Podcasting key to Otago University's iTunes invite

Decision to provide downloads pays off

The University of Otago is the only university in the country to have a presence on iTunes U, an area of the iTunes Store dedicated to delivering free education content from higher education institutions.

The university is a member of a select group of Australian and New Zealand universities that went live on iTunes U yesterday.

Mike Harte, director of information technology services at the university, thinks Otago was chosen because of its high rank as a research university and its activities in the podcasting area over the last year.

The university got an unexpected number of enrolments last year and ended up not being able to fit all students into one lecture theatre. The solution was to install video and audio equipment in the theatre, film the lecturer and beam this into a second theatre, says Harte.

The university then came up with the idea to record the audio and make it available to students, he says. With 140,000 downloads of the two papers, and students still turning up for the lectures, the project was a huge success, he says.

Otago University is currently piloting another podcasting project. Seven lecture theatres have been audio recording-enabled, and lecturers can choose when and what to record by pressing play and stop buttons. Lecturers can then copy the content to CD or DVD or upload it to a podcast server and make it available for students who are enrolled in that particular paper, he says.

The university already has over 100 audio and video files available for download on iTunes U, says Harte.

Some of the content are films and documentaries made by students, and music clips from the university’s classical and contemporary programmes, he says. There are also public lectures; videos highlighting Otago’s student life; library tours; IT seminars and training videos, says Harte.

The university plans to add full campus tours and tours of the residential colleges, he says.

The presence on iTunes U presents an opportunity to promote the university to a worldwide audience, says Harte. It gives prospect students and their parents a chance to get a “sneak preview” of what life at the university is like. There is also a lot of prestige in being the only university in New Zealand to be featured on the site, he adds.

Otago University, the Australian National University, Griffith University, Swinburne University, University of Melbourne, University of NSW and University of WA joined more than 300 schools from across the world on iTunes U yesterday.

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