iTunes U courses at present but more should be added in the future.

While the talk was that the iBooks authoring app would revolutionize textbooks, I’m hopeful that the iTunes U app will do something similar for adult education. I’ve taken a few evening photography courses locally. These were great for me as a beginner but moving beyond that, it would be great to be able to subscribe to courses given by professionals. Remote learning can offer a wider range of courses than could ever be offered here in Cork. Courses that would be impractical to run locally due to small audiences don’t face that problem online. Imagine if you could subscribe to a landscape photography course with lectures by a series of landscape photographers. Or Portrait. Or Sports etc. And this would all come with slides that could be viewed afterwards at any time to refresh the memory.

Currently I’m looking into Graphic Design as I will need to create graphics for my app and I would like to do a course in this. However any real life courses would most likely not be suitable for me. I would need them to run in the evenings after work. Also I want a course that assumes I have lots of experience with computers. However what I’m more likely to find is a full time course aimed at school leavers which assumes no previous software experience. Remote learning offers the potential that multiple courses can be recorded, each aimed at different levels of experience. I could choose the one more suited to my circumstances and the scheduling would now not be an issue as I can do the course in my own free time.

It’s still early days but as more and more institutions put their courses up on iTunes U, I hope we start to see them not just put up their existing courses, but instead think about how they create and tailor courses for a wider audience. Although I’m not sure how likely that will be as currently the app doesn’t allow for paid courses. Still the free content is more than enough for the time being and I’ll look forward to see where iTunes U can go in the future.

Update: Just to clarify. The iTunes U app is separate from the desktop iTunes application. You can just download the iTunes U app on your device and never have to go near iTunes.