OSU iTunes U Gets a Makeover: A Collaborative University Effort

In collaboration with the OSU website team and University Libraries, we recently embarked on an effort to revamp the OSU iTunes U site which is accessible from Apple’s iTunes or itunes.osu.edu. iTunes U is a collection of free education content, available within the iTunes Store. Content can be viewed on a computer or on an iDevice.

To understand how iTunes was being used elsewhere, and what we might change to make our site better, we looked at the iTunes U sites for about 20 universities. We evaluated unique and interesting features of each site and noted the most popular items in each school’s catalog. This data helped us identify three key areas for improvement: look of the site, quality and timeliness of our content, and expanding the collection.

  • Look of the Site | In order to create an organized and professional look, we developed a single style to identify our iTunes U site and content from Ohio State. In collaboration with the OSU website team, we created seasonal site banners for computer and iPad/iPod display, as well as an icon template that can be distributed to content creators or used by our team. As we move forward, the icons used on the OSU site will contribute to a harmonious look and feel.

  • Quality and Timeliness | We called upon experts in the OSU Library Special Collections group to help us develop guidelines for when content should appear on our iTunes U site, when it should be archived in the OSU Knowledge Bank with links to iTunes U, and when it might be grouped into a category with similar content. We hope to have these guidelines complete in the coming months.
  • Expanding the Collection | Key to the success of iTunes U is having faculty, staff, departments, and university organizations understand the value of this powerful tool and commit to using it effectively. We are reaching out to faculty, staff, departments, and university organizations that create content that would work on iTunes U. Serial events like an ongoing lecture series or quarterly event fit the model well. Courses can also be hosted on iTunes U, where faculty, lecturers, and grad students create collections of content for their students.  Some of the interesting content from other universities that we found during our research included a 'first day of class' collection, an information security podcast for incoming students, a collection of student thesis work in computer art, student interviews with study abroad participants, and an 'ask a biologist' podcast. As one of the top research universities in the world, we know great things are happening here that the world and academic community would love to learn.

Since the launch of our Digital First initiative in May, our subscribers increased from 1,387 to over 51,346. The number of downloads also increased from 3,373 to over 117,340.  iTunes U has become a highly visible outreach tool for The Ohio State University, and viewership will continue to grow with the increasing popularity of iPad to view content.  In order to keep improving the breadth and depth of our content, we need your help.  Interested in learning how your department can get more involved with iTunes U? Have an idea that you think would make a good series of podcasts for the OSU iTunes U site? We can help. Contact Liv Gjestvang, OCIO Learning Technologies (Gjestvang.1@osu.edu, 247-6457).