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The Mass Media

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iTunesU heading to UMass Boston

Joao Carvalhal could be listening to a lecture instead of the latest Radiohead single.

Apple recently launched an educational counterpart to their iTunes store, called iTunesU, which is coming to the UMass Boston campus this spring.

The program, which is short for iTunes University, already has more than 500 campuses listed on its online store. ITunesU is a free service that allows academic institutions, after signing a licensing agreement, to upload content onto its own unique Web site.

Director of Client Services, Apurva Mehta, said that university gatekeepers are currently working on the two components of the site.

The first will give prospective students, parents and education-hungry strangers access to download non-copyrighted content about the “public face” of UMass Boston, including information about admissions, enrollment and a peek into what the university is all about.

The second part of the site will be dedicated solely to current students, allowing them to download copyrighted material created by faculty. After authenticating, students will be directed to the domain of UMass Boston with a world of educational multimedia just one click away. Professors can post videos, audio of their lectures and graphics that are essential for visually stimulated learning and class notes.

The part of iTunesU that most distinguishes it from other online educational programs like LMS, formerly known as WebCT, is that it allows students to download and go.

Mehta said that because the main purpose of iTunesU is to distribute content, it was important to design a service that was both easily accessible to students both during and after downloading.

“Because everyone has an iPod or an mp3 player, you can download these podcasts onto your mobile devices and listen to it at your own leisure,” he said. “The other cool thing [about iTunesU] is that it is hosted by Apple, so it’s not a strain on UMass Boston resources.”

Mary Simone of the Media Center in Healey Library is also thrilled about iTunesU, and said that the service is one more communication channel being offered to students through the university.

“This will give students a lot more flexibility and portability than say LMS, or other course management systems,” she said, also adding that student organizations interested in being profiled on the “public face” section of the site should get in touch with the Media Center.

Both Simone and Mehta concurred that programs like iTunesU are the future of education. Despite criticisms about the program’s effectiveness, they remain confident that the system will only add to learning building blocks, not deter students from coming to class.

“I don’t think this will [give students more of an allowance to slack off],” Mehta said. “It is used as a way to supplement and reinforce classroom material, not to be the sole facet of learning.”

Simone was also quick to defend.

“None of the institutions [already using iTunesU] have seen a drop in attendance,” she said.