iTunesU Content

I’d never really paid attention to iTunesU, until a colleague in the Library here mentioned that it might be a place for an instructor to host content (content that was too large for the LMS and really needed a streaming media server solution). I finally added the app last night and delved into it and felt, underwhelmed. The organization of the content was difficult to navigate. For instance, I was looking for lectures on Human Computer Interaction. So I put that in the search bar, found several courses, downloaded a bunch from Stanford. Search function is great. The problem is that the browsing experience sucks. I like looking at disparate ideas and how the connect – so where does a 21st century literacies course end up? Humanities? Computer Science? Really, it should be both and multidisciplinary. Turns out there’s ones that might be there as well as in Social Sciences, and elsewhere scattered throughout the possible categories.

So really, iTunesU is ill prepared for what I think is how higher education needs to re-organize, and that’s as a multidisciplinary ground floor and further specialization higher up the food chain. It used to be in Ontario that you could get a taste of what University would be like in Grade 13, or more recently OAC. My OAC year at high school was difficult, but not too bad. I’m sure the teachers liked it too because they could actually challenge students, whereas it seemed in earlier years it might’ve been a rubber stamp process. I’ll never forget being asked in Grade 12 Math if I was coming back to do OAC Math. When I said, “no”, I got my 50%. Many high school graduates in Ontario don’t have the fundamental understanding of how to write an essay, never mind several basic literacy issues. I could talk about the literacy levels of my former employer at length, and how most of the first year students should have been in a remedial writing class, which would’ve burdened the entire system so much they had to allow some students to just get by so they could manage the workload of teaching.

Anyways, I feel as we’ve seen with many disciplines that the silo approach doesn’t work – there’s too much overflow. I’m working in education but my history of computer programming, media creation and educational theory come into play each week. I’m sure many educators feel the same – they not only need to be educators, but technical enough to run computers, handle marking spreadsheets in addition to the social work skills to deal with students. This isn’t new, but it’s getting more difficult, and more complex to deal with on a daily basis. So how does iTunesU deal with the complexity? Shove it in a tube labelled one of many things, that essentially hides content or reveals it. I’m left wondering why have categories at all? Why not just make them self-identified tags and leave it at the search, which is ubiquitous in modern life and works well enough.

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