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[March 15, 2006]
Apple to serve up San Jose State U. podcasts
(Comtex Business Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)SAN JOSE, Calif., Mar 15, 2006 (Spartan Daily, U-WIRE via COMTEX) --They're everywhere. Those little white earphones. They're in the San Jose State University Student Union, they're in the gym, they're on Tower Lawn and now they're in the classroom. Or rather, the classroom is in them.
Apple Computer's iPod and similar MP3 players have become nearly ubiquitous on the San Jose State University campus, providing students with music and podcasts to plug into their ears between classes and during their commutes.
Now Apple and the university have announced that SJSU will be a new participant in Apple's iTunes U program, in which the Cupertino-based computer company gives universities server space and software to host audio and video content on the Web.
"It's an opportunity for a great many things," said Mary Fran Breiling, the interim associate director for academic technology at SJSU.
Breiling said faculty members will be able to post class lectures, recordings of guest speakers and video-enhanced podcasts.
Audio and video podcasts are files posted online in a feed that can be subscribed to by listeners and viewers. Apple's iTunes program manages subscriptions to podcasts, automatically downloading new content whenever it is posted.
Stanford University and the University of Michigan are among the schools that already have their own iTunes store just for educational content.
Faculty members will have a choice of posting content on a public SJSU iTunes store, where anyone can download it, or on the WebCT sites for their classes.
"It's a very simple process," Breiling said.
According to Breiling, most MP3 players should be able to play content downloaded from the SJSU iTunes store.
"It doesn't have to be an iPod," Breiling said.
Jon Udell, an information technology columnist for San Francisco-based Infoworld magazine, said he was skeptical about the Apple deal.
"Higher education doesn't really need Apple to hold its hand," Udell said.
Udell said millions of people have figured out how to create blogs and podcasts without Apple's help.
"I just don't see what's being added," Udell said.
Debra Faires, the assistant director for distance learning at SJSU's school of library and information science, said faculty members in her department already post audio and video to supplement classroom and online instruction.
The Apple iLife software should help instructors easily record and post content online, Faires said.
In addition to supplementing classes that meet in person in the SJSU campus, Faires said podcasting could play a key role in creating a social environment for classes that are taught entirely online.
"Especially in a distance class, you don't want students to feel isolated," Faires said.
Oliver Chiu, a senior accounting major, said he would download the lectures from classes he missed.
"That would be good," Chiu said.
Chiu also said he might listen to podcasts of guest speakers if they were made available online.
The SJSU iTunes store could be used for more than course materials, said Mary Nino, an SJSU senior assistant librarian at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Joint Library.
Nino said she was looking forward to using iTunes U to post virtual tours of the library.
"We have 30 pieces of public art," Nino said. "I'm thinking a video podcast would be fabulous."
Steve Sloan, SJSU help desk specialist and a podcaster since October 2004, said the arrangement with Apple is an opportunity to work with a company that has a proven track record at innovating.
"I think it's a great opportunity for us to partner with a local vendor," Sloan said.
Sloan said podcasts of routine lectures could be used to free up class meeting time for what he called "more engaging activities."
"I think the sky's the limit," Sloan said.
Sloan said Apple makes a good partner for SJSU because they have already built the content delivery system in the form of iTunes.
Jon Udell said hosting academic content on iTunes U goes against "the fundamental simplicity and openness of the Web."
According to Udell, iTunes makes it difficult to link directly to a podcast from anywhere else on the Web.
"Universities ought to be asking themselves some questions about what they're trying to achieve," Udell said.
Sloan said he was "a little nervous" about using Apple's proprietary system, but this is an opportunity SJSU can't afford to pass up.
"The thing that would concern me more would be not getting involved in it," Sloan said.
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