February 23, 2006

Jon Udell's Agenda: The iTunes U Export Feature

Jon Udell posted his concerns about iTunes U and pointed out that content wasn't as accessible as it should be and that a university professor had got first hand information that

"iTunes U is seen specifically as a driver to iTunes adoption. That's their bottom line on the issue -- iTunes U is designed explicitly as a vehicle for promoting the iTunes app. This means no RSS, everything must be done through iTunes. "

Now does this mean that you cannot add an external RSS feed to iTunes U? I'm not clear what this means?

I virtually attended the elearning Forum yesterday morning. The topic was Learning2.0 and among the speakers was Lucy Carter, Director, Worldwide Sales Training and Communication at Apple Computer. Ms. Carter gave, what I thought, was a great presentation about how Apple does training and how they handle "black launches" or product launches made by their CEO where they have 2 days notice in order to train the sales channel. As part of that presentation, she described that they were going to move from an internally created learning management system (LMS) to iTunes U. Ms. Carter seemed to be excited about how moving iTunes to the center of their training universe was going to really enable so many learning possibilities. The new approach would allow iTunes to manage and track learning content. I began to think about that, wouldn't it be great to have mobile learning (learning content delivered on mobile devices) actually be the center of your content delivery framework and not somehow attached to the end as a "last mile-type" solution?

So Jon's agenda is not about whether iTunes would be a good delivery architecture for learning content, but that if a university was going to deliver content "publicly" (specifically audio I assume) then they should make that content openly accessibile for any aggregator and that iTunes inability to export an OPML file "really bugs" him. With that last part I agree. iTunes should export an OPML file containing the RSS feeds for which you have subscribed. I also agree that if the university has the goal of allowing the "blogosphere" or "podoshere" the opportunity to interact with the content in a pub/sub or read/write manner, iTunes U may not be the best delivery mechanism.

On the other hand, if you feel that the recent sales of 14 million iPods (in the last quarter) is an opportunity to expose learning content to a larger audience, maybe iTunes is not so bad, and if you have ever used other "walled gardens" for delivering learning content (particularly in Higher Education) then iTunes is not so bad. If you have ever tried to train learners or students on using content delivery systems, the elegance of the iTunes interface is not so bad.

Sure, if you are a Linux-using, podcasting instructor, anything corporate is bad. (I envision a part of that course being how to write your own RSS feed.) But for the rest of us instructors/trainers who are focused on creating easy to use learning environments, where learners interact with the content, not the technology, this is an interesting development. iTunes as an LMS? Another walled garden... yes, but with some nice picture windows and a nice map to get around. And clearly the first LMS that a student probably already downloaded and used before ever enrolling in college. Wow.

And if Jon's agenda is that Apple includes an OPML export feature in iTunes, I'm all for that.

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1 comment:

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