As we explore as a division ways to organize and offer digital content for students online, it becomes apparent that there are few tools that “do it all.” One I have begun using is the Course Builder for iTunes U.
If you think about an online course with the world’s most popular tool used in higher education, Blackboard, you may know what the concept is like. A professor (or teacher) parks content within a website, along with activities or interactive components that would otherwise be difficult to re-create using a simple website. These include discussion forums, file uploads, and a grading system for tracking progress.
We’ve used Moodle for many years now. Moodle is (the bias of my opinion will creep in here, going forward) easier to use than Blackboard, and is great for a traditional “online class” type of need. It’s not fancy, but it’s also free.
iTunes U is Apple’s portal within iTunes. A couple years ago we were the first Virginia school division to have an iTunes U portal for distributing podcasts. The space started out as a place for colleges to post video lectures, but today it has expanded. They now offer the concept of a “course” that is designed to work using the iPad.
Students download the iTunes U app, and they’re set to go. With the app and an iTunes account, they can signup to participate in any number of online courses. We design the courses through a webpage on a computer (that’s what I snapped above).
The courses can contain audio files, video files, eBooks (including the fancy iBooks), documents, app recommendations, images, and web links. Students using the iPad version of the app can access all of this content, downloaded onto the iPad, and use the content offline. That’s its biggest selling point to me: it’s super simple for students to get access to the online content while at school.
Interaction is weak, however. Students can take their own notes within the app while they view the content teachers provide.
As we move deeper into our 1:1, this tool may be of interest to our teachers who are looking for ways to distribute content in a way that’s easy for students to grab, and use, at home.